BY EVERSON MUSHAVA/ JAMES MUONWA
SEVERAL meetings held between government and former President Robert Mugabe’s relatives have reportedly failed to resolve the impasse over where the late nationalist leader would be buried, sources have revealed.
Mugabe died on Friday last week in Singapore at the age of 95.
His body is expected in the country tomorrow, the day the late Major-General Trust Mugoba will be laid to rest at the National Heroes Acre.
According to a report by Reuters, a chartered plane carrying Mugabe’s relatives and senior government officials left Harare at 9am yesterday morning for Singapore to bring Mugabe’s remains.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Mugabe’s body will lie in state at Rufaro Stadium on Thursday and Friday to allow citizens to bid him farewell before a State funeral service on Saturday at the National Sports Stadium.
Mutsvangwa said Mugabe’s remains will be interred on Sunday, but could not disclose where the former President, who ruled the country for 37 years until he was toppled by a military coup in November 2017, will be buried.
Quizzed on where Mugabe will be buried, Mutsvangwa said: “We will be giving you more updates. There are still some consultations going on, but certainly, we will be coming back with more updates.”
But sources close to the issue told NewsDay that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government was pressuring the Mugabe family to accept an offer to have the late leader buried at the National Heroes Acre, but a breakthrough is yet to be made.
“After several meetings, the family has told government that the final decision lay with the relatives who are in Singapore and will accompany Mugabe’s body back home,” a family source revealed.
A government delegation, led by Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, Mashonaland West provincial minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka, Zvimba MP Philip Chiyangwa, on Sunday visited the Mugabe family to plead on behalf of Mnangagwa for Mugabe to be buried at the National Heroes Acre where he buried many other liberation war stalwarts during his tenure.
But the family said no decision will be made before Mugabe’s body arrives home, with the traditional leaders and the late former President’s children, led by his eldest son, Robert Junior, expected to be key in making the decision.
According to the source, the family wanted Mugabe to be buried in Zvimba, his rural home where a decision will be made if he is to be buried at the Kutama Roman Catholic Cemetery where his mother, Bona was buried.
Other family members laid to rest at the cemetery include Karigamombe Mutengaderere, whose baptismal name was Johannes, Ganda Matibiri and wife Hachina, Bridget and Donato Mugabe, as well as Theresa Matinetsa, sister to Ganda Matibiri.
There is another burial site 10km away where most of the Matibiri family members who were not Catholics, were buried. This is where Mugabe’s father, Gabriel and his second wife, MaTshuma, Gabriel’s younger brother Leo Matibiri, Paul Maketo Matibiri and Cletus Matibiri, father of the former police boss Innocent Matibiri, were buried.
“It is likely that Mugabe will be buried at this Zvimba homestead if the family manages to hold on to its guns that the late leader should not buried at the national shrine,” the family source revealed.
“But things can go either way, if Grace (former First Lady) and his children are to decide, they may end up compromising to have him be buried at the national shrine in exchange for their security,” the source added.
The Mugabe family is also demanding that Mugabe allies scattered across the world after the coup be allowed to come and bury the late former leader without risking arrest.
These include former Cabinet ministers Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwao and others who fled persecution.
Sources told NewsDay that government had agreed to the request and was processing the requisite legal documentation. This will likely break the impasse and allow Mugabe to be buried at the national shrine on Sunday.
At some of the meetings, the Mugabe family is said to have presented a list of top Zanu PF members who they said were not welcome at Mugabe’s funeral.
The list, the source claimed, included Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo, who announced the coup, Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri and her deputy Victor Matemadanda, among the list dominated by some top military personnel.
“The family members are bitter over some remarks made by some people which they claim forced Mugabe to die early because he was a bitter man,” the official said.
Family spokesperson Leo Mugabe was not picking calls yesterday.
But the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) Mashonaland West chapter has come out guns blazing, declaring that no one should be barred from attending Mugabe’s funeral.
Addressing journalists and his association’s district representatives in Chinhoyi yesterday, ZNLWVA provincial chairperson Cornelius Muoni said it was uncultured to preclude mourners from attending Mugabe’s funeral, describing it as an indirect affront to Mnangagwa.
“Even a witch or wizard is mourned by everyone who cares to grieve with the bereaved family. They (witches/ wizards) are also allowed to mourn a fellow neighbour and console the bereaved family,” Muoni said.
“Now reports that we hear that some elements are instigating that certain individuals should be barred from attending the funeral of our late former President, if they are indeed true, are a direct attack on individuals and an indirect attack on President Mnangagwa, Zanu PF and the war veterans.”
He added the sentiments were emanating from quarters bent on fomenting divisions within the ruling Zanu PF in a bid to achieve regime change. “Our enemies are trying to destabilise the party by creating friction. We should be wary of our adversaries as the war is still on,” he said.
Added Muoni: “We are praying that his soul rest in peace. Mugabe was not perfect as he was human and bound to err. But we should weigh the good deeds he takes to his grave versus the few undesirable things that are attributed to him. Mugabe’s legacy is not in dispute. He led the liberation struggle to its very end and we are indebted to him for the freedom and democracy we enjoy today.”
Muoni urged war veterans to attend Mugabe’s funeral in their numbers and mobilise others to mourn the former Zanu PF strongman.
Chief Secretary in the Office of the President Misheck Sibanda yesterday said Mugabe will be missed by the generality of Zimbabweans, describing him as a true son of the soil.