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Leaders Gather For Mugabe Funeral


Zimbabwe is giving its former President Robert Mugabe a final goodbye with a state funeral. Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for more than 30 years. And for the past three days, Zimbabweans have been remembering the controversial leader. NPR's Eyder Peralta joins us from the National Sports Stadium in Harare. Eyder, thanks so much for being with us.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Thank you you for having me, Scott.

SIMON: What's the scene like there?

PERALTA: Well, you know, it actually feels a little disjointed because the government pulled out all the stops for this state funeral. They had military and police bands. They brought in world leaders - the presidents of Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Angola Mozambique among them. And Mugabe's body was brought into this stadium in a coffin. It was draped, you know, in a Zimbabwean flag. And it was escorted by generals and President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The disjointed part comes because this funeral comes, you know, about two years after Robert Mugabe was ousted in a military coup. And these generals, this president - they were the ones who ousted him. So that was definitely of Walter Chidhakwa, who spoke on behalf of the family. Let's listen.


WALTER CHIDHAKWA: I must say it. And I spent lots of time with him towards the end of his life. He was a sad man.

PERALTA: Another thing I should note, Scott, is that this is a huge stadium in the capital city. And it is half-empty.

SIMON: What about people outside the stadium? I understand you spoke with them, too.

PERALTA: I did. And, you know, the feeling outside is very different from the feeling here. You know, here, we was remembered as a liberator, as a hero, as a pan-Africanist. And, you know, Mugabe became a tyrant. And he was cruel to his own people. And right now Zimbabwe is hurting. It's got the second-worst inflation rate after Venezuela. And, you know, one woman I spoke to yesterday - she came to view his body. She was in tears. And she said her hurt because Mugabe had liberated Zimbabwe from white minority rule. And she was able to go to school to live in areas that were formerly all-white. And then she pointed to his legs. They were swollen. She didn't know why, and she couldn't get medical attention. And she pointed toward Mugabe's coffin and said, that's because of him. So she was conflicted. She was crying because her heart hurt, but also, she resented him.

SIMON: And, Eyder, I understand President Mugabe's not going to be put in the ground today. There's been some confusion about when he'll be buried, where he'll buried. Fill us in on that, if you could, please.

PERALTA: Yeah. I mean, it's been a huge drama. He was supposed to be buried at Heroes Acre, which is a place where all of Zimbabwe's war heroes are buried. But the family says that they were hurt because of the coup. And they said that they didn't want him buried there. Evenutally, they relented, and they said yes, he will be buried there. But yesterday, they apparently changed their mind and announced that the burial that was supposed to happen tomorrow has been canceled and that Robert Mugabe will be buried at some point maybe in the next month, maybe at Heroes Acre.

SIMON: NPR's Eyder Peralta speaking with us from the National Sports Stadium - half-full, he reports - in Harare for these final services for Robert Mugabe. Eyder, thank you so much for being with us.

PERALTA: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.