Elita Chikwati and Ellen Chasokela
Thousands of mourners, mainly from five provinces, yesterday braved the scorching heat as they thronged Rufaro Stadium in Mbare to bid farewell to national hero and former President Robert Mugabe who died in Singapore last week.
It is at Rufaro Stadium in 1980 where thousands of people from all over the country converged to witness the swearing-in of Cde Mugabe as the first Prime Minister of independent Zimbabwe.
Mourners from Mashonaland East, West and Central and Manicaland started arriving at the historical stadium as early as 9am and patiently waited until the beginning of the programme at around 2pm.
The function was also attended by Government officials, chiefs, Zanu-PF leadership, schoolchildren and churches.
Thousands got a chance to bid farewell to the country’s founding father during body viewing.
Mourners filled the terraces where many kept singing and dancing while others were beating drums and singing liberation songs in honour of the late former President whom they described as a man of the people.
Some food vendors who took time off from their usual workplaces took advantage of the ceremony to make huge profits by selling different commodities such as ice-creams, coolers and sweets, while some innovative ones were selling branded tags inscribed “Rest in Peace RG”.
The official ceremony started when the body arrived at 3pm accompanied by former First Lady Grace Mugabe, her three children and close relatives.
Some mourners broke into tears while others whistled and chanted “Gushungo”. Others turned photographers and started taking pictures and videos of the procession from terraces.
After the national anthem, the former First Family led mourners during body viewing followed by relatives, chiefs and senior officials before members of the public jostled into the stadium to bid farewell to the revolutionary.
It was a mammoth task for police officers controlling the crowds who were becoming impatient and could not wait for their turn.
Anti-riot police had to be called in to bring order and within a short space of time, body viewing continued until it was stopped around 5pm.
It was a spectacular view as the body was ferried from the stadium in a helicopter.
The cloud of the dust as the helicopter was taking off could not deter the mourners who ran after the chopper to wave goodbye.
Mourners who failed to get a glimpse of Cde Mugabe’s remains promised to come early today as the procession is continuing for mourners from the remaining provinces.
Mourners from different provinces said they were happy to have been accorded the opportunity to bid farewell to their leader while others said it was sad that they had not had the opportunity to come closer to the President during his days, only to view his body yesterday.
Mrs Netsai Mutanda of Mbare said she had to come to bid farewell to the national hero because of the contributions he made to the nation that included the land reform programme, promoting education and also fighting against the colonial regime that oppressed indigenous people.
“It is because of his contribution during the liberation struggle that we are now independent. He promoted education and now Zimbabwe is well-known as an educated nation,” she said.
Mr Regis Shava of Mufakose said because of Cde Mugabe, he believed that no race was superior to his own.
“I am proud to be Zimbabwean. Our former President is gone, but his legacy remains and we will be guided by his ideologies,” he said.