African leaders, including President Peter Mutharika, yesterday hailed departed former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe as a Pan-Africanist and a global liberation icon who selflessly dedicated his life to the emancipation of his country and the entire African continent.
The leaders also praised Mugabe as an intellectual and principled giant in their eulogies at a State funeral held in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.
Former Zambia’s president Kenneth Kaunda, the only surviving Africa’s frontline colonial liberator, also attended the ceremony.
Mugabe died last week in Singapore, aged 95.
In his keynote tribute to his predecessor monitored live on South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Mugabe will remain the shining symbol of Africa’s struggle for both economic and political independence.
“[Mugabe’s] star rises, it shines high and bright. We who remain shall continue to hear his rich, brave, defiant and inspiring voice … encouraging and warning us to be vigilant and astute in guarding our independence…freedoms and resources,” he said.
The Zimbabwean leader, who still faces a gruelling task to turn arund the country’s shrank economy, also pleaded with the international community to honour Mugabe by removing all sanctions imposed on Harare in the early 2000s, which still cripple the economy significantly.
On his part Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Mugabe was a visionary leader and a relentless champion of African freedom who left an indelible mark on Africa’s history through his zeal for the economic and political liberation.
At some point, however, the ceremony slipped into a repulsive scene as some people in the 60 000-capacity National Stadium, where the ceremony was held, booed and jeered South Africa’s leader Cyril Ramaphosa over escalating xenophobic attacks on foreigners in South Africa that have lately killed about 10 people.
Ramaphosa was holding the podium and immediately construed the boos and told the crowds that real South Africans “are not xenophobic”. He went on to apologise for the ill-treatment some African nationals had been subjected to by South Africans.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s media reports say Mugabe’s family and the government finally agreed that he be buried in the National Heroes’ Acre monument in Harare.
This follows a protracted war of words between the two sides over Mugabe’s final destination as the family earlier objected to the government’s arrangement to bury Mugabe at the Heroes Acre, opting for his village as allegedly proposed by Mugabe himself before he died.