HARARE: Zimbabwe gave former president Robert Mugabe a state funeral yesterday, with African leaders paying tribute to a man lauded as a liberation hero but whose 37-year rule was defined by repression and economic turmoil.
Mr Mugabe, who died in Singapore aged 95, left Zimbabwe deeply divided over his legacy; the African country is still struggling with high inflation and shortages of goods after decades of mismanagement.
His death on Sept 6 came almost two years after former army loyalists forced him out in 2017 following a power struggle over what was widely perceived as his bid to position his wife Grace to succeed him.
Former and current African leaders, including South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, arrived to crowds chanting and drumming liberation songs at the 60,000-capacity national stadium in Harare for the ceremony.
Mr Mugabe’s casket, draped in the green, black, gold and red Zimbabwe flag, was marched slowly into the stadium, accompanied by a military band and an escort of officers. His wife, Grace, in a black veil, and family followed behind.
“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,” Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a tweet.
Mr Mugabe’s body was flown from Singapore last Wednesday to a country he helped found as an anti-colonial guerilla and pan-African leader who ended white minority rule and helped bring more education and healthcare to the poor black majority.
The late leader’s final burial at a national monument will take place only after a new mausoleum is built in about 30 days.
Always divisive in life, Mr Mugabe’s funeral arrangements were also caught up in a dispute between Mr Mnangagwa and the former leader’s family over where and when he should be buried. The two parties on Friday finally agreed he should lie at National Heroes Acre.
His family is bitter over Mr Mnangagwa’s role in the former leader’s ouster, and had pushed for Mr Mugabe to be buried in his homestead of Zvimba, north-west of Harare.
The “heroes” monument, where more than 130 national figures are buried in black marble tombs, sits on a hilltop overlooking Harare. Mr Mugabe’s first wife, Sally, is also buried there.