Mourners hold a poster of Robert Mugabe during the viewing of his body as it lies in state at the Rufaro stadium, in Mbare, Harare, Zimbabwe, September 12, 2019. REUTERS/ SIPHIWE SIBEKO
Mourners hold a poster of Robert Mugabe during the viewing of his body as it lies in state at the Rufaro stadium, in Mbare, Harare, Zimbabwe, September 12, 2019. REUTERS/ SIPHIWE SIBEKO

Harare — Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe will be buried next week during a private ceremony at an as-yet-undisclosed location, his nephew said on Thursday.

“The family has decided that he will be buried privately. That is the family decision as of now. I will let you know if there are changes,” he said.

A ceremony for foreign heads of states will be held on Saturday.

The decision to bury Mugabe in a private ceremony is a slap in the face for President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government, which has been trying to persuade the Mugabe family to bury the liberation leader at a national shrine the former president himself built to intern liberation struggle stalwarts.

Sources in government said Mugabe had been “sulking” at his Blue Roof mansion and had not spoken to his former deputy for the past two years. They say Mugabe was bitter about Mnangagwa having worked with the military to topple him in a coup in November 2017.

In his final days Mugabe reportedly expressed his wish to snub the Heroes’ Acre and be buried at his rural home.

On Thursday, Mnangagwa spoke privately with Grace Mugabe for several minutes at the Blue Roof mansion, trying to persuade the widow to let the burial take place at the Heroes’ Acre. But Mnangagwa's overtures failed.

“I have worked with the former president for 54 years and we never had divisions except for what happened that all of you are aware of. When I came in, I said let bygones be bygones, let’s move forward. That’s the spirit I have even now,” Mnangagwa said after the meeting.

On Saturday, a memorial service that will be attended by foreign dignitaries will be held at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba confirmed that 11 African heads of state will attend the service. These include Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the DRC’S Felix Tshisekedi, Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo, Malawi’s Peter Mutharika, Angola’s Joao Laurenco, Saharawi’s Brahim Ghali, SA's Cyril Ramaphosa, Mozambique’s Felipe Nyusi, Zambia’s Edgar Lungu, Namibia’s Hage Geingob and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta.

Former presidents who have confirmed their attendance are SA’s Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda and Rupiah Banda, Mozambique’s Joachim Chissano, Namibia’s Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba, and Botswana’s Festus Mogae.