‘We are happier now he is gone. Why should I go?’: Mostly empty stadium hosts Robert Mugabe funeral

African leaders praise former president as many of his fellow countrymen reject commemoration

Conrad Duncan@theconradduncan
Saturday 14 September 2019 18:08
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Robert Mugabe death: Zimbabwe’s first post-independence leader dies, aged 95

African leaders praised Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe as a hero during a poorly-attended funeral at the country’s National Sports Stadium.

More than 10 African leaders and several former presidents attended the service for Mugabe, who died last week in Singapore aged 95, but the crowd filled only about 30 per cent of the 60,000 capacity stadium in Harare.

Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, also drew boos from the crowd, after recent xenophobic attacks on foreigners, including Zimbabweans in Johannesburg.

Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta described Mugabe as “a great icon of African liberation”, though many Zimbabweans showed little interest in the funeral.

Although the funeral was open to the public, some complained about the cost of travelling to the event.

“We are happier now that he is gone. Why should I go to his funeral? I don’t have fuel,” a Harare resident told the Agence France-Presse news agency. “We don’t want to hear anything about him anymore. He is the cause of our problems.”

Another, Amos Siduna, added: “I didn’t like him, but I still wanted to attend just to see for myself that he is gone... but kombis [minivan taxis] want $3.50 just to get to the stadium. That’s too much money for me just to go and say ‘bye bye’ to a corpse. Mugabe’s corpse. No.”

Amelia Tukande, who was selling mobile phone chargers near the stadium, added: “What will I get if I go there? What will Mugabe do for me now that he failed to do when he was alive? It is a waste of time. I have to work for my family.”

The funeral was attended by some supporters of the former president, who led a bitter guerrilla war to end white-minority rule in the country when it was known as Rhodesia.

Supporters of Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party also attended.

Visiting leaders viewed Mugabe’s partially-open casket, after which there was a 21-gun salute, a flypast by Zimbabwean air force jets and the release of 95 doves, marking his 95 years.

Mugabe’s body will be viewed in his birthplace, Zvimba, on Sunday and then held in preservation until a new mausoleum can be built for his remains.

This will be built near the stadium at Heroes’ Acre, a national burial site for top officials of the Zanu-PF party who contributed towards ending white colonial rule.

Mugabe was deposed in 2017 by a military coup and replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, his once trusted deputy.

Mr Mnangagwa won elections in 2018 by promising to improve the country’s faltering economy and create jobs.

However, Zimbabwe’s economy has since lurched from crisis to crisis, with the past two years marked by rising prices and inflation at more than 175 per cent.

In the stadium, some attendees sang an impromptu farewell to Mugabe with the lyrics: “When you left, bread was a dollar.”

One of the crowd members, Munashe Gudyanga, explained: “Bread was less than a dollar when we marched against him [Mugabe]. It is now $9. I am just here to say, ‘Sorry President Mugabe, we didn’t know things will be worse.’”

Agencies contributed to this report

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