THOUSANDS of mourners have being queuing to catch a final glimpse of the face of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
With scores of adoring fans keen to see the tyrant they regard as their “father” and “hero”, a stampede resulted in injuries after they surged past a police cordon towards the casket.
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.
There has been confusion since then, however, as to where exactly he will be buried, because of conflicting reports following a row between his family and the government.
The latest information from news agencies is that he will now be buried at a national shrine in Harare on Sunday.
Reuters quoted a Mugabe family spokesman, the tyrant’s nephew Leo Mugabe, as saying: “I can confirm that he will be buried at the National Heroes Acre on Sunday.”
The U-turn is in line with government expectations.
Leo Mugabe added that an official ceremony would be followed by a private family event at the monument to heroes of the liberation war against white minority rule.
The decision to inter Mugabe at the state burial site is the latest turn in the tussle between his family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s once-trusted deputy who helped to oust him from power in late 2017.
The Mugabe family’s decision on Heroes’ Acre as the burial site for the ex-leader came after consultations with influential traditional chiefs, his nephew told reporters.
The Heroes’ Acre monument is reserved for top officials of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party who contributed to ending white colonial rule.
Mugabe oversaw its construction with North Korean architects atop a prominent hill, featuring a towering sculpture of guerrilla fighters.
He was a former guerrilla leader who fought to end white minority rule and led Zimbabwe for 37 years, from independence in 1980 until he was deposed.
Just yesterday, Leo Mugabe announced that his uncle wouldn’t be given a state burial at the Heroes’ Acre site, as he would be laid to rest in a private, family affair.
He had said: “We don’t want the public to come. They [family] don’t want you to know where he is going to be buried. We are not witnessing burial on Sunday, no date has been set for the burial.”
Mugabe’s body was on view at Rufaro Stadium for a second day on Friday.
A stampede on Thursday injured several people trying to view it.
A crowd insisting to see Mugabe’s face in the partially opened casket surged past a police cordon, causing a crush in the capital’s poor Mbare neighborhood, where thousands had come to view his body.
Margaret Marisa, 63, one of those who pushed their way into the line, said: “I want to see my father.
“I was a collaborator who supported him in the war against Rhodesia. I have supported him ever since.”
At least five people were carried away on stretchers.
Riot police later restored order, using batons to strike those pushing to get into the line.
Mugabe’s widow, Grace, sat on a podium to the side of the sports field where Mugabe’s casket was under a tent in the middle.
The mourning was marked by singing and drumming of traditional songs of bereavement.
The reviled former dictator was regarded by many as a tyrant, willing to unleash death squads, rig elections and trash the economy in the relentless pursuit of power during his lengthy rule.
Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924, into a Catholic family who lived 40 miles west of Harare.
Mugabe was born in what was then the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, which operated under white-minority rule before splitting with the UK after refusing to become democratic.
Despite leading Zimbabwe after independence from Britain in 1980, Mugabe’s brutal regime saw him regarded by his own hard-pressed people as a tyrant with a penchant for luxury.
Under Mugabe’s rule of nearly four decades, Zimbabwe suffered economic ruin, with runaway inflation, mass unemployment and fuel shortages.
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He was never held to account for the disaster he presided over.
As well as his action, he was notorious for bizarre and boastful outbursts which were often puzzling and disturbing.
“Only God, who appointed me, will remove me”, he once said.