FORMER President Robert Mugabe’s burial has reportedly been postponed indefinitely as haggling over his burial place rages on, amid fresh developments that chiefs from his Gushungo clan want him buried secretly at a sacred place in his ancestral home in Zvimba, in line with their tradition.
Mugabe died last Friday in Singapore at the age of 95 and, according to government, was due to be buried on Sunday.
The chartered plane carrying his remains touched down at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport this afternoon.
Yesterday, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said details on Mugabe’s burial arrangements would be advised in due course.
She said government would continue to give updates on the developments when asked if the burial was still on this Sunday and where Mugabe would be buried.
“The body of the late former President shall be received at the Robert Mugabe International Airport tomorrow (today) in the afternoon. His Excellency President ED Mnangagwa formally notified Cabinet of the sad passing on of the founding father and former President of Zimbabwe, Cde RG Mugabe, at a hospital in Singapore on September 6, 2019. He then led Cabinet in observing a moment of silence in honour of the departed iconic leader,” Mutsvangwa said at a Press briefing after Cabinet.
“We will be giving information as we get it.”
Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo said an announcement would be made after full consultation with the Mugabe family today upon the arrival of the former Zanu PF leader’s body.
“Any government programme is always in consultation with the family. We don’t publish any information without having full consultation with the family. Therefore, we expect that to happen tomorrow (today) after the arrival of the body,” Moyo said.
Government said Mugabe’s body would lie in state at Rufaro Stadium tomorrow and Friday before a State funeral service to be attended by foreign dignitaries at the National Sports Stadium on Saturday.
This came as Mnangagwa, who toppled Mugabe with the help of the military in November 2017, yesterday met representatives of the Gushungo clan most likely to iron out their differences.
Details of the meeting remained sketchy last night.
NewsDay was, however, informed that the issue around Mugabe’s burial became murkier when Chief Karigamombe, who accompanied Vice-President Kembo Mohadi to Singapore to collect the veteran leader’s remains, disclosed that the former President would only be buried on a yet-to be-announced date, but after Sunday.
The chief is said to have already notified family members in South Africa to wait until they were given the official date of burial.
Although he did not immediately disclose the reasons for the postponement, NewsDay understands that several factors influenced the decision, including the impasse on his burial place.
“There is no agreement on where he (Mugabe) will be buried,” the family source said.
“Haggling between government and the family has delayed the announcement on where Mugabe will be buried. President Emmerson Mnangagwa wants him buried at the National Heroes Acre, but the family claims his deathbed wish was to be buried next to his mother, Bona, at his Zvimba rural home,” a close family member, who declined to be named, said.
Mnangagwa leaves for the United Nations General Assembly in New York late next week for more than 10 days and purportedly wanted to have Mugabe buried before he travels out of the country.
“Zanu PF provinces have also requested time to bid farewell to the former President. The supporters wanted Mugabe’s body to be taken to all the country’s 10 provinces, but due to the prevailing economic conditions, they are unable to meet the transport fares to come to Harare,” the sources added.
Some family members, with the influence of remnants of the Zanu PF G40 faction, were also reportedly uncomfortable to have Mugabe buried on Sunday, the day which coincided with Mnangagwa’s 77th birthday.
Mugabe was deposed after 37 years in power. Close family members reportedly claimed that even in his last hours, Mugabe was still bitter over his ouster by his most trusted lieutenant.
While family spokesperson Leo Mugabe was not reachable for comment yesterday, on Monday, he seemed to confirm the chiefs’ position, claiming that Mugabe would receive a traditional burial.
“The former President was also a traditional chief and will, therefore, be buried according to the tradition. The chiefs have not told us where he will be buried, so it is not clear yet. I also don’t know,” Leo said.
Mugabe is said to have been appointed chief in Zvimba soon after independence, but passed on the chieftainship to his brother, Titus, to give himself time to run the country.
Mugabe’s eldest son, Robert Junior, apart from the chiefs, was also expected to play a key role in deciding where the former leader’s remains would be interred.
Mugabe’s widow, Grace, was, however, believed to be pushing for Mugabe’s burial at the National Heroes Acre in Harare for political reasons.
War veterans, who broke up with Mugabe in 2016 and sided with Mnangagwa, said it would be an affront to the liberation movement if Mugabe was not buried at the
“If Mugabe identifies with the sacrifices of the Zimbabwean people for who he was President, he should go there,” the chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, Chris Mutsvangwa, told Reuters.
Government has not yet released an official programme on Mugabe’s burial.
But in a memo to embassies in Harare on Sunday, government encouraged foreign heads of State to leave immediately after the funeral service on Saturday.
Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said Mnangagwa was trying to avoid the possibility of a situation where heads of State would attend a burial service in Mugabe’s home district to which he was not invited.
“That is the dilemma Mnangagwa faces, he can’t be sleeping well,” Mandaza said.
Additional reporting by Reuters/Agencies