Malawi: Mutharika Leaves for Mugabe Funeral On Saturday - Family Say Only Close Relatives to Attend Burial

12 September 2019

President Peter Mutharika is this Saturday expected to leave the country for Zimbabwe to attend the state funeral service of that country's former president Robert Mugabe as his family says he will be buried at his village Zvimba district, about 60 miles (95km) north-west of the capital, Harare, against authorities' wishes.

Late former president Mugabe and President Mutharika Zimbabwe's former first lady Grace Mugabe at the Mugabe residency in Harare Mugabe's coffin at his Blue Roof residency in Harare

The ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation says Mutharika will leave through Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe.

However, the statement does not say what time the President leaves the country and when he is expected back.

Presidential spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani said in an interview the Office of the President and Cabinet will release a detailed itinery of the President's trip in due course.

This ends days of speculation that Mutharika might not attend the funeral ceremony because of the prevailing political impasse in the country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa is sending his minister of Foreign Affairs to the funeral, saying he wanted to deal with domestic problems.

The ruling Zanu-PF party announced that Mugabe's remains would be interred at a hilltop monument outside Harare on Sunday, after a ceremony at the nearby national stadium on Saturday, where dozens of prominent African leaders would be present.

However, friends and allies of Mugabe's wife, Grace, have said he made clear he would prefer to be buried in Zvimba with only close relatives in attendance. They said Mugabe did not want his death to be exploited by his successors for political gain.

A meeting on Thursday between Mugabe's family and officials at his home in Harare ended without agreement.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe as president, said he had appealed to the family to set aside any bitterness. They are reportedly unhappy about his treatment of the former leader.

"Let bygones be bygones. The family is going to lead the programme, that's why we haven't released anything. We haven't agreed how he will be buried," Mnangagwa said.

He said: "We will have to sit down first with Grace. As government there's nothing we will do to go against your wishes. Let's unite, he was our father."

Mugabe died in a clinic in Singapore last week, aged 95. His body arrived on Wednesday, on a government-chartered private jet, at Zimbabwe's main airport, where thousands of supporters had gathered.

On Thursday his casket was taken to Rufaro football stadium in Harare, where thousands packed the stands to see him lie in state. Several people were injured in a crush as they surged forward to try to view the casket, with some carried away on stretchers.

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