Several African leaders have praised Robert Mugabe, who died last night, as the hero of the continent. His funeral, however, seems to be a problem.
“We report with great sadness the death of Zimbabwe’s founder and former president, Comrade Robert Mugabe,” tweeted President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s of Zimbabwe. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta regretted “the courageous man who was never afraid to fight for what he believed in even when it was not popular.” In Kenya, three days of national mourning have just been declared out of respect for ‘this African hero’.
Mugabe died at the exclusive Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore. The hospital has since confirmed this. Mugabe has been nursed there for months and was in a wheelchair. His dead body will return to Zimbabwe, but a problem is waiting there.
Seething about what had been done to him, Mugabe announced to his family last week that he in no way wishes to be buried on the ‘Heroes Field’ (Hero’s Acre) where Zimbabwean fighters are buried who died in the struggle for independence.
President Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s old friend, and successor is said to have sent a special delegation to the hospital in Singapore last week to settle the matter. That did not work, Zimbabwean media reported. The Zimbabwean government would pay the hospital bills.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa praised Mugabe as an inspiration for the struggle that South Africa fought against colonialism. “e strengthened us in the hope that we too would one day be free.”
Former Congo president Joseph Kabila said that “the entire continent has lost one of the great Pan-Africans, one of the heroes in the struggle for independence.”
In the meantime, there is a lot of arguing in African social media about how Robert Mugabe should be remembered: as a brave liberator or as a cruel dictator.