The battle for Mugabe’s corpse


After weeks of delays Zimbabwe’s former ruler Robert Mugabe was finally buried over the weekend, closing a battle between the state and his family over the fate of his remains.

Mugabe was buried at the weekend in a low-key private ceremony at his natal village.

But the decision to finally bury him at a private rural home amid tight security came after a battle played out for weeks between Mugabe’s family, local traditional chiefs and the government.

Mugabe, who died aged 95 at a Singapore hospital on September 6, was laid to rest 22 days later in a concrete cast grave in the courtyard of his rural Kutama home, 90 kilometres (55 miles) west of the capital Harare.

Inside the grave, the coffin was placed in a container and then covered with a maroon lid. At its head, “R.G. Mugabe” was inscribed on a yellow plate.

Heavy rectangular blocks matching the shape of the grave were piled on top of the coffin, an AFP photographer saw.

The original coffin, in which Mugabe’s remains were flown from Singapore, was changed, said family spokesman Leo Mugabe, the former president’s nephew.

“We wanted a tamper-proof casket because of (the fear of) rituals,” he told the Zimbabwe Television Network last week.

Mugabe had told his wife to guard his body once he died for fear it could be used by his opponents for ritualistic purposes, he added.

“People are after his body or his body parts,” Leo Mugabe was quoted as saying.

Family members have said the decision to bury Mugabe at the village should not be misconstrued as bad blood between the government, the ruling party and the former first family, but a fulfilment of his wishes.

The family had initially agreed to a government-sponsored special mausoleum. Its construction was already underway at a public shrine in Harare, where dozens other liberation war heroes are buried.

But in a surprise about-turn it was announced the burial was going to be Kutama village.

It was only at the burial on Saturday that family members explained that Mugabe had indicated that when he died he did not want to be buried at the national shrine because he had been “ridiculed”.

Mugabe was bitter over his ouster nearly two years ago and the role played by his then deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was elected president after Mugabe was toppled.

A family source said that one family member had even wanted to bury Mugabe on the grounds of his vast Blue Roof mansion in an opulent Harare suburb, but municipal laws forbid burial in non-cemetery designated space.

The burial of the former statesman, who was idolised as a pan-Africanist, has been shrouded in mystery, political intrigue and superstition.

Continued next page


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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