Harare – Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe was finally laid to rest in a simple burial in his rural home town of Kutama on Saturday.
His coffin, adorned in a Zimbabwean flag and white flower arrangements spelling the word Dad, was placed in front of a stage-like structure on which his widow, Grace, and family were seated for the church service.
"It was his last wish to be buried at his rural home," said Shuvai Gumbochuma, Grace’s sister, at the service.
She added that Mugabe felt betrayed and that is why the family snubbed the state’s elite shrine.
Mugabe’s burial place caused tension between the government, which wanted him to be buried at the National Heroes Acre, a hilltop shrine in the capital of Harare, and his family who wanted him to be laid to rest in Kutama.
The two sides had eventually settled on a mausoleum at Heroes Acre and a postponement of the funeral until October so that the structure could be built.
The government was forced to relent on Thursday, however, when the family took the body back to the home where he was born in 1924.
The grave site, constructed by a Chinese firm, is located in a courtyard between two homes that belong to Mugabe’s first wife, the late Sally, and his widow.
"We have decided to put the grave here because it’s secure and we do not want anyone to tamper with the body," family spokesman Leo Mugabe told dpa.
The burial, which was strictly by invitation, was attended by just a few hundred people, amid tight security.
Many villagers were turned away and the few who were allowed in were asked to produce national identification cards.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who helped oust Mugabe after his 37 years in power, did not attend.
In a statement, a spokesman for the ruling Zanu-PF party, Simon Khaya Moyo, said: "It is unfortunate that the Mugabe family decided to bury the late founding father at his rural home" because construction on the mausoleum had commenced.
Analysts have said that Grace’s desire to protect the fortune accrued by her family during her husband’s rule was a factor in the tensions over the burial.
Mugabe, who died aged 95 in Singapore on September 6, was both revered for his liberation politics and reviled for his later dictatorial rule in the southern African country.