Zimbabwe announced on Thursday that ex-president Robert Mugabe would be buried at his home village in Zvimba as requested by his family, and no longer at a special mausoleum that was already under construction.
The government said the family of the former leader, who died in Singapore on September 6 aged 95, “has expressed its desire to proceed with his burial in Zvimba”.
“Government is cooperating with the Mugabe family in their new position,” government spokesman Nick Mangwana said in a statement.
Tensions erupted after the government proposed a burial at the National Heroes Acre in the capital Harare while the family insisted on a private ceremony in Mugabe’s homestead.
The family gave no reason for the change of plans. It had previously agreed to have his body entombed at the shrine where preparations for a special mausoleum were already in progress.
“I knew there were discussions, rethinking and so forth,” Mugabe’s nephew and family spokesman Leo Mugabe told AFP but stated no reason for the new plans.
He said the burial would be private and restricted to family members.
Many in Mugabe’s family are bitter over his ouster nearly two years ago and the role played by his deputy and successor Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was elected president after Mugabe was toppled.
Mugabe’s nephew Walter Chidakwa said Mugabe died a “sad” man.
The body will be taken from his Harare mansion on Friday for the village, which lies about 90 kilometres (55 miles) west of Harare
“Burial is likely to be on Saturday,” said Leo Mugabe.
Government said “all the necessary support” will be provided “to give the late former president a fitting burial as led by the family.”
– Disputed burial place –
The former guerilla leader, who came to power at the end of white minority rule in 1980 and ruled Zimbabwe uninterrupted for 37 years and seven months, died of prostate cancer, according to Mnangagwa.
He was toppled on November 2017 in a military-backed coup, ending an increasingly iron-fisted rule marked by political oppression and economic ruin.
Mugabe’s health deteriorated rapidly after the ousting and he made regular trips to Singapore to seek treatment.
There was little sign of public grief after his death, the farewell at his home village was rather subdued and his official funeral at a sports stadium on September 14 was sparsely attended by ordinary Zimbabweans.
The family had said they had agreed that Mugabe would be buried at the National Heroes Acre in about a month, after the mausoleum was built for him.
But on Thursday they made an about-turn, reverting to their original plan.
Traditional chiefs from his village have been demanding that Mugabe — though a non-practising chief in his village and raised a Jesuit — be buried according to spiritual traditions that are shrouded in mystical beliefs and rituals.
Those requests have been part of a dispute over the final burial of Mugabe, who died September 6 almost two years after a coup ended his increasingly autocratic 37-year rule.
His death has left Zimbabwe deeply split over the legacy of a man once praised as an anti-colonial liberation icon, but whose regime was defined by brutal repression and economic chaos.