Hundreds of people thronged Rufaro Stadium in Harare, Thursday, to pay their last respects to the former President Robert Mugabe, before he is laid to rest on a date to be determined by his family.
The stadium, in Mbare, is coincidentally the very place Mugabe took his oath of office in 1980, when he assumed the position of prime minister of a newly independent Zimbabwe.
The body, which was flown to the stadium from his private home in a helicopter of the Zimbabwe National Army, was viewed in procession first by the former First Lady, Grace Mugabe and their children, followed by relatives, government ministers and finally everyone else present.
A young woman, who identified herself only as Machuma, said after seeing Mugabe’s body, she felt saddened by his death.
“Zimbabwe has experienced a great loss,” she said. “Even as youth, we’ve experienced loss. So all we can say is travel well, Gushungo,” referring to Mugabe by his totem.
Former Member of Parliament for Mbare, Tendai Savanhu, also said he was saddened by Mugabe’s death.
“True, no one lives forever, but it hurts when you think of the deeds a person has done during their lifetime. We are saying may he rest in peace, hero of the nation, hero of Africa.”
Dr. Paul Chimedza, a former Member of Parliament for Gutu South, said he was happy to have had the opportunity to pay his respects to the late former president, and said he was thankful to Mugabe for all he did to improve his life.
“He was a principled man. Once he made his mind up about something, he would not go back on it, whether it was good or bad. Once he decided which path he would take, everyone knew that nothing would take him off his course,”
Mugabe’s body will be at the Rufaro Stadium again tomorrow for public viewing. Following that, on Saturday, the body will be moved to the Harare National Stadium where dignitaries and heads of state will also get to pay their respects, before the scheduled burial on Sunday.
While thousands managed to pay their respects to Mugabe while he laid in state at the Rufaro Stadium, in peace, at some point, the gathering broke out into chaos, resulting in resulting in several casualties, needing the assistance of the Red Cross.