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The story behind Zimbabwe’s scarf

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Emmerson Munangagwa

An accidental fashion accessory is helping President Emmerson Munangagwa rebrand the country – and distance himself from his predecessor Robert Mugabe and his 37-year rule.

Since the Davos summit in January, Emmerson Munangagwa is hardly ever seen without a scarf in the colours of Zimbabwe’s flag around his neck – no matter the temperature.

It was perfect for the freezing Swiss mountain village in mid-winter – and the Mr Emmerson Munangagwa proudly wore it during a BBC interview, later tweeting a clip of it saying, “Zimbabwe is open for business.”

But the scarf now has a life of its own, beyond the World Economic Forum – and even has its own hashtag #EDscarf.

Mr Emmerson Munangagwa, popularly known by his initials ED, got his hands on the scarf by chance when a mother-and-daughter fashion start-up contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a Saturday before the Zimbabwe delegation left for Davos.

‘Such a shock’

There had been much hype ahead of the summit with Zimbabwe’s new leader anxious to attract urgent investment to revive an economy that has been on its knees for the last decade.

“We called and were like, ‘We’ve got these products, we’re not sure how you can use them.’ And the next thing you know the president is wearing the scarf… It was really such a shock on our end,” Celia Rukato told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

She said it was one of the first products she and her mother, Hesphina Rukato, produced when they formed their company in 2014 – and it was sold, with little fanfare, at a curio shop at Zimbabwe’s Harare International Airport.

It was a way for Zimbabweans to show they were “proud to be Zimbabwean”

Pride in the scarf chimes with the #ThisFlag social media movement of 2016 that protested against Mr Mugabe’s rule and the dire economic situation.

It was launched by a pastor angered by the state of the nation. He posted a video on Facebook of himself wrapped in the Zimbabwean flag, explaining why the colours were significant.

“They tell me that the green is for the vegetation and for the crops. I don’t see any crops in my country,” Evan Mawarire said.

“The yellow is for all the minerals – diamonds, platinum, chrome – I don’t know how much of it is left; I don’t know who they sold it to and how much they got for it.

“The red they say that is the blood that was shed to secure freedom for me and I’m so thankful for that – I just don’t know that if they were here, they that shed their blood, and saw the way this country is that they would demand their blood be brought back.”

Before Mr Mugabe was ousted, vendors were even banned from selling flags without authorisation.

But during the unprecedented protest days before Mr Mugabe’s resignation, the flag was everywhere – around the necks of many Zimbabweans, no matter their political party.

‘National dress’

Following the scarf’s outing at Davos, it has become a must – near enough a uniform with slightly different designs – for those representing the country abroad.

For the Rukatos the success of the scarf feeds into their ambition to start a debate about creating a national dress for Zimbabwe.

“One of the things we’ve noticed over the years is that most nationalities have a national dress and Zimbabweans have not had anything.

So the scarf is just one of the things we’re beginning to put out there,” Hesphina Rukato told journalist Hopewell Chin’ono.

Creating a national dress is now a manifesto promise for the main opposition Movement Democratic Change Alliance, whose leader Nelson Chamisa is Mr Emmerson Munangagwa’s main rival in presidential elections later this month.

For the scarf, things have also got a little more political because of the president’s passion for it. At nearly every campaign rally for the ruling Zanu-PF party – whether or not it is cold – he is seen with it around his neck.

It has even got the head of the electoral commission into trouble, when a photo of her posing in the scarf with its creator, Celia Rukato, next to her began circulating on social media.

Priscilla Chigumba said the photo was taken before she was appointed in January to head the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).

“That scarf was designed by a brilliant young Zimbabwean girl who then approached a group of us when I was a high court judge to say, ‘Look I’ve designed this scarf in an effort to build national consciousness.’

And I did want to support her, and I was very grateful for the present that she gave me and I took a picture,” she told Zimbabwe’s Capitalk FM earlier this month.

It didn’t help that one of the Zec chair’s aides said last month it was must have been faked – not realising it was an old photo.

“He obviously thought in his mind it must be a Photoshop as he knew I’d never jeopardise the image of the commission,” Ms Chigumba said.

Despite the controversy, the scarf remains popular – and a bestseller for the Rukatos.

One young man returning to university in neighbouring South Africa last week wanted to buy one of the last ones for sale that day for $24 (£18) at Harare’s International Airport.

“Of course I wouldn’t wear it in Harare at home – but it looks cool in Port Elizabeth,” he said.
BBC

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Mugabe buried in a tamper-proof casket

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Robert Mugabe Burial

Robert Mugabe was buried in a tamper-proof casket because he feared that people would “use my body”, according to his family.

He was buried at Kutama village, his rural home village, on Saturday, near his mother, instead of the National Heroes Acre in Harare.

Mugabe’s nephew and family spokesperson, Leo Mugabe, told Zimpapers Television Network that “he wanted to be buried next to his mother but there is no space there” so the family elected to bury him, at a private ceremony, in the same village as his mother.

Asked about the speculation around the family changing his casket, Leo said: “Originally, why we changed is because we wanted a tamper-proof casket because you know, with rituals and things like that, people are really after his body, body parts, so we wanted something that was tamper-proof. That is why the casket was changed in the first place.”

He said it was Mugabe’s idea in the first place.

He explained that Mugabe had previously expressed concern about what would happen to his body after death.

“He said to his wife … ‘If and when I’m gone, don’t leave my body. Be careful, people want to use my body.’ It was him who said it to the former first lady.

“We knew that spiritually he probably knows something,” said Leo.

