Grace Mugabe paid her final respects to her dictator husband Robert today at an open casket ceremony in Zimbabwe attended by African leaders. It took place amid a row between the Mugabe family and the government over where the country's strongman founder will be buried. Mugabe's wife, known as Gucci Grace for her lavish spending habits, wanted Robert to be buried at his homestead in a snub to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a once-trusted adviser who ousted the dictator. But the new leader, dubbed 'the Crocodile' after making a sudden and brazen power grab, wanted Mugabe to be interred at the National Heroes' Acre monument. The two sides eventually agreed to build a mausoleum at the monument which means the burial will be delayed for around 30 days. Several African heads of state who led similarly corrupt and oppressive regimes joined the masses in Harare to celebrate Mugabe's life. Mugabe led Zimbabwe for 37 years, from independence until he was ousted by the army in November 2017. He died in a Singapore hospital on September 6, aged 95. The service and viewing of the body of Mugabe, who died last week in Singapore at age 95, was at the National Sports Stadium in the capital.
The move to have him buried in Harare marks a victory for Mnangagwa, who insisted he deserved a place at the shrine. One of the late leader's final wishes was for his wife, Grace Mugabe, to never leave Mr. Mugabe's casket during the funeral up until the point when he is buried. Abiding by his wish, Grace was seen walking behind his casket along with other family members before she paid her respects when his coffin was displayed at the National Sports Stadium. Grace had been forced to flee the country under threat of investigation for corruption, and only agreed to return to Zimbabwe for the funeral after being given assurances she would not be arrested. Since the coup, she had been living with Mugabe in Singapore where he was receiving treatment for cancer, among other ailments.
She was seen at today's ceremony alongside son Bellarmine Chatunga, nicknamed 'the Undertaker' by his father after scoring six U grades in his A-Levels. The notorious 'bad boy' is known for showing off his wealth on Instagram and recently posted a video of himself pouring a £400 bottle of Armand de Brignac Champagne over his diamond-encrusted watch. More than 10 African leaders and several former presidents spoke in praise of Mr. Mugabe at the service today 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 apologized for the attacks.
Mnangagwa walked behind the casket carrying Mugabe's body as it was wheeled into the center of Harare's National Sports Stadium and placed on a podium decorated with flowers so that ordinary Zimbabweans could say their farewells. Senior army generals and Mugabe's wife and children followed as a brass band played.' 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,' the president wrote on Twitter. Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party wanted Mugabe buried at the national shrine to heroes of the 15-year liberation war against white minority rule. But some relatives, expressing bitterness at the way former comrades ousted Mugabe, had pushed for him to be buried in his home village. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who also chairs the African Union, Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta and long-ruling leaders from Equatorial Guinea and Congo were among heads of state attending Saturday's event. Banners at the stadium where Mugabe's body lay in the state ahead of the funeral read 'Hamba Kahle, Gushungo,' (go well, Gushungo)', a reference to his clan name, and 'Pioneer of nationalist politics'.
Cleo Mapuranga, a caterer, told Reuters: 'I feel low because Mugabe fought for us. I remember him for land to the blacks, economic freedom and higher education which was non-racial.''Now, people are suffering. No one is controlling the prices in the shops. Our finance minister is trying to implement first-world policies which don't work in third-world countries.' Mugabe's death has made some Zimbabweans question what Mnangagwa has achieved in his two years in power. His government has taken steps to cut the budget deficit, remove subsidies on fuel and power and repeal laws curbing public and media freedoms, but those reforms and austerity measures have compounded ordinary people's hardships. Mugabe was feted as a champion of racial reconciliation when he came to power in 1980 in one of the last African states to throw off white colonial rule. By the time he was toppled in 2017 to wild celebrations across the country of 13 million, he was viewed by many at home and abroad as a power-obsessed autocrat who unleashed death squads, rigged elections and ruined the economy to keep control.
His reign was marked by murder, bloodshed, torture, persecution of political opponents, intimidation and vote-rigging on a grand scale and there was jubilation in the streets of Zimbabwe when he was toppled in 2017. Under Mugabe's leadership, which made him a pariah in the West, the economy of a mineral-rich country descended into chaos with thousands of people reduced to grinding poverty after land reforms which boosted Mugabe's personal wealth.