Zimbabweans bid farewell to Mugabe at state funeral

Zimbabwe’s late longstanding President Robert Mugabe was honoured on Saturday with a state funeral at the National Sports Stadium ahead of his burial.

Dozens of African heads of state and diplomats from around the world were in attendance.

Mugabe died last week in Singapore. His body was taken back to Harare on Wednesday on a direct flight.

Mugabe’s coffin was brought to the stadium on Saturday flanked by military officials and relatives, including his wife Grace, who walked along a red carpet to the podium for the tribute speeches.

Members of the military and civilians marched at the country’s largest stadium to the cheers and singing of thousands of Zimbabweans, who observed the ceremony from the stands.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa attended the event along with 11 African heads of state, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Efe news reported.

Mugabe will be buried on Sunday at the National Heroes Acre, a graveyard for the country’s elite.

The former President, who died at the age of 95 in a Singapore hospital on September 6, was overthrown in a coup in November 2017 after he fired his then-vice President Mnangagwa amid tensions between him and First Lady Grace over who Mugabe’s successor would be.

Mnangagwa was a devout party loyalist who opposed Grace and feared she was positioning herself to take over from the ailing leader upon his death.

In an unprecedented gesture of dissent, the Army warned Mugabe of consequences if he did not halt the purges in the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Mugabe did not relinquish power until November 21, when his ouster was confirmed by a successful no-confidence motion tabled by his own party.

In that week of uncertainty, Zimbabweans took to the streets to protest for a democratic future.

Despite his reputation as a brutal dictator who freed his country and later turned it into his own personal fiefdom, Mugabe is still revered as an iconic fighter for freedom in some African nations.