Zimbabwe’s government has announced a date for Robert Mugabe’s funeral amid a row over where the former president will be buried.
A government memo declared the funeral will be at Harare National Sports stadium on Saturday, September 14th but gave no location for the burial to follow the next day.
Members of Mr Mugabe’s family are battling with the ruling Zanu PF party over its plan to bury Zimbabwe’s liberator-turned-despot in a cemetery for heroes of the liberation war in the capital.
The deceased dictator has a grave ready next to his first wife Sally in Heroes Acre, a North-Korea designed graveyard also home to prestigious Zanu PF supporters.
However, elements of Mr Mugabe’s family want him interred in their rural village in Zvimba district, about 50 miles northwest of Harare.
“We want him buried here. Heroes, for what?” Mr Mugabe’s cousin, Josephine Jorincha, told AFP in the village of Kutama.
Mr Mugabe’s nephew, Leo, who is the family’s head of burial preparations, told the Telegraph that he was negotiating with village chiefs over the final site.
He said that Mr Mugabe’s toppling in a 2017 coup by his former right-hand man Emerson Mnangagwa had rendered the 95-year-old ambivalent about being buried in the Zanu PF shrine. However, Leo said that he believed Mr Mugabe would eventually be buried in Heroes’ Acre.
“I am sure he will be buried at Heroes’ Acre,” he said, but “we are with the chiefs, we have to consult.”
There is some surprise at the village chiefs’ importance in the burial negotiations as Mr Mugabe’s father was from Malawi, and deserted his family, meaning his son had no role within traditional Shona society.
Jealousy Mawarire, a senior Mugabe loyalist said that although he believed Heroes’ Acre would be the burial place, there were “disturbances” within the family because of Mr Mugabe’s wishes to be buried “at home.”
A report appeared in a privately-owned Zimbabwe weekly recently which claimed Mr Mugabe told family members he wanted to be buried next to his mother in Kutama.
The former president led an uprising against white minority rule in the 1970s but left the economy in tatters over an increasingly despotic 37-year reign characterised by corruption and repression.