Robert Mugabe’s burial has been pushed back by at least a month after the family asked for a mausoleum to be built as a condition to having his remains interred at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.
The former president will be buried in “around 30 days”, Mugabe family spokesman Leo Mugabe said late Friday, a day after the family said Mugabe would be given a private burial away from the hilltop monument in Harare amid claims his wish before dying was to be buried next to his mother in Kutama.
“The government and the chiefs went to the Heroes Acre, showed each other where President Mugabe is going to be buried, and that place would take about 30 days to complete,” Leo Mugabe said.
“So what that means is the burial will take that long.”
Controversy over where and when Mugabe will be buried has overshadowed a period of mourning in the country. Mnangagwa on Thursday met with Mugabe’s widow, Grace, and other family members to try to resolve the burial dispute.
Leo Mugabe said a mock burial that he had earlier said would be held at the Heroes Acre on Sunday had been cancelled, and the 21-gun salute by the military that the former Zanu PF leader was due to be given there would now wait for the completion of the work at the shrine.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa told journalists at State House that Mugabe’s family had identified a spot at the summit of the hilltop – virgin land that would require some engineering works to get it ready for his burial.
“We are building a mausoleum for our founding father at the top of the hill at the Heroes Acre, it won’t be finished so we will only bury him after we have completed the structure,” Mnangagwa said.
A funeral service is being held at the National Sports Stadium on Saturday to be attended by several foreign leaders and thousands of Zimbabweans.
Leo Mugabe said the family would take Mugabe’s body to Murombedzi in Zvimba on Sunday where villagers from Mugabe’s home district would be afforded a chance to view his body.
Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years until he was ousted by the army in November 2017, died in a Singapore hospital a week ago aged 95.
The burial dispute has highlighted the lasting acrimony between Mnangagwa and Mugabe’s wife and other family members. Grace and other family members still resent his ouster, apparently resulting in their initial refusal to go along with state burial plans.
Shortly after Mugabe’s death, Leo Mugabe said the former strongman died “a very bitter man” because he felt betrayed by Mnangagwa and the army generals who were his allies for close to four decades before they put him under house arrest and forced him to resign.
Before the events of the past week, it had long been taken for granted that Mugabe would be buried at Heroes’ Acre, a burial place reserved for veterans of the 1970s bush war for independence.
Mugabe oversaw the construction by North Korea of the monument atop a prominent hill and featuring a grandiose towering sculpture of guerrilla fighters. Mugabe gave many speeches at the site and his first wife, Sally, is buried there next to a gravesite long reserved for the ex-leader-Zimlive