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Thousands Flock to Honor Zimbabwe VP Joseph Msika on Eve of Funeral

The body of the late Vice President Joseph Msika was lying in state late Sunday at his official Mandara residence where family, friends, colleagues and officials including foreign dignitaries paid respects on the eve of his funeral, taking place on National Heroes Day.

Msika’s body was to be taken early Monday to the hub of the liberation movement, Stoddart Hall in Mbare for public viewing. From there his remains were to be transported on an open gun carriage to his final resting place at Heroes Acre on Harare's outskirts.

Msika’s death last week has been mourned by all political parties – ZANU-PF, of course, but also the Movement for Democratic Change, many of whose members considered him a moderate. Msika was in poor health for years following a stroke in 2005.

President Robert Mugabe led mourners at the vice presidential residence with former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda and representatives from the region’s former liberation parties including Mozambique’s Frelimo and the African National Congress of South Africa.

ZANU-PF spokesman Ephraim Masawi told reporter Sandra Nyaira of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that so many people from all walks of life came to show their respects that three cattle had to be slaughtered to feed them.

MDC sources meanwhile said say the formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was divided on officially attending the state funeral. Some senior figures favored attending out of respect – but others were opposed as the MDC is not consulted on designating heroes.

Party spokesman Nelson Chamisa said those who attend will do so in their personal capacity.

Meanwhile with Msika set to be interred at Heroes Acre tomorrow, the process by which those who took part in the liberation or have otherwise distinguished themselves are designated national heroes has been questioned by some.

Correspondent Arthur Chigoriwa reported on the debate from Chinhoyi.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...