Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said in a statement on Wednesday that it had postponed its 20th anniversary rally because of Robert Mugabe’s funeral.
Mugabe will be buried on on Sunday, September 15, having passed on last week in Singapore, at the age of 95.
It said: “Notwithstanding our legendary differences with Mr. Mugabe, we have no reason to exhibit barbarity by hosting a national festivity during his funeral.”
Mugabe left behind an economy wrecked by hyperinflation and deeply entrenched corruption, and a raging political rivalry between ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC.
Mugabe’s body arrived at the country’s main airport on Wednesday, but his final resting place remained a source of mystery amid a dispute between some family members and the government.
The former president’s body arrived at Harare’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport shortly after 1330 GMT, a Reuters witness said.
Crowds had gathered at the airport well before the scheduled arrival time, with some people wearing T-shirts bearing Mugabe’s face and others with Mnangagwa’s image, while music blared from loudspeakers.
A convoy of 4×4 vehicles with number plates bearing the letters “RG Mugabe” and the former leader’s signature were also on the runway.
Mugabe’s wife Grace and Zimbabwean Vice President Kembo Mohadi were among those accompanying the body of the former leader on the plane, Leo Mugabe, a nephew and family spokesman, said.
Mnangagwa, top officials and other Mugabe family members were at the airport to receive the body.
Today, ordinary Zimbabweans and supporters are expected to pay their last respects to Mugabe at a Harare soccer stadium, where the body will lie in state before being taken to his rural home in Kutama, 85 km (52 miles) from the capital, the family spokesman said.
Mugabe’s resting place has been a topic of discussion since the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported last month that Mugabe would snub the offer of a burial at National Heroes Acre – a site reserved for the country’s heroes – because he felt bitter about the way he was removed from power.
The Zimbabwean government said in a memo sent to embassies that it planned to hold a state funeral for Mugabe in the National Sports Stadium on Saturday, with a burial ceremony on Sunday, but it did not say where the burial would be.
If Mugabe is buried in Kutama village, 85 km (50 miles) from Harare, it would be a major rebuke for his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the ruling ZANU-PF party that Mugabe helped to found.