Former President Robert Mugabe will be buried at his rural home in Zvimba this weekend during a private ceremony after the family delivered a final snub to the government, ZimLive can reveal.
Mugabe’s body is expected to leave his sprawling residence in Borrowdale suburb where it is being kept sometime on Thursday for burial this weekend, likely Saturday.
The surprise development comes as the government has drawn up plans to construct a mausoleum for Mugabe at the National Heroes Acre, a hilltop monument in Harare for leading figures of Zimbabwe’s 1970s war of independence.
But ZimLive understands the family, which had grudgingly resigned itself to a burial at the shrine, has now reconsidered.
Key considerations, a source said, were the cost of the mausoleum on the taxpayer; the time it would take to complete and shock new revelations that government engineers had been instructed to construct a single ‘Presidential Mausoleum’ which would contain graves of former presidents, not just Mugabe’s.
“President Mugabe did not want to be buried at the Heroes Acre to stop those who tormented him in his final days from pontificating over his dead body,” a relative said. “It would be unconscionable to have him buried next to the man whom he held most responsible.”
Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years before he was ousted in a military coup in 2017, died in a Singapore hospital at the age of 95 on September 6.
A state funeral service attended by two dozen current and former African heads of state was held in Harare on September 14, but burial was postponed amid haggling between the family and the government over his final resting place.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, supported by some traditional leaders from Zvimba who were allegedly bribed, reportedly sent emissaries to the family to lean on them to bury Mugabe at the Heroes Acre.
ZimLive understands Mugabe’s widow, Grace, and children Bona and Robert Junior together with some of the former president’s nephews, among them Patrick Zhuwao and Walter Chidakwa, opposed the move, insisting that the former president had expressly communicated his wish to be buried in Kutama, a village 85km northwest of Harare where he grew up and his mother is buried.
But the family had finally yielded, with some reluctance, to the government pressure which reportedly included threats to repossess some properties belonging to Mugabe but registered in Zanu PF’s name.
Signs that the family was again shifting its stance came on Monday when South African opposition leader Julius Malema travelled to Harare and met Mugabe’s widow.
Emerging from the closed-door meeting, Malema told reporters that the government had to respect Mugabe’s wishes.
“If the current dispensation here believes in President Mugabe, they should protect his legacy. Part of protecting his legacy is first and foremost to respect his last wishes and to respect the wishes of his family,” Malema said.
The Economic Freedom Fighters leader added: “It’s an absolute nonsense that you think declaring a person a national hero takes away the right of the family over the deceased. The family, especially the surviving spouse, has got the last word.
“It doesn’t matter whether you have declared a person a national hero or whether you are doing a state funeral. Every little detail of what you want to do around a dead body should be consulted with the family, particularly when we are Africans.
“There’s a very strong surviving spouse here who’s not easily shaken by arrivalists, so they ought really to respect her and respect the family’s wishes.”
Efforts to contact the Mugabe family spokesman Leo Mugabe were not successful, and messages left for him had not been returned.