Zimbabwe prepares for Mugabe state funeral

Zimbabwe is preparing for the state funeral of its former president, Robert Mugabe.
Zimbabwe is preparing for the state funeral of its former president, Robert Mugabe.

African heads of state and envoys are gathering to attend 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 Mugabe, who died last week in Singapore at 95, will be at the National Sports Stadium in the capital, Harare, and comes 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 is the latest turn in a dramatic wrangle between his family and Mnangagwa, a once-trusted deputy who helped oust Mugabe from power.

More than 10 African leaders and several former presidents are expected to attend Saturday's ceremony at the 60,000-capacity stadium, which is across the road from Heroes' Acre, a national burial site 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. There are about 130 people declared national heroes who are buried there, each on a flat surface marked by simple black marble slabs. Mugabe's first wife, Sally, is buried there and a space next to her had been reserved for Mugabe.

But now a new mausoleum will be built for Mugabe at an elevated site above the other graves, according to Mnangagwa and a Mugabe family spokesman.

The announcement followed days of controversy over where he should be laid to rest, with Mugabe's widow, Grace, insisting on a private burial rather than the state funeral and burial in a simple plot alongside other national heroes planned by the government.

Australian Associated Press