Harare (New Ziana) – On 18 April, 1980, the late former President Robert Mugabe took oath of office at Rufaro Stadium, becoming Zimbabwe’s first black leader after a protracted armed struggle for independence.
As fate would have it, he was again at Rufaro Stadium on Thursday, albeit in a lifeless state to bid farewell to his beloved Zimbabwe in a grand send off befitting the man of his stature.
Mugabe, who many have described as a larger than life character, died in Singapore last Friday at the ripe age of 95.
He leaves behind a rich legacy of selfless dedication to one’s country and a desire to empower the majority black population.
It is this legacy that thousands of Zimbabweans from all walks of life remember him for, and felt moved to fill up the 35 000 seater stadium in Mbare high density suburb to pay their last respects to the “old man.”
The arrival of the casket bearing the remains of the former President was met with deafening cheers and singing as Zimbabweans welcomed their departed former leader to the place where his journey as Zimbabwe’s first executive Prime Minister began all those years ago.
The body was accompanied by his widow, Grace, her children, close relatives and several government officials.
Proceedings then began with the former First lady leading selected mourners in viewing the body, before the rest of the crowd were given a chance to pay their last respects.
“I closed my market stall to come and say good bye to our leader. He will remain in our hearts forever,” Samson Ndlovu a local entrepreneur said after viewing the body.
The government has said it would afford Zimbabweans a chance on Thursday and Friday to bid farewell to the revered former leader.
“It is a sad day, we never thought uncle Bob would leave us but we are here to celebrate his life and all he did for us,” another mourner said.
Burial arrangements for the former President will be announced on Saturday after consultations between the government and the Mugabes are completed.
At least 11 sitting Heads of State and eight former Presidents in the southern Africa region have confirmed they will attend the funeral service on Saturday.