Zimbabwe’s late former President Robert Mugabe received a state funeral in the nation’s capital, Harare, Saturday, an occasion graced by several heads of state and high level officials from around the continent.
The 95-year old former leader who was barely seen or heard from following his forced resignation in 2017, was showered with praises from many in attendance, including his former deputy and now president, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“A giant tree of Africa has fallen,” eulogized President Mnangagwa of the man he called a mentor and father figure, before their falling out.
He said, “… The bold, steadfast and resolute revolutionary, Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe, is no more.”
Mugabe’s widow and former First Lady Grace Mugabe, dressed in black with a veil covering her head, did not address the gathering, but has been present at all occasions, accompanied by her children.
The foreign heads of state in attendance included South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, and President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea. Former presidents who attended included Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Festus Mogae of Botswana, and South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki.
President Ramaphosa, who was booed upon taking the microphone for the violence in South Africa that has claimed many lives, eventually gained the audience’s applause when he apologized for the attacks, and reassured the nation that South Africans were not xenophobic.
“I stand before you as a fellow African to express my regret and express my regret and to apologize for what has happened in our country,” said Ramaphosa, his speech interrupted by an extended applause.
Ramaphosa said the violence in South Africa, perpetuated against mostly foreign Africans, was out of tune with what former President Mugabe stood for, as well as former South African President Nelson Mandela and former President of South Africa’s African National Congress Party, Oliver Tambo.
“What happened in South Africa goes against the principle of the unity of African people that President Mugabe and President Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and the great leaders of our continent stood for.”
Opposition figures too attended the state funeral, among them Nelson Chamisa, the leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and Julius Malema, president of South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters.
While many in the crowd praised Mugabe’s legacy as a liberation icon and some of the policies like education that he enforced to elevate the status for many Zimbabweans, Mugabe received criticism even in death, for the poor state of the country’s economy.
“He was both a good man and a bad man,” said Secretary General Nixon Nyikadzino of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) party led by Dr. Thokozani Khupe.
Explaining further, Nyikadzino, said, “For the sake that he brought independence to us, we must thank him for that. But for having brought us to where we are, the suffering that the Zimbabwean people are faced with, it’s another shame on him.”
Meanwhile, the nephew and spokesperson for the Mugabe family, Leo Mugabe, said the nation should now just celebrate the life of the former leader, and stop mourning him as he lived a long life.
“We must stop mourning and start celebrating his life,” he said of his uncle, who died at the age of 95.
Mugabe, who was declared a national hero at the announcement of his death, will be buried in about 30 days at the National Hero’s Acre.