ZVIMBA, ZIMBABWE —
After weeks of death rumors, President Robert Mugabe gave a long speech Tuesday at his sister, Bridget’s burial in their rural home, Zvimba, dispelling talk that he was either dead or gravely ill.
Mr. Mugabe goes on annual leave every January but that did not stop some media houses joining the local rumor mill in saying the veteran nationalist had passed on.
He spoke for more than an hour and was lucid, attacking his usual foes – the Tsvangirai MDC formation and the West he says supports the opposition – saying they are yet to recover from Zanu PF’s resounding victory at the polls last July.
Said Mr. Mugabe of his health: "I do not know how I have lived this long. It is all in God's hands."
African and Western diplomats, among other politicians, joined thousands who turned out to bid farewell to Bridget Mugabe.
The President said he won last year’s disputed elections resoundingly because his party’s policies resonated with wishes of most Zimbabweans.
"The British up to now don't know what hit them on July 31," he said.
Mr. Mugabe said Zimbabweans supported his controversial land reforms, adding unlike the MDC, Zanu PF did not put white people on the forefront of its activities.
The MDC formation of former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai says the July elections were rigged. Although regional bodies such as the Southern African Development Community and the African Union endorsed the polls, the international community says the elections were fundamentally flawed.
Mr. Mugabe also took the opportunity to defend the psychomotor department that he formed after winning the elections saying psychomotor studies will help several students discover the best in themselves.
The president said Bridget, who died of heart failure at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare, where she had been for three years since the death of her sister and national hero Sabina Mugabe, was a humble person.
He thanked medical staff at the hospital for doing all they could to try and save her life.
Meanwhile, some students at Kutama Day Secondary School claimed they were forced to attend Bridget Mugabe’s burial. One student who spoke on condition he was not named told VOA that suspected members of the Central Intelligence Organization approached their headmaster and ordered him to release pupils for the funeral at the President’s rural home.
Bridget, who was President Mugabe’s only remaining sister, died Sunday after a long illness. She is survived by her daughter Lorraine and several grandchildren. She was declared a liberation war hero following her death. Sabina, the sister who died in 2010, is a national hero and was buried at the national Heroes Acre.