Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe - Thousands Gather for Zimbabwe's Ex-Leader

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and former First Lady Grace Mugabe during the funeral service for Robert Mugabe.
14 September 2019

African leaders have gathered for the state funeral of Robert Mugabe. After a week of dispute, Mugabe's family and Zimbabwean officials agreed the divisive former leader will be buried at a national heroes' cemetery.

Former and current African leaders were joined by thousands of supporters Saturday for the state funeral of former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe at the National Sports Stadium in the capital, Harare.

Mugabe died September 6 in Singapore at the age of 95. He ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years and left behind a legacy marked by repression and economic crisis.

Those in attendance at the state funeral included South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, South Sudan's Salva Kiir, Rwanda's Paul Kagame, along with other leaders from Equatorial Guinea and Congo.

They arrived to crowds chanting Zimbabwean liberation songs and banging on drums. Mugabe's casket, covered with the Zimbabwean flag, was marched slowly into the stadium, accompanied by a military band and an escort of officers.

Dispute over burial

The funeral comes after a week of controversy between current Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mugabe's family over the burial location.

On Friday, the two parties agreed that Mugabe would be buried in a ceremony at the National Heroes Acre in 30 days after a mausoleum is built for the former leader.

The cemetery is a national monument for the country's liberation war. More than 130 Zimbabwean national figures are buried in black marble tombs at the site, which sits on a hilltop overlooking Harare.

Some of Mugabe's relatives had pushed for him to buried in his home village, expressing bitterness at how he was ousted by former comrades. Mnangagwa was Mugabe's former deputy, who conspired to topple his rule in November 2017.

"Today, let us put aside our differences and come together as we remember the past and look to the future as one proud, independent and free nation," Mnangagwa wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Divided legacy

Although Mugabe helped found Zimbabwe as an anti-colonial guerrilla who rid the former British colony Rhodesia of white-minority rule, many Zimbabweans remember Mugabe more for economic mismanagement and oppression.

Millions fled the country during decades of crisis and hyperinflation and a brutal crackdown on dissidents at home.

Mugabe would often blame Zimbabwe's downward spiral on Western sanctions, although they were aimed personally at Mugabe and his henchmen rather than at Zimbabwe's economy.

(Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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