The body of former President Robert Mugabe was embalmed to last several weeks outside a mortuary and could still be at the family home for days to come, a family spokesman has said.
Mugabe died in Singapore on September 6 and his mausoleum expected to be ready in roughly three weeks.
Initially, the Mugabe family announced the body would be preserved at a private mortuary after public parades in the capital, Harare, and the former leader’s rural home, Zvimba.
It, however, emerged on Monday that it was still at the family residence in Harare.
Family spokesperson Mr Leo Mugabe told ZTN News on Tuesday:
“When I left Harare on Thursday (last week after returning with the body from Zvimba), the general understanding was that the body would be taken to a mortuary or a place to be preserved.
“However, I have since been told that the preservation process was done in Singapore and the body can last for a month without going to the mortuary.
“This is something I believe is good as there are no extra expenses.”
He went on: “If a chief were to be buried in a cave, for instance, they would have to be dried up first. Can you imagine how long it would take for the person to dry up? It is not a day’s job.
“So, culturally, they would have to spend days with the body. So, I don’t see a problem there myself. But, in any case, the fact is that we are waiting for the mausoleum to be finished. (Therefore), we still have to keep the body.”
Regarding why different caskets have been used, he said, “I cannot answer that particular question. The safety of the corpse was taken into cognisance.”
This week Europe based website Spotlight Zimbabwe claimed Mugabe had already been buried in secret at a mysterious location, in his rural home of Zvimba.
According to a close relative of the Mugabe family, the late veteran politician was laid to rest last week, during a night burial ceremony at a hidden location in Zvimba only known to traditional chiefs, his wife Grace and immediate family.
“The whole thing about a mausoleum construction was a tactical diversion,” said the relative, who also served in Mugabe’s administration at one point.
“The president made it clear that he wanted to be buried in his rural home, and that his body be interred by chiefs in the area, at a location only known to them and his immediate family.
“Yes, there shall be a private event at Heroes Acre in Harare, when the mausoleum is complete, but it’s all going to be symbolic. That is not Mugabe’s final resting place, but as a founding father of our country, it made sense to have a mausoleum built for him on top of the hill at the national shrine.”
The body of Zimbabwe’s founder Robert Mugabe arrived home at the country’s main airport on Wednesday, but it was still unclear where he would be buried amid a dispute between some family members and the government.
Mugabe, one of the last “Big Men” of African politics, ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years until he was ousted by his own army in November 2017. He died in a Singapore hospital five days ago aged 95.
He is proving as polarizing in death as he was in life, as the fight over where he will be buried threatens to embarrass his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and deepen divisions in the ruling ZANU-PF party that he helped form decades ago.
The former president’s body arrived at Harare’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport shortly after 1330 GMT. A military guard of honor stood at attention as the casket was removed from the aircraft, draped in the national flag and accompanied by security chiefs.
“The entire nation of Zimbabwe, our people, across the board are grieved and are in mourning because the light which led us to independence is no more, but his works, his ideology will continue to guide this nation,” Mnangagwa said.