Zimbabwe drama around Mugabe’s burial place continues

The casket of former president Robert Mugabe is loaded by military officers into a vehicle as it departs after a state funeral at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. African heads of state and envoys gathered to attend a state funeral for Zimbabwe's founding president, Robert Mugabe, whose burial has been delayed for at least a month until a special mausoleum can be built for his remains. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe now will be buried at his rural home, a government spokesman said Thursday, the latest twist in the drama around the ex-strongman’s final resting place.

Nick Mangwana said the government “is cooperating with the Mugabe family in their new position” but he did not say when the burial will occur in the community of Kutama.

The Mugabe family spokesman could not immediately be reached. Tensions have been evident between the family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a once-trusted deputy who helped oust Mugabe from power in late 2017 as thousands cheered in the streets of the capital, Harare.

The burial location of one of Africa’s longest serving leaders has been a source of mystery and contention since Mugabe’s death earlier this month at age 95 in Singapore.

His family had been keeping the body at an expansive mansion in a Harare suburb, waiting for the completion of a mausoleum at the National Heroes Acre. The shrine is reserved mainly for independence war and ruling party elites, and the government has wanted Mugabe to be buried there among former comrades.

His family, however, initially balked at that idea and insisted on a private ceremony at his rural home before changing their minds and agreeing on the National Heroes Acre — but only after the construction of a mausoleum setting Mugabe apart from the rest.

That request was expected to delay his burial by at least a month. Work on the mausoleum atop a hill at the shrine had already begun when this latest change of mind was announced.

Mugabe, who led the bitter guerrilla war to end white-minority rule in the country then known as Rhodesia, was Zimbabwe’s first leader and ruled the country from 1980 for 37 years, from years of prosperity to economic ruin and repression.

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