The state funeral for the ex-president and founding father of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, took place at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Saturday with several former and present African leaders attending.
What was expected to be a heavily attended ceremony, however, ended up being the complete opposite as the 60,000 capacity stadium was almost empty.
BBC reports that scores of Zimbabweans refused to attend their former leader’s funeral because of the plummeting state he left the country. Mugabe, who ruled with an iron fist during his later years and fiercely clamped down on any opposition, is widely blamed for the country’s staggering inflation and unemployment rate.
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“We are happier now that he is gone. Why should I go to his funeral? I don’t have fuel,” a Harare resident told AFP. “We don’t want to hear anything about him anymore. He is the cause of our problems.”
“What will I get if I go there? What will Mugabe do for me now that he failed to do when he was alive? It is a waste of time. I have to work for my family,” another resident also said, according to Independent.
Declared a national hero by Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s death has not been stopped short of controversies and disputes between his family and the government as to where he should be laid to rest.
With the government preferring his final resting place to be at the National Heroes Acre in Harare, his family, still resentful over the way he was toppled from power, were adamant that he was going to buried in his home village of Kutama in a private ceremony.
In a statement, they registered their displeasure with the way the government was planning Mugabe’s funeral “without consulting his immediate family,” according to Reuters.
The dispute and misunderstanding, however, appear to have been resolved as Mugabe’s nephew, Leo Mugabe, on Friday, confirmed he is going to be buried at the National Heroes Acre in about 30 days.
“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,” Leo said, according to Reuters.
“So what that means is the burial will take that long.”
Mugabe passed away at the age of 95 on September 6 in Singapore where he had been seeking treatment for a long illness.
After ruling the Southern African country for 37 years, 94-year-old Mugabe finally resigned on November 21, 2017. The Zimbabwe National Army instigated an overthrow of Mugabe’s regime by placing him under house arrest for the crimes committed by individuals in his circle.
He was given the ultimatum to either resign by November 20, 2017, or face impeachment. He subsequently chose the former. His retirement sparked nationwide jubilations as Zimbabweans celebrated the dawn of a new era. Mugabe’s vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who he fired on November 6, was sworn in as the new president.
A representative of the Mugabe family, Walter Chidhakwa, during the funeral, emotionally revealed how sad the former leader was during his later years after he had been overthrown.
“He was a sad man. A sad, sad, sad man. It was a hard and excruciating journey,” Chidhakwa said, according to BBC.
His body has been taken to his hometown of Kutama.