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High turnout in Zimbabwe’s first post-Mugabe poll

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Zimbabwe elections 2018

Voter turnout is high in Zimbabwe’s first general election since long-serving ruler Robert Mugabe was ousted, officials say.

Foreign observers have hailed the election as an opportunity for Zimbabwe to break with its repressive past.

The presidential election is expected to be a tight contest between the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa and his main rival Nelson Chamisa.

Parliamentary and local elections are also taking place on Monday.

Opinion polls give Mr Mnangagwa, who heads the ruling Zanu-PF party, a narrow lead over Mr Chamisa, who leads the MDC Alliance.

Both leaders are running for the presidency for the first time.

On Sunday, Mr Mugabe, who first came to power after independence in 1980, said he would not vote for his successor.

Mr Mugabe, regarded as one of the last “Big Men” of African politics, was forced out of office last November by Mr Mnangagwa with the help of the military.

In Domboshawa village, about an hour’s car ride north of the capital, Harare, many had been in the queue even before sunrise.

The first group of voters were mainly elderly people but there were some youngsters too.

A local primary school has been converted into a polling station for the landmark election.

Surrounded by mountains and rolling hills, the villagers are in good spirits, chatting and laughing.

But the stakes are high. Zimbabwe’s future is in the balance and nothing is certain.

It has been a hotly contested race but there is an air of optimism, unlike the nervousness I’ve witnessed covering previous elections here.

“This election is different, there hasn’t been violence. It’s a good sign,” one voter told me. After casting his vote, he say his prayer is that whoever wins, puts Zimbabwe first. “We have suffered enough,” he says as he walks off on to the winding dirt road.

How were candidates received at polling stations?

Crowds whistled and broke into chants of “Chamisa” when the 40-year-old MDC leader cast his ballot on the outskirts of Harare, amidst a media scrum.

“We will win this election to the extent it’s free and fair… it’s a done deal,” he told the BBC.

In contrast, Mr Mnangagwa, thought to be 75, voted in a quiet polling station at a school in the central city of Kwekwe.

At one stage, he was seen taking his head out of the voting booth to check where he should put his cross on the ballot.

He tweeted that Zimbabweans should vote with “peace in our hearts”.

“We will sink or swim together,” he added.

Who makes up most of the voters?

The country is expecting a high turnout of first-time voters.

Younger voters are expected to be key – almost half of those registered are under the age of 35.

Hundreds of international observers have been deployed to ensure the vote goes smoothly, but the opposition has repeatedly alleged irregularities in the voter roll.

They have also expressed concern over the security of ballot papers and voter intimidation in mainly rural areas.

However, the Zimbabwe Election Commission (Zec) insists that it has acted within the law, and will deliver a credible poll.

ZEC head Priscilla Chigumba said 90% of polling stations had opened on time.

“The voter turnout is high and we are confident that by 7 pm central African time we would have completed the voting process at all polling stations,” she added.
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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