Zimbabwe’s former President Robert Mugabe was buried Saturday in his home town of Kutama in the Zvimba district after three weeks of argument between the government and his family over his final resting place.
He was buried in a courtyard in his family home, west of Harare in a private ceremony attended by close family members.
A Roman Catholic priest led a presidential guard procession carrying the remains of the former guerrilla leader as schoolboys sang hymns at a funeral Mass on Saturday.
Mugabe’s wife Grace covered her face with a veil, but her body quaked with sobs as family members gave their eulogy.
Mugabe was once feted as an independence hero. But his 37-year rule left Zimbabwe deeply divided and nearly broke.
He was forced out in November 2017 following a military takeover. Mugabe died at the age of 95 on September 6, 2019 in a Singapore hospital where he had been receiving treatment for months.
The government originally said Mugabe would be buried in the country’s National Heroes Acre monument in the capital city of Harare, but his family disagreed with the plan and said the government did not consult them.
After three weeks of wrangling over his final resting place, the government announced on Thursday that it would respect the family’s wishes.
A few hundred mourners attended the funeral Saturday afternoon amid heavy security. Many villagers and journalists who wanted to cover the ceremony were turned away. Only family members witnessed Mugabe’s interment.
Zimbabwe’s current President Emmerson Mnangagwa and other senior government officials did not attend the ceremony.
Shuvai Gumbochuma, Grace Mugabe’s sister, said “the small gathering reflected Mugabe’s wishes that his burial should not be organized by those who removed him from power.”
“Some may be surprised by this small crowd given this man’s greatness. What we did today was his wish. He said he didn’t want to be buried at the Heroes Acre. The crowd here may seem small, but we are happy we fulfilled his wish,” Gumbochuma said.
A state memorial attended by many African leaders, senior government officials and party leaders was held at the national stadium in Harare earlier this month.
Journalist Mark Chingono reported from Zvimba and CNN’s Bukola Adebayo wrote from Lagos