The body of former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe did not make it to his rural home in Zvimba, Sunday, as initially announced, disappointing hundreds of mourners who had gathered at his homestead in Kutama, to pay their last respects.
The spokesperson for the Mugabe family, Leo Mugabe, said he received a call from the village chief, informing him of the change of plans, but he confirmed that the body would be at the homestead, on Monday.
“He’s going to be brought to Zvimba tomorrow (Monday), and thereafter, he will then be taken back to Harare, Tuesday.”
The actual burial of the late leader who died in Singapore last Friday is yet to be determined, pending the completion of a special construction site at the National Heroes Acre, requested by the family.
“If it takes 10-days to finish, then in 10-days we’ll bury. If it takes 30-days, because government told us it will take 30-days, it’s why we are talking about 30-days.”
Rejecting criticism of opulence and insensitivity by making such a request given the poor state of the economy and hardships Zimbabweans are enduring, Mugabe said the decision-making body of the ruling Zanu-PF party, the Politburo, offered, and they accepted.
“If they have offered to do it, who am I to refuse? Who are we as a family to refuse that assistance?”
While the cost for constructing the site is not clear, analysts say such an imposition by the government on taxpayers is irresponsible.
Bulawayo-based analyst, Dumisani Nkomo, called the government’s decision scandalous.
“If you go to Parirenyatwa, you go to Mpilo, you go to other places, health facilities are struggling, schools are struggling, the infrastructure is falling apart and you want to stand millions on the dead, really it’s a scandal of the century.”
Editor of the weekly Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, Dumisani Muleya, said the decision by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to foot the bill for the burial site, was more a survival move than show of allegiance to Mugabe, whom the party had chosen to impeach, at the time of his resignation in 2017.
“Remember this government and the ruling party Zanu-PF, they are desperately trying to make sure that Mugabe, who was the political, the ideological and intellectual leader of Zanu people, for a long period, 40-years that he is sent off properly in order to avoid a complete rapture between the Mugabe legacy and the new Zanu-PF leadership.”
The question of Mugabe’s claim to the leadership of Zanu-PF has also been raised, with some like Denford Musiyarira, National Chairman of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) from which Mugabe broke off to form Zanu-PF, arguing Mugabe does not deserve the recognition or conferment of a hero status.
Mugabe was accused of staging a coup against the late Reverand Ndabaningi Sithole, to assume the leadership, while Sithole was in jail.
“Robert Mugabe was not the president. The president of Zanu was Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, followed by Leopold Takawira, Those were the leaders. He was only appointed as secretary general 1964, on May 24 at Monomotapa Hall where the Zanu Congress was held,” said Musiyarira.”
As debate continues around whether or not Mugabe was a good or bad leader, in the backdrop of allegations of human rights violations, stolen elections, and rampant corruption, defenders of his legacy argue he cannot bear the full brunt of the failed policies.
Zimbabwean Stanley Chizhora argued that Mnangagwa should be equally held accountable as he’s been part of Mugabe’s government for a long time, including during the atrocities in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces known as Gukururahundi.
“You know from 1980 he was within the ministry of defense, something like this. Now, when you are talking of the Gukurahundi issues, he’s also part of that. But it’s like everything, it will be Mugabe this and Mugabe this. That’s why you find right now we’ve got this political gymnastics that is happening.”
As preparations for Mugabe’s burial stretches on, and hundreds continue to pay their respects at various locations, many have stayed away, holding on to their conviction that Mugabe failed Zimbabwe as a leader.
Linda Masarira, the founder of the opposition party Labour, Economists and African Democrats (LEAD), said Mugabe caused a lot of suffering in Zimbabwe.
“A lot of people in Zimbabwe are still suffering from what I call Mugabeism, where a lot of people were subjected to a lot of brutality, state sponsored violence, poverty, no salary payments, joblessness and everything else. I just could not find myself going to console such a family.”
In response, Leo Mugabe, the family spokesperson, contends Mugabe was a good leader, and that history will serve his memory well.
Meantime, mourners in Mugabe’s rural home area of Zvimba are now awaiting their turn to celebrate the life of one of their own, who they say, gave them a sense of pride and accomplishment.