Grace Mugabe sobs next to husband Robert’s coffin after insisting she MUST be front and centre at all times during dictator’s funeral as family say he WILL be buried privately in a village and not in Harare ‘heroes’ shrine
- Mugabe’s death at the age of 95 has sparked a row over his burial arrangements
- Emmerson Mnangagwa wants to bury him at Harare’s Heroes Acre monument
- His family say he did not want the generals who deposed him to hold his funeral
- Today his nephew Leo Mugabe said a private burial would take place next week
Grace Mugabe wept by her husband’s coffin today after the body of Zimbabwe’s former dictator was returned to his home in Harare – with his family apparently gaining the upper hand in a row about his funeral.
Mugabe, who died last Friday at the age of 95, has proved troublesome even in death with his family and his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa at loggerheads about how his burial should be handled.
Today his family insisted he would be buried in a private ceremony in his home village early next week – not, as Mnangagwa wanted, at the Heroes Acre shrine in Harare where a grave is waiting for him.
A family statement demanded that Grace, who was once a rival to Mnangagwa for the presidency, should be front and centre during the funeral.
At the Mugabe residence in Harare she sat by her husband’s coffin and was consoled by opposition leader Nelson Chamisa on Thursday.
In the meantime, mourners will pay their respects to Mugabe’s coffin at a stadium in Harare today.
Grace Mugabe, the second wife of Robert Mugabe, is consoled by opposition leader Nelson Chamisa as they sit next to the former Zimbabwean leader’s coffin in Harare today
Mugabe’s coffin lies at his residence in Harare today, with pictures of the former dictator on the walls and the coffin decorated in the colours of the Zimbabwean flag
Current Zimbabwean leader Emmerson Mnangagwa stands next to Grace Mugabe (wearing the veil), who were once rivals to succeed Robert Mugabe as President
Some of Mugabe’s supporters were in tears as they saw the former President’s coffin arrive back in the country after he died in Singapore
Though his rule was marked by violence and economic crisis, Mugabe remains popular with some Zimbabweans – especially with Mnangagwa struggling to revitalise the country.
‘His body will lie in state at Kutama on Sunday night.., followed by a private burial – either Monday or Tuesday – no National Heroes Acre. That’s the decision of the whole family,’ the former President’s nephew Leo Mugabe said.
The row is highly political as Mnangagwa is close to the military generals who ended Mugabe’s 37-year rule in late 2017.
They did so partly to stop the presidential ambitions of Mugabe’s second wife, Grace, who had bitterly denounced Mnangagwa before her husband’s downfall.
The family have say they were not consulted over the Heroes Acre plans and have said that traditional chiefs in the Zvimba region should decide on the funeral.
‘As his immediate family, we have also observed with shock that the Government of Zimbabwe is attempting to coerce us to accept a programme for the funeral and burial of the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe which is contrary to his wishes on how he wished to have his mortal remains interred,’ a family statement to Zimbabwean media said.
‘One of the wishes that the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe indicated was that his wife, Dr Grace Mugabe, MUST NEVER leave the casket bearing his remains for the duration of the funeral proceedings whilst in Zimbabwe up until his mortal remains have been interred.’
Yesterday Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe stood next to each other as the former President’s body arrived back in the country from Singapore, where he died.
There was no show of antagonism during the short ceremony.
Mnangagwa, who described Mr Mugabe as a ‘a great teacher and mentor’, has declared him a national hero, the highest posthumous award in the country.
He wants to bury Mugabe at the North Korean-built Heroes Acre, a shrine reserved exclusively for Zimbabweans who made sacrifices during the war against white-minority rule.
Robert Mugabe’s coffin arrives at an airport named after him in Harare yesterday after Zimbabwe’s long-time dictator died in Singapore last week at the age of 95
Mugabe, pictured in April 2017 with his wife Grace, is believed to have told his family that he wanted to be buried quietly with his mother
A grave is waiting for Mugabe at the North Korean-built National Heroes Acre monument (pictured) on the outskirts of the capital, but he will apparently leave it empty
The bizarre centrepiece of Heroes Acre is a monument representing two AK-47 assault rifles, with the graves arranged to form magazines.
A grave is already waiting there for Mugabe but it is now set to be left empty, although a state funeral is expected to take place on Saturday.
His first wife Sally is already buried there and there is another vacant plot for Grace Mugabe.
According to Zimbabwean media Mugabe did not want Mnangagwa and his allies to ‘hold forth and pontificate over his dead body’ and make political capital out of his death.
‘He was very bitter and it dented his legacy, … it was not an easy thing for him,” Mugabe’s nephew said on Saturday.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, former Cuban leader Raul Castro and a dozen African presidents, including South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, are among those expected to attend the state funeral on Saturday.
A source close to the family said that Mugabe was flown to Singapore five months ago where his health quickly deteriorated.
In what appear to have been the last photos of Mugabe, the former dictator was seen looking frail and weak alongside his favourite son in June.
Robert Jr, who spent much of his time with his father in his final months, shared photos of Mugabe looking slumped and shrivelled in a tracksuit, baseball cap and white beard.
These photographs of the Robert Mugabe, taken in Singapore, show him looking frail and weak alongside his favourite son Robert Junior and may be the last ever taken of him
Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 40 years, during which time there was widespread bloodshed, persecution of political opponents and vote-rigging on a large scale
Mugabe’s visible ailments were often shrouded in mystery. Officials often said he was being treated for a cataract, denying frequent private media reports that he had prostate cancer.
Yesterday the body was taken to Mugabe’s palatial home in the capital, known as Blue Roof, after an earlier detour to an army barracks for prayers by the military.
Hundreds of well-wishers sat in a marquee on a lawn in front of the house, waiting to pay their respects.
The opposition MDC said on Wednesday it had postponed its 20th anniversary rally because of Mugabe’s funeral.
‘Notwithstanding our legendary differences with Mr Mugabe, we have no reason to exhibit barbarity by hosting a national festivity during his funeral,’ it said in a statement.
Mugabe came to power in 1980 as the founding leader of Zimbabwe, initially hailed as a liberator after the country became fully independent from British rule.
But his own reign was marked by murder, bloodshed, torture, persecution of political opponents, intimidation and vote-rigging on a grand scale.
The economy of a mineral-rich country descended into chaos with thousands of people reduced to grinding poverty.
Mugabe also became a pariah in the West after controversial land reforms which boosted Mugabe’s personal wealth.
Since coming to power, Mnangagwa promised reforms that would lift economic growth and create jobs but he has made little progress.