Mon, 30 Nov 2020

Former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe is expected to be buried next weekend after his body is returned from Singapore where he died two days ago.

Mugabe, a guerrilla leader who swept to power after Zimbabwe's independence from Britain and went on to rule for 37 years until he was ousted in 2017, died on Friday, aged 95.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba told AFP by text message that his body should arrive in Zimbabwe on Wednesday, with an official funeral on Saturday and the burial the following day.

But the location of the burial was unclear, with Mugabe's family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government apparently at odds over whether it would be at his homestead northwest of Harare or at a shrine for liberation heroes in the capital.

Mugabe's nephew said earlier on Sunday that a delegation was expected to leave Zimbabwe on Monday to collect the hero-turned-despot's body from Singapore.

His health deteriorated after he was toppled by the military in November 2017, ending his increasingly tyrannical rule. He had been travelling to Singapore for treatment since April.

Zimbabweans choose work over mourning Mugabe

"We want him buried here. Heroes, for what? That is for Mnangagwa not for Mugabe. We want our Mugabe to be buried here," she said when asked about the plan for a Harare burial.

Mugabe "still had his faith even after the frustrations of what happened... the way he was removed from power ," said the vicar general of the Harare archdiocese, Kennedy Muguti.

"He was a disappointed man; he was frustrated, he was angry, but at some time I think he was able to express his faith," Muguti added.

Leo Mugabe refused to comment on the feud over the burial.

"All I know is (that) we are closer to an agreement if the chiefs meet up with the president and discuss the issues," the nephew said.

He said his uncle would have been appointed chief of Zvimba had he not become president.

Presidential spokesman Charamba said the family had still to decide on the burial location.

But Zimbabwe's deputy information minister Energy Mutodi on Saturday said the body would rest in Harare.

He tweeted that Mnangagwa had declared Mugabe a national hero," adding: "The former president will be buried at the national Heroes Acre at a date to be announced."

The 57-acre site, presided over by three bronze statues of guerrilla soldiers, was later opened up to national heroes in the arts and academia.

The family of Zimbabwean Afro-jazz icon and human rights activist Oliver Mtukudzi also refused to bury him at the shrine.

Mtukudzi, who died of diabetes in January, was declared a national hero for his social and political influence.

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