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Mugabe family sets burial for home village, not ‘Heroes’ shrine

By AFP - Sep 12,2019 - Last updated at Sep 12,2019

A man pours water on flowers forming the word ‘Gushungo’, Zimbabwe's late President Robert Mugabe's clans name, as the body lays in state at the family's Blue Roof residency in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Thursday (AFP photo)

HARARE —  Zimbabwean ex-president Robert Mugabe will be buried next week in his village, his family said on Thursday, delivering an apparent snub to government plans to bury him at a national monument.

Mugabe died in Singapore last week aged 95, leaving Zimbabweans divided over the legacy of a leader once lauded as a liberation hero but whose autocratic 37-year rule ended in a coup in 2017.

Tensions between his family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa have erupted over whether he would be buried at the National Heroes Acre in Harare or at a private ceremony in the family homestead of Kutama in Zvimba, northwest of the capital. 

"His body will lie in state at Kutama on Sunday night... followed by a private burial — either Monday or Tuesday — no National Heroes Acre. That's the decision of the whole family," his nephew Leo Mugabe told AFP.

Some family members are still bitter over Mugabe's ouster and the role his former ally Mnangagwa played. 

Mugabe fired Mnangagwa as first vice president in 2017 — a move many perceived as an attempt to position his wife Grace to succeed him after nearly four decades of iron-fisted rule.

Soon after, Mugabe was toppled by protesters and the army in what was seen as part of a power struggle within the ruling ZANU-PF Party between pro-Mnangagwa factions and Mugabe loyalists siding with his wife Grace.

The former leader had been travelling to Singapore regularly for medical treatment, but his health deteriorated rapidly after his ouster, which allies say left him a "broken soul".

Mnangagwa had declared Mugabe a national hero after his death, indicating he should be buried at the monument for his role as a founding father. But the family said traditional chiefs in his homestead in the Zvimba region should decide.

Mugabe's body arrived from Singapore on Wednesday at Harare airport, where Mnangagwa and Grace stood together as the former leader's remains were given an honour guard. His body was later taken to his Blue Roof residence for mourning.

His family said the body would be taken to Harare's Rufaro stadium on Thursday and Friday for a public ceremony.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, Cuban former leader Raul Castro and a dozen African presidents, including South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa, are among those expected to attend Mugabe's state funeral on Saturday in Harare.

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