Zimbabwe’s former president, Robert Mugabe, will be buried at a private ceremony at a date still to be decided, his family said on Thursday, in an embarrassment for his successor who wants him interred at a national shrine on Sunday.
Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years until he was ousted by his own army in November 2017, died in a Singapore hospital six days ago aged 95.
His body arrived in Zimbabwe from Singapore on Wednesday and started three days of lying in state on Thursday.
Mugabe is proving as polarizing in death as he was in life, as the fight over where he will be buried threatens to undermine President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former deputy who conspired to overthrow him.
Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party want Mugabe buried at a national monument to heroes of the liberation war against white minority rule, in an attempt to unite the country behind their political and economic agenda. The government had planned for a state funeral on Saturday and then burial on Sunday.
But some of Mugabe’s relatives have pushed back against that plan. They share Mugabe’s bitterness at the way former allies including Mnangagwa toppled him and want him buried in his home village some 85 km (50 miles) from Harare.
Leo Mugabe, the late president’s nephew, said the burial ceremony would be private, without saying where it would be.
“If I tell you (where it will be) then it won’t be private,” he said. “The family is the one that makes a decision,” he added.
Snubbing a burial at National Heroes Acre, a grandiose monument on a hill overlooking Harare, would be a major snub to Mnangagwa, the ruling party Mugabe helped found and the country’s liberation war veterans, who broke with Mugabe in 2016 and endorsed Mnangagwa’s rise to power.
The family issued a statement saying it was concerned about the manner in which the government was preparing the program for Mugabe’s funeral “without consulting his immediate family”.
The family “also observed with shock that the Government of Zimbabwe is attempting to coerce us to accept a program for funeral and burial” that was contrary to Mugabe’s wishes, the statement said. (Reuters)