Mugabe to be buried on hilltop reserved for national heroes in Zimbabwe

‘I am too busy looking for money to mourn a man who put me in this position,’ says one Harare resident

Farai Mutsaka
Saturday 07 September 2019 16:56
Robert Mugabe death: Zimbabwe’s first post-independence leader dies, aged 95

Robert Mugabe will be buried at National Heroes Acre, a hilltop shrine for Zimbabwe’s ruling elite, an official said on Saturday.

The announcement came as the southern African nation began several days of official mourning for its deceased former leader.

The National Heroes Acre is reserved for Zimbabweans who have made huge sacrifices during the war against white-minority rule and who dedicated themselves to the nation, which emerged from the ashes of colonial Rhodesia.

“Comrade Mugabe will be buried at the Heroes Acre,” deputy information minister Energy Mutodi said. “That is where he deserves to rest.”

Mugabe was 95 when he died in Singapore on Friday.

Leo Mugabe, a nephew of Robert Mugabe and a family spokesman, said the date of the funeral and other details, including when Mugabe’s body will arrive in Zimbabwe, were not yet available.

Located on a hilltop, and built with the help of North Korean architects, the plot has a commanding view of Harare, features a huge bronze statue of three guerrilla fighters and boasts black marble and granite flourishes.

Mugabe is viewed by many as a national hero despite decades of rule that left the country struggling.

He was an ex-guerrilla chief who took power in 1980 when Zimbabwe shook off white-minority rule and presided for decades while economic turmoil and human rights violations eroded its early promise.

Mugabe had been forced to relinquish power by a previously loyal military in November 2017.

Flags flew at half-mast Saturday, but there were no public activities to mark the death of a man who singularly shaped the once-prosperous country in his own image and created a repressive system that some say remains even today.

Reaction to his death was mixed, although praise ironically came mostly from ruling party officials and military leaders.

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The state-run Herald newspaper, which vilified Mugabe when he was forced to resign and when he subsequently voiced support for the opposition, carried glowing tributes.

In a “commemorative edition”, the newspaper carried a montage of his pictures with the headline: “Robert Mugabe-1924-2019” on its front page and glowing reports throughout.

In an editorial page, the newspaper praised Mugabe for “his uncompromising stance when it came to the rights of Africans”.

“Whatever happened towards the end of his leadership should not be used to rubbish the good things that he did during his life,” the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and one of the commanders who led the military campaign to oust Mugabe after years of propping his rule, was quoted as saying in a separate story in the newspaper.

Others were less charitable.

“Despite his intellectual prowess, Mugabe’s failure to let go of power when it was time was his major undoing. In short, he was a liberator who turned villain,” privately owned Newsday read.

Another, the Daily News said: “Notwithstanding the many mistakes that he made, many Zimbabweans will probably agree that had he not held on to power beyond the 1990s, he would today be largely remembered as one of Africa’s best leaders in history.”

Both newspapers were major targets of Mugabe’s vitriol, with editors and reporters routinely arrested during his rule.

On the streets of Harare, few seemed bothered as people struggled to cope with biting economic problems largely blamed by critics on Mugabe’s rule and perpetuated by his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former ally who took power in 2017 with the help of the military.

“Who cares?” said Percy Maute, a street vendor pushing a cart full of tomatoes along a busy street named after the former president. “I don’t care. I am too busy looking for money to mourn a man who put me in this position.”

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A small group of people drank beer and sang pro-Mugabe songs outside a liquor outlet, wearing t-shirts with Mugabe’s face.

Although only a few people cared to join or commiserate with them, they danced vigorously and spoke glowingly of a man they said fought for the liberation of not just Zimbabwe, but “the rest of Africa”.

“Bob was our hero, he taught us that the white man is not a master,” they sang.

Mugabe was popularly known by the nickname Bob.

Associated Press

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