LIKE the rest of Zimbabweans, we are watching the unfolding drama over the burial of Zimbabwe’s founding father, Robert Mugabe.
This appears to be a game of brinksmanship between the family of the late former President and the administration led by his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The family remains bitter, as was Mugabe judging by his public utterances since his removal from office, at the way his erstwhile comrades conspired to remove him from office.
It’s obvious that Mnangagwa, who was Mugabe’s close aide for all of 54 years, and the ruling Zanu-PF — a party that the late nationalist helped found, want him buried at the ornate National Heroes Acre. All pronouncements indicate that the government had planned for a State funeral on Saturday, with the burial scheduled for Sunday.
But the family has pushed back, insisting that his burial ceremony would be a private family affair and a secret.
Interestingly, the family yesterday issued a statement accusing the government of preparing a programme for Mugabe’s burial without consulting his immediate family and “attempting to coerce us to accept a programme for the funeral and burial” which they argue was contrary to Mugabe’s wishes.
This is hypocrisy of the highest order.
The North Korean-designed Heroes monument was a Mugabe project from start to finish, and its design also reflected his self-aggrandisement and that of his Zanu-PF party.
Its loftiest places are reserved for Zanu-PF’s leaders, those who led the struggle, comrades who trusted each other, and are identified with the party, its ideology and aspirations.
Simon Muzenda, Joshua Nkomo, Eddison Zvobgo, Sally Mugabe, George Nyandoro, Maurice Nyagumbo, Josiah Tongogara, Herbert Chitepo, Leopold Takawira, Josiah Chinamano, Solomon Mujuru, Joseph Msika and Cephas Msipa among many others, are buried at the national shrine.
Mugabe is the ultimate hero and his place is with his peers, the people he shared the battlefront with and led in the fight for independence.
The family’s bitterness cannot undo the past or alter Mugabe’s standing in Zimbabwe’s history.
Many heroes interred at the shrine, for one reason or the other, did not want to be buried there.
As recently as 2016, the late Msipa left explicit instructions that he wished to be buried next to his wife, Charlotte, who was buried at the Midlands Provincial Heroes Acre, but Mugabe rode roughshod over the family and buried him at the national shrine.
He cannot have his way, even in death, and demand that the party deviates from a path he himself trod many times in the past.
It is also clear that the family is blowing the one opportunity they have, of building goodwill with Mnangagwa and his administration. They are overplaying their one good hand to embarrass Mugabe’s successor.
Yes, while the bitterness lingers, the former First Lady Grace, her children and the rest of the family need to build bridges with the new Zanu-PF government.
In 2017, Mnangagwa and Mugabe were playing the deadly game of Russian Roulette, a Game of Thrones where the loser paid with his life.
This was certain in Mnangagwa’s case judging by the many stories of his November 2017 escape to South Africa via Mozambique and he won, but allowed his vanquished foe a graceful retirement.
The Mugabe family has everything to gain by not antagonising Mnangagwa.
According to Zimbabwe’s tourist guide, burial at the National Heroes Acre is a symbol of bravery and selflessness for those that are laid to rest there.
In Zimbabwe, heroes do not come bigger than Mugabe.
The dead cannot decide where they should be buried!