Numerous people have reportedly been injured in a stampede at the viewing event for founding Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, as those in attendance jostled in an attempt to see the late leader’s body, SADC News has reported.
This reportedly led to police having to barricade the area and to an increased security presence at the venue. Medical workers were reportedly brought in to treat the wounded.
Prior to this, it was reported that Mugabe’s body had arrived at Rufaro Stadium in Harare where the ceremony is taking place on Thursday afternoon.
Earlier, the body was taken to Mugabe’s Harare villa, known as the Blue Roof for its blue pagoda-style structure, where family and supporters gathered to mourn.
His body has since been laid out for the public at the stadium and will later be transported to his homestead Zvimba for a wake.
Thousands are in attendance to pay tribute to the former leader.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared Mugabe a national hero after his death, indicating he should be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre monument.
These plans were rejected by the late former president’s family, who say the body will be displayed in his home village of Kutama on Sunday night, adding that he will then be buried in a private ceremony.
“His body will lie in state at Kutama on Sunday night… followed by a private burial – either Monday or Tuesday – no National Heroes’ Acre [the national monument for liberation heroes]. That’s the decision of the whole family,” Mugabe’s nephew Leo told the AFP news agency.
In a statement, the family said: “We note with extreme concern the manner with which the government of Zimbabwe has developed the programme for the funeral of the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe without consulting his immediate family, who were tasked with communicating his last wishes in regard to his funeral and burial.
“As his immediate family, we have also observed with shock that the government of Zimbabwe is attempting to coerce us to accept a programme for the funeral and burial of the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe, which is contrary to his wishes on how he wished to have his mortal remains interred.
“As the immediate family of the late Mugabe, we are ready and willing to work with the government of Zimbabwe to develop a programme for the funeral and burial of the late Mugabe which is in conformance to his wishes on how his mortal remains will be interred.
“One of the wishes that Mugabe indicated was that his wife, Dr Grace Mugabe, must never leave the casket bearing his remains for the duration of the funeral proceedings while in Zimbabwe up until his mortal remains have been interred.
“To that end, we confirm that honourable Walter Chidakwa may communicate our position with relevant authorities to ensure that we develop a programme that conforms to the wishes of the late Mugabe. We have also tasked honourable Patrick Zhuwao to disseminate this statement.”
Mugabe died on a medical trip to Singapore, where he had been travelling regularly for treatment. A delegation including a vice president flew to Singapore to bring him home.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, former Cuban leader Raul Castro, and a dozen African presidents, including South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, are among those expected to attend Mugabe’s state funeral on Saturday in Harare, said Zimbabwe’s presidency.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman Background reporting, AFP and Gopolang Moloko)