Robert Mugabe: Thousands gather for Zimbabwe′s ex-leader | News | DW | 14.09.2019
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Robert Mugabe: Thousands gather for Zimbabwe's ex-leader

African leaders have gathered for the state funeral of Robert Mugabe. After a week of dispute, Mugabe's family and Zimbabwean officials agreed the divisive former leader will be buried at a national heroes cemetery.

Former and current African leaders were joined by thousands of supporters Saturday for the state funeral of former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe at the National Sports Stadium in the capital, Harare.

Mugabe died September 6 in Singapore at the age of 95. He ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years and left behind a legacy marked by repression and economic crisis.

Those in attendance at the state funeral included South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, South Sudan's Salva Kiir, Rwanda's Paul Kagame and leaders from Equatorial Guinea and Congo.

They arrived to crowds chanting Zimbabwean liberation songs and banging on drums. Mugabe's casket, covered with the Zimbabwean flag, was marched slowly into the stadium, accompanied by a military band and an escort of officers.

Reports indicated that the turnout had been lower than expected, with around 30% of the 60,000-seat stadium filled. Germany's dpa press agency reported that most of the attendees had been brought by bus to Harare from rural areas by Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party. 

DW's southern Africa correspondent, Adrian Kriesch, said that the crowd booed South African President Ramaphosa, and forced him to apologize over the recent attacks in Johannesburg on foreigners, including Zimbabweans.

Dispute over burial 

The funeral comes after a week of controversy between current President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mugabe's family over the burial location.

On Friday, the two parties agreed that Mugabe would be buried in a ceremony at the National Heroes Acre in 30 days after a mausoleum is built for the former leader.

The cemetery is a national monument for the country's liberation war. More than 130 Zimbabwean national figures are buried in black marble tombs at the site, which sits on a hilltop overlooking Harare.

Some of Mugabe's relatives had pushed for him to be buried in his home village, expressing bitterness at how he was ousted by former comrades. Mnangagwa was Mugabe's former deputy, who conspired to topple his rule in November 2017.

"Today, let us put aside our differences and come together as we remember the past and look to the future as one proud, independent and free nation," Mnangagwa wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Read more: Zimbabwe crisis deepens under President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Divided legacy

Although Mugabe helped found Zimbabwe as an anti-colonial guerrilla who rid the former British colony of Rhodesia of white-minority rule, many Zimbabweans remember Mugabe more for economic mismanagement and oppression.

Read more: Opinion: Robert Mugabe's dead, but Zimbabwe's woes persist

Millions fled the country during decades of crisis and hyperinflation and a brutal crackdown on dissidents at home.

Mugabe would often blame Zimbabwe's downward spiral on Western sanctions, although they were aimed personally at Mugabe and his henchmen rather than at Zimbabwe's economy.

Watch video 01:44

'We are suffering': Life after Mugabe

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wmr/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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