Over 20 SADC, world leaders to attend Mugabe funeral
Sinikiwe Marodza and Tadious Manyepo
Harare – More than 20 heads of states and former presidents from the SADC region, Africa and the world were set to converge in Harare this weekend for the funeral of former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and subsequent burial at the National Heroes Acre.
African leaders set to attend the funeral include Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Democratic Republic of Congo’s Felix Tshisekedi, Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo, Malawi’s Arthur Peter Mutharika, Angola’s Joao Laurenco, Saharawi’s Brahim Ghali, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, Mozambique’s Felipe Nyusi, Zambia’s Edgar Lungu, Namibia’s Hage Geingob and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta.
Former presidents that have confirmed attendance are Namibia’s Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba, Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda and Rupiah Banda, Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano, South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, and Botswana’s Festus Mogae.
Other dignitaries that have confirmed their attendance include Ethiopia’s Vice Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, Botswana’s Vice President Slumber Tsogwane and Cuba’s Vice President of the State Council of Ministers, Ines Maria Chapman Waugh.
Mugabe died in Singapore last week at the age of 95, and his body was flown into the country on Wednesday this week. He is survived by his wife, Grace, and three children, Bona, Robert Junior, and Bellarmine Chatunga.
He was the country's leader from 1980 when Zimbabwe attained independence from Britain until he resigned in November 2017, in the face of an impeachment motion in parliament by his party, Zanu-PF, the opposition MDC, and Zimbabweans who took to the streets to demonstrate against his continued leadership of the country.
But this week thousands of Zimbabweans from across the length and breadth of the country poured into Harare to pay tribute to the former leader and were accorded the chance to view his body at a sports stadium in Harare.
Mugabe has been described as a liberator par excellence, Pan Africanist, and iconic figure who not only led a brutal liberation war to free his country from colonialism, but spoke for the downtrodden in Africa and across the Third World.
He has since been declared a national hero and is expected to be buried early next week at a location still to be determined.
A state funeral was scheduled for Saturday at the giant National Sports Stadium in Harare and leaders, heads of state, senior government officials and former presidents from across the globe have jetted in Harare to pay their last respects and tribute to the former Zimbabwean president.
World leaders paid homage to the former Zimbabwean leader, with SADC Chairperson and Tanzanian President John Magufuli saying Africa had lost “one of its bravest and Pan-Africanist leaders, who led by example in opposing colonialism”.
Namibian President Hage Geingob described Mugabe as an outstanding revolutionary, a tenacious freedom fighter and dedicated Pan Africanist.
"An extraordinary First Wave African leader and the cause for freedom in Africa, President Mugabe made enormous sacrifices in the struggle against injustice and the liberation of Southern Africa from racial subjugation and colonial oppression," he said.
"As Namibians, we owe President Mugabe a deep sense of gratitude for his immense and selfless contributions to the liberation of our country. On behalf of the Namibian people, I extend sincere condolences to my dear brother, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the family and the
people of Zimbabwe. The loss of the people of Zimbabwe is Africa’s loss."
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta declared three days of mourning in his country.
“In this moment of sorrow, my thoughts and prayers go out to his family, his relatives and the people of Zimbabwe who, for many years, he served with commitment and dedication. Words cannot convey the magnitude of the loss as former President Mugabe was an elder statesman, a freedom fighter and a Pan-Africanist who played a major role in shaping the interests of the African continent,” said Kenyatta.
“Indeed, we will remember former President Mugabe as a man of courage who was never afraid to fight for what he believed in even when it was not popular.”
Ramaphosa said Mugabe was an outstanding leader.
“We remember him as a towering leader of a struggle for independence for the people of Zimbabwe, but also an outstanding leader on the African continent.
“We will forever remember President Mugabe as a gallant leader of Pan-Africanism, of the independence of Africa,” said Ramaphosa.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Mugabe’s role in Zimbabwe as a great contribution, Kenyan opposition leader described him as a liberation hero who like others, made mistakes; while the Zanu-PF said its former leader leaves the country a better place.
At the same time, former Zimbabwe finance minister Tendai Biti says Mugabe will be remembered as a liberator, despite all the atrocities he committed during his tenure.
“He made his omissions and commissions, but you cannot take away the fact that he was a liberator and we appreciate and thank him for that. We pass our condolences to his wife and children, and our condolences to the whole of Zimbabwe,” he said.
Addressing mourners at the Mugabe residency in Borrowdale early this week, President Mnangagwa described the late Mugabe as a man of straw who put his life on the line to liberate Zimbabwe, in particular, and Africa in general.
“Cde Mugabe is the founding father of Zimbabwe and he has done so much to liberate this country and the continent at large.
“When I received the message of his death, I was in Cape Town, South Africa, for the World Economic Forum. Upon delivering the message to my fellow leaders, I described the late Mugabe as a Pan-African and the founding father of Zimbabwe because that is who he was.
“I worked with him for more than 54 years, from 1962. In 1963, I was imprisoned and he helped to make arrangements for my release. We have never had problems with him, except what happened that which you all know, but when I returned I said let bygones be bygones. That is the spirit I have,” President Mnangagwa said.
At the time of going to press, there was no official statement regarding the former president’s burial arrangements, and President Mnangagwa said Mugabe's burial place will be determined after consultations with his family.
“Amai Mugabe (former First Lady Grace Mugabe), you have the full support of the government under me, those who talk will do so, but as government, there is nothing that we will do against your wishes.
“On where and how he will be buried, we have not made an announcement until we meet Amai Mugabe so that we share with each other. We will try to make all the provisions. I want the family to know that the Zanu-PF-led government will not forget that we have our leader,” he said.
Mugabe will be buried at the National Heroes Acre on a date to be advised, his family has confirmed.
In an interview with Zimpapers Television Network on Friday morning, family spokesperson, Leo Mugabe, said the family had resolved that the liberation icon’s body be interred at the national shrine.
“The family and traditional leaders have pronounced that he will be buried at the National Heroes Acre,” said Leo Mugabe.