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Ghosts of past massacres haunt President Mnangagwa before election

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President Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s bid to seal his position in a July 30 election is meant to mark a break with Robert Mugabe’s violence-tainted rule. But massacres that took place decades ago are coming back to haunt him. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a longtime Mugabe lieutenant who took over after a coup last year, narrowly avoided a grenade attack last month which wounded one of his vice presidents and a minister at a rally in Bulawayo.

He was quick to absolve the locals of any blame, pointing a finger at disgruntled Mugabe loyalists instead, but the location was significant: rights groups say army offensives in the area in the 1980s killed 20,000 people and memories remain raw.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa was in charge of national security at the time of the 1982-87 assault in Matabeleland, and analysts said the Bulawayo rally blast could have been calculated to implicate Mnangagwa’s Ndebele opponents and stir up trouble.

Asked whether Bulawayo people were responsible for the blast, Mnangagwa told state television: “The people of Bulawayo? No. They love me. (It’s) people outside Bulawayo.”

That helped ease worries of a security crackdown.

But voters in Bulawayo remain distrustful of their new leader, who is known by his nickname “Ngwena”, Shona for crocodile, an animal famed and feared in Zimbabwean lore for stealth and ruthlessness. Mnangagwa says he is soft as wool.

“It is good that Mnangagwa realises that people in Bulawayo are peaceful and will not use violence. I hope the government will not use this terrorist act as an excuse to target those who oppose this regime,” said Thamsanqa Dube, a 36-year-old resident of Emganwini suburb in Bulawayo.

The army massacres, known as ‘Gukurahundi’, Shona name for ‘early rain that washes away the chaff’, are a major reason Matabeleland’s voters have rejected Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF party in national elections since 2000. Many of them want an apology.

With no reliable polls, it is not clear whether the area’s 861,701 votes, 15 per cent of the national total, will punish Mnangagwa any more than they did Mugabe in the past.

But in an election under international observation for the first time in years, he may need them more than Mugabe did.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s role during Gukurahundi is not clear; his critics say that at the time, his security ministry passed on intelligence used by soldiers to target victims; officials did not respond to requests for comment.

At two consecutive rallies in Gwanda town and Bulawayo on June 22 and 23, Mnangagwa did not mention the army crackdown. He instead cast himself as a reformer, promising to devolve more power and bring economic development to the region.

Although he is the front-runner in next month’s polls, he faces a substantial challenge from 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

An unofficial survey released in Bulawayo in early June by Mass Public Opinion Institute put Mnangagwa on 42 per cent and Chamisa on 31 per cent. Twenty-five per cent gave no preference.

That means President Emmerson Mnangagwa could do with the Matabeleland vote to get the 50-plus-one per cent required to win the first round.

In the previous election in 2013, Mugabe polled 25 per cent of the vote in Bulawayo and 40 per cent of the total Matabeleland vote. Political commentator and ZANU-PF critic Ibbo Mandaza said Mnangagwa was unlikely to fare better than Mugabe.

Political analysts also say Mnangagwa lacks Mugabe’s charisma and may struggle to connect with voters, noting he lost to a little-known opposition candidate in parliamentary polls in 2000 and 2005.

Mnangagwa, desperate to end Zimbabwe’s isolation by Western powers, has invited foreign observers, absent since 2002, and is not seen relying on the intimidation tactics and violence employed by Mugabe in the past to win the election. The run-up to the polls has been largely peaceful so far.

George Charamba, Mnangagwa’s spokesman, said the promise of more power to provinces was no political gimmick and officials were working to produce a policy on how it would be shared.

“Expectations are that by the time elections are over, the national vision on decentralisation will be presented to the new government as a blueprint for the next five years,” he said.

Devolution was made mandatory in the constitution in 2013, but ZANU-PF governments have resisted its implementation, saying it was costly for the country.

Mnangagwa’s officials declined to comment on how he would deal with Gukurahundi and did not respond to a written request to interview him.

The president’s loyalists say he is a man of his word and point to his launch of a livestock programme that gave villagers thousands of cattle in the cattle ranching in Matabeleland South Province as a sign that he cares about their welfare.

Mnangagwa promised to re-open closed industries in Bulawayo and make it Zimbabwe’s industrial hub. A hospital shut in 2004 in Bulawayo would be opened within weeks with help from Indian investors, he said and he also commissioned the construction of a stalled $1.5 billion power plant in the western Hwange town, which he said would create 7,000 jobs.

Despite the promises, to some Mnangagwa remains defined by his role during Gukurahundi.

“Mnangagwa is the face of Gukurahundi, he can’t deny that. Mugabe was the body but Emmerson is the face,” said Mbuso Fuzwayo, secretary of a Bulawayo-based group that seeks to preserve sites where massacres occurred. The group is called Ibetshu Likazulu, Ndebele for “Last Hope”.

Mugabe has called Gukurahundi a “moment of madness”.

Asked about it at the Davos meeting of world leaders in January, Mnangagwa said: “What has happened has happened. What can we do about the past?
“Wherever wrong was committed, the government of the day must apologise. Wherever any community has suffered an injury if it is that injury that has to be repaired, we do it.”

Henry Khabo, 67, from rural Bubi, 70 km (44 miles) from Bulawayo, wants an apology and reparations.

He says he was rounded up by Fifth Brigade soldiers in Bubi and airlifted to Tsholotsho, 200 km (124 miles) away, where he was tortured for days and saw bodies being dumped in a huge pit.

On the final day, together with six other men, he was lined up naked for execution by firing squad. The last thing Khabo remembers is staring at the barrel of a gun and then waking up in a hospital three days later. He had been shot but survived.

“I cannot vote for him,” said Khabo, fighting tears and pointing to a scar on his left cheek where a bullet entered and exited below the ear.

Reuters

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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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