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Former Zimbabwe leader Mugabe honoured at state funeral

Most of those attending were supporters of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party.

Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s casket arrives for a state funeral (Themba Hadebe/AP)
Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s casket arrives for a state funeral (Themba Hadebe/AP)

By Andrew Meldrum and Farai Mutsaka, Associated Press

African heads of state joined thousands of Zimbabweans at 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.

The service and viewing of the body of Mr Mugabe, who died last week in Singapore at age 95, was at the National Sports Stadium in the capital, Harare.

It came following the announcement by the Mugabe family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa that his burial will be postponed until a new resting place for his body can be constructed at the national Heroes’ Acre monument.

The announcement on Friday evening is the latest turn in a dramatic wrangle between his family and Mr Mnangagwa, a once-trusted deputy who helped oust Mr Mugabe from power.

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his speech (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)

More than 10 African leaders and several former presidents spoke in praise of Mr Mugabe at the service in the Chinese-built stadium, which attracted a crowd filling about 30% of its 60,000 capacity.

Most of those attending were supporters of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa drew boos from the crowd, as a result of the recent attacks in Johannesburg on foreigners, including Zimbabweans.

An official pleaded with the stadium crowd to let him speak. Mr Ramaphosa apologised for the attacks.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta described Mr Mugabe as “a great icon of African liberation” and “a visionary leader and relentless champion of African dignity”.

Mr Mnangagwa presided over the ceremony, attended by Mr Mugabe’s widow Grace, who wore a black veil.

“Go Well Our Revolutionary Icon” and “Farewell Gallant Son of the Soil” were among the banners praising Mr Mugabe, who led the bitter guerrilla war to end white-minority rule in the country then known as Rhodesia.

Mr Mugabe 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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Members of the public sing as they gather in the stands for the funeral (Ben Curtis)

He was deposed in 2017 by the military and Mr Mnangagwa in a bloodless coup that was marked by more than 100,000 people demonstrating in Harare’s streets to demand that he step down.

Following Mr Mugabe’s resignation, Mr Mnangagwa took power and won elections the next year on campaign promises he would improve the collapsed economy and create jobs.

But Zimbabwe’s economy has lurched from crunch to crisis and some in the crowd expressed the view that life was better under Mr Mugabe’s rule.

PA

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