The grave of Sally Mugabe, the first wife of Robert Mugabe, is seen next to two unoccupied graves at the National Heroes Acre in Harare, Zimbabwe, September 10 2019. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO
The grave of Sally Mugabe, the first wife of Robert Mugabe, is seen next to two unoccupied graves at the National Heroes Acre in Harare, Zimbabwe, September 10 2019. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO

Harare — The saga surrounding the burial of Zimbabwe’s late former president Robert Mugabe has taken a new twist, with his family on Friday saying he will now be laid to rest at the National Heroes’ Acre in Harare.

Mugabe died in a Singapore hospital a week ago aged 95.

A fight over his burial place has threatened to undermine his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former deputy, who conspired to topple him, and expose deep rifts in the governing Zanu-PF party.

Mugabe’s body arrived in Zimbabwe from Singapore on Wednesday and started three days of lying in state on Thursday. Some of Mugabe’s relatives have expressed bitterness at the way former comrades, including Mnangagwa, ousted him and have pushed for Mugabe to be buried in his home village.

On Friday, foreign dignitaries are due to start arriving in Harare ahead of a state funeral planned for the country’s national sports stadium on Saturday.

On Thursday, the family had said Mugabe will be buried at his rural home in Kutama village, adding that he had expressed his wish to be buried next to his mother there. Had this happened, this would have been a rebuff to the Mnangagwa government, as other heroes of the country’s liberation struggle are interred at the national monument.

Family spokesperson Leo Mugabe told journalists on Friday that the burial will now take place at the National Heroes Acre, following consultations by local chiefs.

“I can confirm that there has been consensus. At least now the chiefs and the family have pronounced a position on their own. They have pronounced that he will be buried at the National Heroes Acre; now what we need to do is to wait for the details,” he said.

Leo Mugabe said the burial will likely be a private ceremony that will be attended by relatives and nominated officials. However, he did not give the specific date for the burial, which had initially been slated for Sunday September 15 by Zimbabwe’s government.

“I will let you know, I know of certain developments that have to be done at the National Heroes Acre. Those developments take time. So those are the specifications by the chiefs themselves. I am sure we will know when the contractor is found and so forth, when the things that have to be done [there] are done.”

On Saturday September 14, about a dozen heads of states from Africa are expected to attend t funeral service at the national sports stadium for international dignitaries to honour Mugabe.

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 Democratic Republic of Congo’s Félix Tshisekedi; Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo; Malawi’s Peter Mutharika; Angola’s João Laurenço; Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic’s Brahim Ghali; SA’s Cyril Ramaphosa; Mozambique’s Filipe 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 Joaquim Chissano; Namibia’s Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba; and Botswana’s Festus Mogae.

With Reuters