A man in the stands holds a banner with the face of former president Robert Mugabe, as members of the public queue up to view his body at the Rufaro stadium in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. The ongoing uncertainty of the burial of Mugabe, who died last week in Singapore at the age of 95, has eclipsed the elaborate plans for Zimbabweans to pay their respects to the former guerrilla leader at several historic sites. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Mugabe will have private burial at national Heroes' Acre

September 13, 2019 - 11:51 am

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will be buried at the national Heroes' Acre site but the date has not yet been set, a family spokesman said Friday, as mourners lined up to view the body for a second day in the capital, Harare.

The decision to inter Mugabe at the state burial site is the latest turn in the tussle between his family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe's once-trusted deputy who helped to oust him from power in late 2017.

The Mugabe family's decision on Heroes' Acre as the burial site for the ex-leader, who died at age 95 in Singapore a week ago, came after consultations with influential traditional chiefs, nephew Leo Mugabe told reporters at the family's Blue Roof house.

The Heroes' Acre monument is reserved for top officials of Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party who contributed to ending white colonial rule. Mugabe oversaw its construction with North Korean architects atop a prominent hill, featuring a towering sculpture of guerrilla fighters.

His body was on view at Rufaro Stadium for a second day Friday. A stampede on Thursday injured several people trying to view it.

On Saturday, several African heads of state and other dignitaries are expected to attend a state ceremony at the National Sports Stadium.

Government officials earlier had said that Mugabe would be given a state burial Sunday at Heroes' Acre, but his nephew said that was not correct. On Sunday there will be a state ceremony with a 21-gun salute but the actual burial will occur several days later, he said.

"The private burial will be post-Sunday ... there are certain preparations that need to be done at Heroes' Acre and those developments will take time. These developments are the specifications from the chiefs themselves," Leo Mugabe said, adding that the family was happy with their decision.

Mugabe was a former guerrilla leader who fought to end white minority rule and led Zimbabwe for 37 years, from independence in 1980 until he was deposed.

The wrangle over the burial highlighted the lasting acrimony between Mnangagwa and Mugabe's widow, Grace, and other family members. Mnangagwa met with them to try to resolve the burial dispute and on Thursday said his government would respect the family's wishes, adding they have "the full support of the government."

Zimbabwe's lively press has highlighted the dispute. "Betrayed Mugabe fights Mnangagwa from coffin," declared the Zimbabwe Independent in a banner headline on its front page.

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