Former president Robert Mugabe’s family was told that they risked losing his Harare mansion and other Harare properties if they did not accede to government’s demands that the long-time ruler should be buried at the Heroes Acre, it has emerged.
According to recordings of some of the meetings held between government representatives and his family obtained by The Standard, the negotiations for Mugabe’s burial have been full of twists and turns.
Mugabe, who died in Singapore on September 6 aged 95, is said to have told his family that he did not want to be buried at the Heroes Acre because he was bitter about the coup that toppled him in November 2017.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed a poorly attended funeral service for his mentor at the National Sports Stadium, but his burial date still remains unknown.
Mugabe’s family on Friday agreed that he would be buried at the Heroes Acre only after they were promised that the government would build a mausoleum for him.
It has since emerged that Mnangagwa’s emissaries used a carrot-and-stick approach, including warning Mugabe’s family that they risked losing the Blue Roof mansion in Borrowdale, if they tried to antagonise the government.
Apparently, the mansion and Mugabe’s houses in Mt Pleasant and Waterfalls are registered under Zanu PF.
Mnangagwa was represented in meetings with the Mugabe family and traditional leaders from Zvimba, the former Zanu PF leader’s rural home, by former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and former Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa.
“They told the family that they needed to be careful when handling the burial issue and work with government because the family might stand to lose Mugabe’s properties that are still registered in Zanu PF name,” a family member was recorded as saying after one of the meetings.
Gono yesterday said he did not know anything about the threats.
Zanu PF secretary for finance Patrick Chinamasa confirmed that Mugabe’s properties were registered under the ruling party, but refused to comment on the alleged threats against the former president’s family.
Chinamasa said: “It’s true that the properties are registered in the party name, but why don’t you go and talk to his daughter?”
Sources said Mugabe’s daughter, who was given the Mt Pleasant house as a wedding gift in 2014, approached Chinamasa a fortnight ago pleading with him to help transfer the title of the properties.
This was after unnamed Zanu PF officials started threatening that the properties could be seized.
After several inconclusive meetings and the rift between government and the chiefs, which played out in the public, Mnangagwa met chiefs from Zvimba at his Harare offices.
“We will work with government,” one of the chiefs is recorded telling Mnangagwa at the meeting.
“We want to clarify that we are not against the government.”
At a separate meeting, Chiyangwa was reportedly told that there was no guarantee that the chiefs still supported Zanu PF in the aftermath of the coup.
“In one of the meetings, Chiyangwa was embarrassed when he said he was also representing Zanu PF and was asked by one of the chiefs what made him believe they were still Zanu PF supporters after the November 2017 coup,” a family member, who attended the meeting said.
Cracks also started to appear among the chiefs with some said to be sympathetic to Mnangagwa. They allegedly accused Mugabe’s widow Grace of orchestrating the fallout with Mnangagwa.
“The chiefs then met again. Chief Zvimba and others who had been sympathetic to President Emmerson Mnangagwa accused Chief Chidziva, who is a direct relative of Mugabe, of failing to deal with the former first lady,” a source said.
“The meeting was held around 10pm on Thursday and a decision to summon Grace and discuss the issue was made.
“The chiefs were told she was already asleep and the meeting dragged on until 4am when she was called and told that chiefs had agreed to have Mugabe buried at the Heroes Acre.”
Gono held another meeting with the chiefs the following morning, which was followed by an announcement that Mugabe would be buried at the Heroes Acre, after all.
However, that was not the end of the drama. After stating that a funeral service would be held at the shrine today, family spokesperson Leo Mugabe announced that the event had been cancelled.
Sources revealed that government had already printed 25 000 obituaries and 7 000 T-shirts for today’s “mock” burial.
The chiefs met again on Friday night where they agreed that Mugabe’s body would be taken to Zvimba for some rituals before the final burial. Leo said the burial would now take place after 30 days.
Information permanent secretary Nick Mangwana yesterday said official mourning ended yesterday.
He said it was now up to the family to decide where to keep the body until burial.
When he announced Mugabe’s death, Mnangagwa said the period for national mourning would run until Mugabe was buried.
— The Standard