President Robert Mugabe yesterday reportedly told the family of the late national hero, Cephas Msipa, to reverse his deathbed wish to be laid to rest next to his wife, Charlotte, at the Midlands Provincial Heroes Acre and instead agree that he be interred at the National Heroes Acre in Harare on Saturday.
Msipa’s eldest son, Douglas, yesterday said he was devastated that Zanu PF was insistent that he be buried at the national shrine, against the former Midlands governor’s wishes.
He said the decision was taken at a meeting attended by officials from the Home Affairs ministry and three of Msipa’s sons based in Harare – Cephas Jnr, Chris and Elijah.
“I am devastated by the decision. The family and the people of Midlands will also be devastated,” Douglas said.
“It is not what we had expected as a family, as most people are aware of his wish.”
The late former Zanu PF politburo member and Midlands governor succumbed to pneumonia at a private hospital in Harare on Monday at the age of 85.
Addressing mourners in Harare on Monday, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Mugabe had directed that the late Msipa be declared national hero, but did not disclose where he would be buried.
The family accepted the hero status, but resolved to have him buried next to his wife, Charlotte, who was laid to rest at the Midlands Provincial Acre in 2013.
Cephas Jnr yesterday said: “What has been agreed is that our father will be taken to Zvishavane on Thursday (tomorrow), Gweru on Friday and a decision on where he will be buried is still to be made.”
He said the family told Zanu PF political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, of their father’s wish on Monday, but they failed to reach a definitive position with the Home Affairs ministry and a ministerial taskforce they met yesterday.
“They simply told us the conditions of burying him in Gweru, such that the Provincial Affairs minister will preside over the burial and that the President will only preside over the burial at the national shrine,” Cephas Jnr said.
“They told us of the logistical nightmares of burying him in Gweru and we are still to consult other family members.
“There is no confusion at all, we are still consulting each other as a family.”
Earlier in the day, Douglas had said his father had made his wishes of being buried next to his wife known in the presence of Zanu PF Midlands acting provincial chairman, Joram Gumbo, and the whole family was keen to honour his wishes.
“He (the late Msipa) will be buried in Gweru on Saturday. Before he died, he told us that he wanted to be buried next to his wife, who is buried at the Gweru Provincial Heroes’ Acre, and we are trying to pursue his wishes,” Douglas said.
“He made that decision in the presence of Joram Gumbo and we are sure Zanu PF is already aware of our father’s wish.”
Contacted for comment, Gumbo said: “What Douglas told you is true. He (the late Msipa) told me, as a cousin, in the presence of the whole family. He called me on this year’s National Heroes’ Day commemorations and said to me: ‘Do you know why we left this space? This is the grave that I want to be buried in, next to my dear wife’. He was so much in love with his wife. That is why he requested that.”
Gumbo, a Zanu PF politburo member, said it was important for people to know that when a person was declared a district, provincial or national hero, the party would still be guided the deceased’s family on where to bury their relative.
“As a party, we will consult the family and will respect its wishes,” he said.
“We shall make an announcement at party level when we release an itinerary detailing what will be happening from Thursday until the burial on Saturday.”