Relatives fly to Singapore to bring Mugabe home

Relatives fly to Singapore to bring Mugabe home

HARARE: A plane has left Zimbabwe for Singapore carrying government officials and relatives to bring home the body of Robert Mugabe, but it was still not clear where the former leader would be buried, a family spokesman said on Monday (Sep 9).

Mugabe's family is pushing back against the government's plan to bury him at the National Heroes Acre monument in Harare and wants him to be interred in his home village, relatives have said.

A charter flight left Harare at 3pm Singapore time on Monday and was expected to return home on Wednesday at 9pm, according to Leo Mugabe, his nephew and family spokesman.

On arrival, the body will be taken straight to his village in Zvimba, about 90km west of the capital Harare, for an overnight wake.

READ: Robert Mugabe: Liberation hero turned despot

When pressed on where Mugabe would be buried, Leo Mugabe was non-committal.

"Mugabe was a chief and he will be buried in accordance with tradition. The chiefs have not told us where he will be buried, so it is not clear yet. I also don't know," he said.

In some parts of Zimbabwe, burials of chiefs are a secret affair and people are only told the resting place afterwards.

READ: Zimbabwe plans Mugabe's funeral and burial next weekend

On Thursday and Friday the body will lie in state at Rufaro Stadium in Mbare township in Harare for the public to pay their final respects, he said.

The 35,000-seater stadium is where Mugabe took his oath of office at a colourful ceremony when colonial Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith handed over the country to Mugabe.

There Mugabe hoisted the new Zimbabwe flag and lit the independence flame on Apr 18, 1980 - bringing hope for a new era after a long guerrilla war.

Visitors embrace as they leave Singapore Casket
Visitors embrace as they leave Singapore Casket, the funeral parlour where the body of the late former Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is being held in Singapore, on Sep 8, 2019. (REUTERS/Feline Lim)

The body will be kept at his Harare house known as the Blue Roof overnight Thursday and Friday.

The official funeral will be on Saturday at the giant 60,000-seater National Sports Stadium in Harare.

"Then the (traditional) chiefs will bury him on Sunday, where I don't know," said Leo Mugabe.

READ: Zimbabwe begins national mourning for former leader Mugabe

Visitors leave after attending a private religious service at Singapore Casket, the funeral parlour
Visitors leave after attending a private religious service at Singapore Casket, the funeral parlour where the body of the late former Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is being held in Singapore, September 8, 2019. REUTERS/Feline Lim

Visitors arrive with their luggage at Singapore Casket, the funeral parlour where the body of the l
Visitors arrive with their luggage at Singapore Casket, the funeral parlour where the body of the late former Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is being held in Singapore, September 8, 2019. REUTERS/Feline Lim

His nephew said that in line with native Shona customs, traditional chiefs from Zvimba will have a final say on where the former leader will be buried.

As a national president he did not excercise the role of a traditional ruler, but Mugabe held the respected title of traditional chief of Zvimba rural district.

READ: In Mugabe's church, faithful pray for departed leader to be forgiven

A priest leads Sunday Mass at Zimbabwe's founding father Robert Mugabe's church in Harare
A priest leads Sunday Mass at Zimbabwe's founding father Robert Mugabe's church in Harare, Zimbabwe, September 8, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Congregants attend Sunday Mass at Zimbabwe's founding father Robert Mugabe's church in Ha
Congregants attend Sunday Mass at Zimbabwe's founding father Robert Mugabe's church in Harare, Zimbabwe, September 8, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Mugabe, a guerrilla leader who swept to power after Zimbabwe's independence from Britain and went on to rule for 37 years until he was ousted in 2017, died on Friday, aged 95.

Mugabe's health deteriorated after he was toppled by the military in November 2017, ending his increasingly tyrannical rule.

He had been travelling to Singapore for treatment since April.

Source: AFP/Reuters/jt

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