HARARE (Reuters) - Robert Mugabe will be buried at a Zimbabwean national shrine in Harare in about 30 days, his nephew said on Friday, contradicting comments earlier in the day that the burial will be on Sunday.
Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years until he was ousted by his own army in November 2017, died in a Singapore hospital a week ago aged 95.
A fight over his burial place has threatened to undermine his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former deputy who conspired to topple him, and expose deep rifts in the governing ZANU-PF party.
“The government and the chiefs went to the Heroes Acre, showed each other where President Mugabe is going to be buried, and that place would take about 30 days to complete,” said Leo Mugabe, a nephew of the former president who has acted as a spokesman for the family.
“So what that means is the burial will take that long,” he said.
Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party have wanted Mugabe buried at a national monument to heroes of the liberation war against white minority rule. Such a ceremony could give Mnangagwa a chance to show that the party is united behind his political and economic agenda.
But some relatives, expressing bitterness at the way former comrades including Mnangagwa had ousted Mugabe, had pushed for him to be buried in his home village rather than at the shrine.
Mugabe’s body will be preserved until the burial, Leo Mugabe said.
Asked whether a mausoleum or similar structure would be built for Mugabe, the nephew said: “Yes, something like that”, also disclosing that the burial site will not be next to the one of the former president’s first wife Sally, who died in 1992.
“It’s a totally different site,” he said.
Mugabe’s body arrived in Zimbabwe from Singapore on Wednesday and started three days of lying in state on Thursday.
Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo told Reuters that the confusion over Mugabe’s burial place had arisen because the government could reach an agreement with close family members only once they returned to Zimbabwe with the body.
He said it was fitting for Mugabe to be interred at National Heroes Acre because it “symbolises the greatest honour one can be bestowed with and it can only be a place where men and women who have contributed to the liberation of this country...can be buried.”
During his near four-decades rule, Mugabe used his powers to bestow or deny former comrades the privilege to be buried at National Heroes Acre.
Mugabe’s body was displayed for a second day on Friday at Rufaro soccer stadium in Harare’s Mbare township, where thousands of mourners filed past the open coffin.
Foreign dignitaries were due to start arriving in Harare on Friday ahead of a state funeral planned for the country’s National Sports Stadium on Saturday. Heads of state expected to attend the funeral include South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta.
Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe and Alexander Winning; Writing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Catherine Evans, Peter Graff and Toby Chopra
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