(By Problem Masau and Kristin Palitza, dpa)

Harare (dpa) – Few Zimbabweans decided to attend a public memorial for former president Robert Mugabe on Saturday, leaving the 60,000 seats at a stadium in the capital, Harare, about two-thirds empty…

Most of the attendees were brought by bus to Harare from outlying rural areas by the ruling Zanu-PF party and were sporting T-shirts depicting current President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“We were instructed to wear [the] T-shirts,” Rugare Moyo, who came by bus from the village of Mhondoro, about 60 kilometres from the capital, told dpa.

The T-shirts featuring Mnangagwa, who disposed Mugabe in a military coup two years ago, are likely to be perceived as an affront by the Mugabe family, who was in a row with the Zanu-PF leadership over Mugabe’s burial this week.

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After days of back and forth, the burial, originally scheduled for Sunday, has now been postponed to October to allow time to build a mausoleum at Harare’s National Heroes Acre.

Instead, the body of Mugabe, who died last week in a Singapore hospital aged 95, will go to his hometown of Zvimba on Sunday for traditional funereal rituals to be carried out.

Grace Muagbe, widow of Robert Mugabe, pays her respects at the National Sports stadium during a funeral ceremony in Harare, Saturday, Sept, 14, 2019. African heads of state and envoys gathered to attend a state funeral for Zimbabwe’s founding president, Robert Mugabe, whose burial has been delayed for at least a month until a special mausoleum can be built for his remains. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

African leaders attended the memorial

About a dozen African leaders attended Saturday’s memorial at the National Sports Stadium to pay their respects to Mugabe, who ruled the southern African nation for almost four decades with an iron fist.

Among them were South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Mozambique’s Filipe Nyusi, as well as the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the former president of Ghana, Jerry Rawlings, and former South African presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.

The casket of former president Robert Mugabe is loaded by military officers into a vehicle as it departs after a state funeral at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. African heads of state and envoys gathered to attend a state funeral for Zimbabwe’s founding president, Robert Mugabe, whose burial has been delayed for at least a month until a special mausoleum can be built for his remains. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

The memorial started with a military parade and guests singing in the public galleries.

Even though Mugabe destroyed Zimbabwe’s once-flourishing economy and violently oppressed any opposition during his time in power, he remains revered by some as a former freedom fighter against white supremacy.

Kenyatta and various other African statesmen sang Mugabe’s praises, lauding him for liberating Zimbabweans from colonialism.

“Mugabe has left an indelible mark on the history of Zimbabwe and Africa at large. The onus is now on us to deliver the dream of a truly free and prosperous Africa,” said Kenyatta.

A 21-gun salute is fired at the end of the state funeral for former president Robert Mugabe at the National Sports Stadium in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. African heads of state and envoys gathered to attend a state funeral for Zimbabwe’s founding president, Robert Mugabe, whose burial has been delayed for at least a month until a special mausoleum can be built for his remains. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Mugabe was instrumental in gaining Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980

As the country’s new leader, he expanded healthcare and education, and grew the economy, gaining him international recognition.

But an ethnic conflict that killed about 20,000 people in Matabeleland in the 1980s, and questionable land reforms in the 1990s, which destroyed the economy of Africa’s former “bread basket,” turned the tide.

A woman holds a poster referring to former president Robert Mugabe as “Former icon of Africa” at a gathering in his memory in his home town of Kutama, Zvimba district, in Zimbabwe Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. African heads of state and envoys gathered for Mugabe’s state funeral on Saturday, but his burial has been delayed for at least a month until a special mausoleum can be built for his remains. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
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Author: ANA Newswire