The family kept the body at home the night before he was buried in keeping with his wishes.

AFP reported that family members threw white roses into the grave as the coffin, draped in navy blue velvet, was lowered to its final resting place in the courtyard of his rural home, about 90 kilometres from Harare.

A boys choir from Mugabe’s old high school sang in the background.TimesLive

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Robert Mugabe’s family rejects government burial plans

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Mugabe

The family of Robert Mugabe has said he will be buried in his home town in private, in an apparent snub to the government, which wants to inter him at a national monument.

Leo Mugabe, a nephew of Zimbabwe’s late ruler, said the ceremony would probably be held early next week in Zvimba district, about 60 miles (95km) north-west of the capital, Harare. “That is the decision of the family since last night unless something changes,” he told the Guardian.

Many of Mugabe’s relatives oppose government plans for the funeral and burial of the man who ruled the country for nearly 40 years before he was ousted in a military takeover in 2017.

The ruling Zanu-PF party announced that Mugabe’s remains would be interred at a hilltop monument outside Harare on Sunday, after a ceremony at the nearby national stadium on Saturday, where dozens of prominent African leaders would be present.

However, friends and allies of Mugabe’s wife, Grace, have said he made clear he would prefer to be buried in Zvimba with only close relatives in attendance. They said Mugabe did not want his death to be exploited by his successors for political gain.

A meeting on Thursday between Mugabe’s family and officials at his home in Harare ended without agreement. Walter Chidhakwa, a spokesman for the family, said the funeral would go ahead but not the planned burial.

Earlier, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe as president, said he had appealed to the family to set aside any bitterness. They are reportedly unhappy about his treatment of the former leader.

“Let bygones be bygones. The family is going to lead the programme, that’s why we haven’t released anything. We haven’t agreed how he will be buried,” Mnangagwa said.

The president, a veteran of the ruling Zanu-PF party and a decades-long close associate of Mugabe, said: “We will have to sit down first with Grace. As the government, there’s nothing we will do to go against your wishes. Let’s unite, he was our father.”

Mugabe died in a clinic in Singapore last week, aged 95. His body arrived on Wednesday, on a government-chartered private jet, at Zimbabwe’s main airport, where thousands of supporters had gathered.

On Thursday his casket was taken to a sports stadium in Harare, where thousands of onlookers packed the stands to see Mugabe lie in state for public viewing.

Several people were injured in a crush as they surged forward to try to view the casket. Some people were carried away on stretchers. The severity of their injuries wasn’t immediately clear.

Riot police later restored order, at times using batons to strike those waiting in a line.

Grace Mugabe sat on the podium to the side of the sports field while Mugabe’s casket was under a tent at the centre of the field. A military helicopter later landed on the field and took off after the coffin was placed inside.

Though much of his 37 years in power were marked by violence, economic mismanagement and corruption, the former guerrilla fighter is still revered as a liberation leader. Many in Zimbabwe see him as a national hero, remembering his role in the war against white rule. The Guardian

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Stampede at Mugabe’s memorial at Rufaro Stadium

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Stampede at Robert Mugabe’s memorial

Several people have reportedly been injured in a stampede at the viewing event for founding Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, as those in attendance jostled in an attempt to see the late leader’s body.

Prior to this, it was reported that Mugabe’s body had arrived at Rufaro Stadium in Harare where the ceremony is taking place on Thursday afternoon.

Earlier, the body was taken to Mugabe’s Harare villa, known as the Blue Roof for its blue pagoda-style structure, where family and supporters gathered to mourn.

His body has since been laid out for the public at the stadium and will later be transported to his homestead Zvimba for a wake.

Thousands are in attendance to pay tribute to the former leader.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared Mugabe a national hero after his death, indicating he should be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre monument.
These plans were rejected by the late former president’s family, who say the body will be displayed in his home village of Kutama on Sunday night, adding that he will then be buried in a private ceremony.

“His body will lie in state at Kutama on Sunday night followed by a private burial – either Monday or Tuesday – no National Heroes’ Acre. That’s the decision of the whole family,” Mugabe’s nephew Leo told the AFP news agency.

In a statement, the family said: “We note with extreme concern the manner with which the government of Zimbabwe has developed the programme for the funeral of the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe without consulting his immediate family, who were tasked with communicating his last wishes in regard to his funeral and burial.

“As his immediate family, we have also observed with a shock that the government of Zimbabwe is attempting to coerce us to accept a programme for the funeral and burial of the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe, which is contrary to his wishes on how he wished to have his mortal remains interred.

“As the immediate family of the late Mugabe, we are ready and willing to work with the government of Zimbabwe to develop a programme for the funeral and burial of the late Mugabe which is in conformance to his wishes on how his mortal remains will be interred.

“One of the wishes that Mugabe indicated was that his wife, Dr Grace Mugabe, must never leave the casket bearing his remains for the duration of the funeral proceedings while in Zimbabwe up until his mortal remains have been interred.

“To that end, we confirm that honourable Walter Chidakwa may communicate our position with relevant authorities to ensure that we develop a programme that conforms to the wishes of the late Mugabe. We have also tasked honourable Patrick Zhuwao to disseminate this statement.”

Mugabe died on a medical trip to Singapore, where he had been travelling regularly for treatment. A delegation including a vice president flew to Singapore to bring him home.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, former Cuban leader Raul Castro, and a dozen African presidents, including South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, are among those expected to attend Mugabe’s state funeral on Saturday in Harare, said Zimbabwe’s presidency.The Citizen

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