President Peter Mutharika on Saturday was among foreign dignitaries and Zimbabweans bid farewell to that country’s hero turned murderous tyrant Robert Mugabe, after a week of disputes over his burial that have threatened to undermine President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Speaking at Kamuzu International Airport before leaving for Zimbabwe in a chartered plane, Mutharika said he could not miss the state funeral because Mugabe was more than a friend to Malawi.
“He was always here for any event. He was the great friend of this country,” said Mugabe.
“The late Mugabe was someone who loved Malawi so much,” said Mutharika.
“ He was also instrumental in making Chinyanja one of the official languages in Zimbabwe,” he added.
Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years until he was ousted by his own army in November 2017, died in a Singapore hospital a week ago aged 95. He is described as a hero by some people because of his fight for Zimbabwe liberation which culminated in that country’s independence in 1980.
He ended white-minority rule in Zimbabwe and improved access to education and health services for the country’s poor black majority, but he soon began to resort to fear and repression to govern.
His legacy has been tainted with reports of killings of his political opponents to keep himself in power, including the 20 000 massacre of the Ndebele people.
Many Zimbabweans will remember Mugabe more for his economic mismanagement and increasingly tyrannical rule that followed the initial hope of liberation. Millions fled the country to escape decades of hyperinflation and crackdowns on dissidents.
Mutharika is expected back to Malawi Saturday evening.
At least two dozen heads of stater and former heads of states are attending the state funeral, conspicuously shunned by European and American leaders.
He will be buried in a mausoleum at the National Heroes Acre shrine in Harare in about 30 days, his nephew said on Friday, contradicting earlier comments that the burial would be on Sunday.
Mnangagwa said late on Friday that building the mausoleum would delay the burial of his predecessor.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :