Sun | Oct 20, 2019

Mourners injured surging towards Mugabe’s coffin

Published:Friday | September 13, 2019 | 12:27 AM
Mourners stampede after the arrival of the coffin carrying former President Robert Mugabe at the Rufaro Stadium in Harare on Thursday, September 12, where Mugabe will lie in state for a public viewing.
Mourners stampede after the arrival of the coffin carrying former President Robert Mugabe at the Rufaro Stadium in Harare on Thursday, September 12, where Mugabe will lie in state for a public viewing.

HARARE (AP):

Several people were injured in a crush as they surged forward to try to view former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s casket yesterday at a sports stadium as thousands of onlookers packed the stands.

Police on the field tried to hold them back, but a large group pushed their way past them at the Rufaro stadium trying to get closer to the coffin. Some people were carried away on stretchers. The severity of their injuries wasn’t immediately clear.

Others were able to limp away and were treated by Red Cross medics on the field at the stadium in Harare’s Mbare neighbourhood. Riot police later restored order, at times using batons to strike those waiting in a line.

Mugabe’s wife, Grace, sat on a podium to the side of the sports field, while Mugabe’s casket was under a tent at the centre of the field. The event was marked by singing.

A military helicopter later landed on the field and took off after the coffin was placed inside. The casket had earlier arrived from Mugabe’s Blue Roof house in the capital.

Controversy over where and when Mugabe will be buried has overshadowed arrangements for Zimbabweans to pay their respects to the deceased leader.

Mugabe will not be given a state burial on Sunday at the national Heroes’ Acre site, family spokesman Leo Mugabe announced Thursday. The burial will be a private family affair, he said to press outside Mugabe’s Blue Roof house.

“There have just been discussions between President Mnangagwa and Mai (Mrs) Mugabe, and it would look like nothing has changed,” said the ex-president’s nephew. “The family ... said they are going to have a private burial. We don’t want the public to come. They don’t want you to know where he is going to be buried. We are not witnessing burial on Sunday; no date has been set for the burial.”

The announcement came after President Emmerson Mnangagwa met with Mugabe’s widow and other family members to try to resolve the burial dispute.

Instead of an interment on Sunday, Mugabe’s body will be on view to the public at a place near Mugabe’s birthplace in Zvimba district, said Leo Mugabe, who added that the family had not decided if he would be buried in Zvimba.