Mugabe Memorial: Family say they weren't expecting stadium to be 'this empty', citizens say work kept them away

While the Zimbabwean government and former President Robert Mugabe’s family had indicated plans to take his remains to Zvimba, his home village following his Saturday funeral, this was ditched on Sunday morning.

His nephew Leo Mugabe confirmed this, amid reports that former First Lady Grace Mugabe was feeling unwell.

"The information that I have coming from the chiefs in Zvimba is that the coming of the president has been postponed for tomorrow ten o'clock," he told journalists, adding there must be a good reason for the postponement.

Meanwhile numerous Zimbabweans told News24 they did not attend Mugabe's funeral because of other commitments but that they had taken other opportunities to honour the former liberation hero.

Scenes of a near-empty 60 000 capacity national sports stadium shocked many across the continent as Zimbabwe bid its final farewell to the man who led the country for 37 years. His nephew expressed some disappointment to News24, saying he did not "expect it to be this empty".

Mugabe died last week in Singapore where he had been receiving medical attention for around three months.

"I work at a place that is open every single day. I couldn't make it to the sports stadium because of that but I went to Rufaro to pay my respects to our father on Thursday," said one Zimbabwean, who asked not to be named.

Mugabe's remains arrived in Zimbabwe on Wednesday and laid in state at Rufaro for two days so members of the public could pay their respects.

WATCH | Mugabe has returned home

"No, I didn't go to his funeral. I had to attend to my work, in this economy I cannot afford to take time to go to the stadium," said a woman, who wanted to remain anonymous.

Several Zimbabweans refused to be named claiming they could become targeted by their own government but insisted they did not stay away from the memorial service because they had any animosity towards Mugabe.

"We were told this was for just the heads of state, so we understood to not have been really wanted there," said a lady who lived a stone's throw from the national sport stadium.

There has also been tensions between the Mugabe family and the Zimbabwean government, with the family publicly rebuking President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government for planning the former leader's funeral without consulting them, in a statement.

The standoff was resolved just hours leading up to the planned funeral, with Mugabe's nephew telling journalists the leader would be buried after thirty days at Heroes' Acre, but in line with the wishes of village elders of where he came from.

This after the family and the chiefs from his home village of Zvimba said he wished to be laid to rest in his home village where his mother had been laid to rest.

There have also been questions about his widow's future, with some unsure whether she would remain in Zimbabwe without her beloved husband. Grace had previously been accused of using Mugabe to attack Mnangagwa and had labelled the current president a coup plotter in 2017, when her husband's reign crashed, and he took over.

Mnangagwa hailed her and told her that he would always support her.

"Be rest assured that you will continue to have my support and that of my government, in these moments of grief," said Mnangagwa.

According to reports some of the Mugabe family's allies have refused to return to their homeland to bury the former statesmen out of fear of being targeted by Mnangagwa's government.

Numerous heads of state attended the Saturday government memorial service including South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa and two former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.

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