- Rows of the 60,000-capacity National Sports Stadium in Harare lay empty
- More than a dozen African leaders, past and present, flew in for the occasion
- Mugabe died on September 6 in Singapore at the age of 95, two years after being ousted from power
It was meant to be a resounding send-off for Zimbabwe’s founding father, the freedom fighter who liberated the southern African nation from white-minority rule.
But Robert Mugabe’s transformation from national hero to despotic tyrant was underlined yesterday as his funeral was conducted in a venue less than half full.
Row upon row of the 60,000-capacity National Sports Stadium in the capital Harare lay empty.
Mugabe died on September 6 in Singapore at the age of 95, two years after being ousted from power.
Row upon row of the 60,000-capacity National Sports Stadium in the capital Harare lay empty
Robert Mugabe’s transformation from national hero to despotic tyrant was underlined yesterday as his funeral was conducted in a venue less than half full
Mourners attend the state funeral of former president Robert Mugabe at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe. Rows of seats were left empty in the huge venue
Members of the military sit in the stands as Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa is seen on a video screen above, during the state funeral
Members of the public were invited to sit in the stands during the ceremony, but many spaces were not taken
The former dictator’s widow, known as Gucci Grace for her lavish spending habits, wanted her husband to be buried in his home town in a snub to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the once-trusted adviser who ousted him.
But the new leader, dubbed ‘the Crocodile’ after making his sudden and brazen power grab, wanted Mugabe to be interred at the national Heroes’ Acre monument.
The two sides eventually agreed to build a mausoleum at the monument which means Mugabe’s burial will be delayed for around 30 days as it has yet to be constructed.
The body of Zimbabwe’s founder and longtime ruler Robert Mugabe is brought to the national sports stadium for the state funeral in Harare, Zimbabwe
Grace Mugabe, wife of Zimbabwe’s late former president, Robert Mugabe, is seen during the funeral ceremony at the National Sport Stadium
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa attended the official farewell ceremony for the former president
Grace Mugabe (centre), the widow of former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, is escorted by her son Bellermine Chatunga Mugabe (left) as she arrives to attend the official farewell ceremony for her late husband
During the service, President Mnangagwa, who overthrew Mugabe in a military-backed coup, paid tribute to him as ‘our revolutionary icon, statesman, leader, wartime commander and former president.
‘We shall continue to hear his rich, brave, defiant and inspiring voice,’ he said. ‘A giant tree of Africa has fallen. Today, Africa weeps.’
More than a dozen African leaders, past and present, flew in for the occasion. Among them was Teodoro Mbasogo, the president of Equatorial Guinea, who praised Mugabe as ‘a true icon in the liberation of the continent from colonialism’.
Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta described Mugabe as ‘an intellectual giant, a visionary leader and a relentless champion of African dignity’.
But Mugabe’s nephew Walter Chidhakwa struck a more sombre note recalling his last days. ‘He was a sad, sad man,’ he told the crowd. ‘It was a hard and excruciating journey.’
The ceremony did not draw attention to Mugabe’s pitiless persecution of political rivals, his policy of confiscating land from white farmers, or his wider mishandling of the economy which led to skyrocketing inflation that left millions in poverty during the latter half of his 37-year reign.
A 21-gun salute and a six-plane flypast concluded his funeral.