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Zimbabwe police fire tear gas, beat up MDC supporters defying protest ban

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Zimbabwean police fired tear gas and beat up more than a 100 opposition supporters with batons on Friday after they defied a protest ban in central Harare, witnesses said.

The group, singing and chanting, quickly re-emerged at the main square, where protesters were set to assemble and were again cleared by baton-wielding police.

More than a hundred Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters defied the ban, witnesses said. They clashed with Zimbabwean police who fired tear gas and water cannon, chasing them from one of the city’s main squares with batons and drafting in reinforcements to prevent the group from re-assembling.

Friday’s street demonstration was to have been the first in a nationwide series of protests organised by the MDC, which accuses Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government of state-sponsored violence, corruption and economic mismanagement.

But with armed Zimbabwean police having barred access to the party’s Harare offices and its court appeal against the ban having failed, it called the protest off, denouncing what it labelled the actions of a fascist government.

The ban – announced late on Thursday by police who said any demonstrators would be committing a crime – had exposed the government’s true colours, party Vice President Tendai Biti told reporters outside the court.

“The constitution guarantees the right to a demonstration … yet this fascist regime has denied and proscribed this right to the people of Zimbabwe,” he said on Friday.

“…We have jumped from the frying pan into the fire after the coup of November 2017… We don’t accept the conduct of this regime, the conduct of Mr Mnangagwa.”

In Geneva, a spokesman for the U.N. human rights commissioner urged the government to engage with citizens on legitimate economic grievances and “stop cracking down on peaceful protesters.”

The series of demonstrations has been widely viewed as a test of how Mnangagwa, who has so far this year failed to make good on promises of political and economic reform, responds to dissent in a country tainted by a long history of repression.

Elected after the armed forces intervened to oust Robert Mugabe, Mnangagwa has said he aims to break with the long legacy of repression that characterised much of his predecessor’s 37 years in power.

But the economy is mired in its worst crisis in a decade, and Mnangagwa is struggling to convince the growing ranks of poor citizens that his government’s austerity measures and reforms can trigger a recovery.

Zimbabweans had also expected last year’s vote to usher in a new dawn of expanded political rights and an end to the country’s international pariah status, but instead, the elections left the country more polarised.

In January, a violent security crackdown in Harare against fuel demonstrations left more than a dozen people dead.

Days ahead of the planned Harare demonstration, six political activists were abducted from their homes at night and beaten by armed men, a coalition of rights groups said.

On Friday, the apparatus of the state was out in force again and the city’s streets were unusually quiet.

Reuters witnesses saw police and armed soldiers searching buses, taxis and private vehicles at checkpoints and randomly asking for identity documents.

One woman was taken to hospital by ambulance after sustaining a deep gash on her head when baton-wielding police charged at MDC supporters.

“We want to change because we are tired of promises. We are tired, enough is enough,” MDC member Patience Gurure told Reuters moments before police dispersed the group.

By 12 noon, businesses, including banks and shops, had closed. The few employees who had come to work were told to go home.

Anger is mounting as Zimbabweans grapple with soaring inflation, rolling power cuts and shortages of U.S. dollars, fuel and bread.

In a letter to church leaders published on Friday in the state-owned Herald newspaper, Mnangagwa said the economic hardship had its roots in sanctions imposed by the West more than a decade ago as well as a severe drought this year.

He also said MDC leader Nelson Chamisa had rejected his invitation to dialogue meant to resolve Zimbabwe’s political and economic problems. Chamisa has said he will only sit down with Mnangagwa if there is a neutral arbiter.

“The doors of national dialogue are still open to all political leaders including to the leader of the MDC,” Mnangagwa said.

While political leaders argue, wages and pensions continue to be eroded by triple-digit inflation, bringing back bad memories of the hyperinflation of a decade ago, which forced the country to ditch its currency. 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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