BY BLESSED MHLANGA
HUNDREDS of people yesterday waited in vain at the late former President Robert Mugabe’s rural home in Zvimba where his body was scheduled to lie in state after the programme was cancelled at the last hour.
Some relatives were in the dark over the issue amid reports that deep-seated family feuds had again taken centre stage ahead of his burial.
Mugabe’s remains were initially scheduled to head for Murombedzi Growth Point yesterday and later lie in state at his rural home at Kutama Mission before being taken to a morgue, awaiting burial at the Heroes Acre on a yet-to-be-known date, but internal feuds reportedly scuttled yesterday’s programme.
This comes amid speculative reports that former First Lady Grace Mugabe was unwell and requested for a day’s rest before heading for Zvimba to allow Mugabe’s kinsmen to bid farewell to their family hero.
The body is now expected in Mugabe’s backyard today.
Family spokesperson Leo Mugabe yesterday said he was taken aback by the change of programme. Leo told journalists at the former Zanu PF leader’s home that he was not sure of the reasons for the change of programme, but assured the Zvimba community that Mugabe’s remains would be in Murombedzi today.
“I have not been told of the reasons why there has been a change of programme, but the body will now lie in state here tomorrow (today). We are also making plans to ensure that it is not flown, but that it comes by road so that people along the highway from Norton can be able to bid him farewell,” he said.
Highly-placed family sources said before the chiefs stamped their authority and ordered Heroes Acre burial, Grace had pushed to have her husband buried at his rural home in Zvimba, while some clan members wanted him interred at the national shrine.
“The chiefs, led by Chief Zvimba, had to rein in on Grace because she insisted that the former President wanted to be buried in Zvimba. The decision only came after a bold stance and threats by the traditional leaders to abandon the funeral wake if the former First Lady did not give in,” a highly-placed source in government said.
The source said as the feud worsened, chiefs then went to the Heroes Acre and marked the place where a special mausoleum will be built for Mugabe, living a sour taste in Grace’s mouth.
Speaking on behalf of the chiefs, Headman Dununu, born Raphael Zvikaramba, unwittingly confirmed the feuds and how the matter was settled.
“We gathered and discussed it, some saying he has to be buried at the National Heroes Acre and others saying he should be buried in his rural home. The responsible people came to an agreement that it was trite for him to be buried at the National Heroes Acre,” he said.
There have been allegations that the Mugabe family has been trying to use the body of the late President to wring concessions on a number of issues, including safe return of his exiled backers, allegations denied by headman Dununu.
“No, that is absolute nonsense! We do not play around with a dead man, no! But we have to collect the information from both angles; the wife (Grace) had some information and the other guys also, so we had to put the information together and discuss among ourselves and consider the common denominator given the diverse versions concerning his burial place,” Dununu said.
Mugabe’s day of burial remains a mystery, although his final resting place has finally been agreed upon, with Leo saying it could take up to 30 days before he is laid to rest.
Information ministry secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana said government stood ready to ensure that Mugabe was given a respectable burial in line with the dictates of the family.
“We know that the place of his final resting place was marked by the chiefs and, as we speak, work on the place is being undertaken by the Department of Public Works and funded by government, it is up to the family to make decisions on how they want to conduct the process and government is giving its assistance to the family of our founding father,” he said on Saturday.
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.