Robert Mugabe to be buried in home village as Zimbabwe government abandons mausoleum plans

Roland Oliphant
The body of former president Robert Mugabe arrives to lie in state inside his official residence in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019.  - AP

The tussle over Robert Mugabe's burial took a new twist on Thursday when the government of Zimbabwe abandoned plans to inter him at a national cemetery following pressure from his family. 

Mugabe will now be buried at his home village of Zvimba in accordance with his family's wishes, the government of Zimbabwe has said.

"The family of the late former president R G Mugabe has expressed its desire to proceed wit his burial in Zwimba. In line with Government policy to respect the wishes of families of deceased heroes, Government is cooperating with the Mugabe family in their new position," President Emmerson Mnanagwa's office said in a statement. 

The family was not immediately reachable for comment, but local media said the burial would take place at a private ceremony on Saturday.

Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe from independence in 1980 until he was overthrown in a coup in 2017, died in a Singapore hospital at the age of 95 on September 6. 

His state funeral on September 14 was overshadowed by a tug of war between his widow, Grace Mugabe, and Mr Mnangagwa, the former right-hand man who overthrew him two years ago.  

Mr Mnangagwa had insisted on burying him at Heroes' Acre, a cemetery Mugabe founded for veterans of Zimbabwe's independence war and where a plot has long been set aside for hims alongside the grave of his first wife, Sally Mugabe. 

But Mrs Mugabe and other members of the family  said the former president had changed his mind about being buried at Heroes' Acre after the 2017 coup.    

They wanted to bury him alongside his mother and brothers in Zvimba, the rural district about 50 miles from Harare where he grew up.  

Two weeks ago the government appeared to have won when a deal was announced to build a new mausoleum for Mugabe at the highest point in Heroes Acre, rather than lay him to rest in the plot next to Sally. 

Mr Mnangagwa, who is attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, is under increasing pressure at home over a spiraling economic crisis.