South African opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema’s visit to Zimbabwe could have influenced former First Lady Grace to change her mind about former President Robert Mugabe’s burial place, Deputy information minister Energy Mutodi has said.
Malema was in the country two weeks ago to pay his condolences following Mugabe’s death early last month.
He met Grace for almost three hours before declaring President Mnangagwa needed to respect Mugabe’s wishes.
Reports had been circulating that Mugabe told close family members before he died that he did not want to be laid to rest at the National Heroes’ Acre.
“We also realised that after the Malema visit, that’s when we heard the change of mind. So it could be other people then coming up with inputs to influence the president’s place of burial.” Mutodi told NewZimbabwe.com in an interview.
“However, to us, burial is burial. We are not very much concerned about that. What we are happy with is that as a country, we had time to share with the former president.”
Mutodi added: “After initially agreeing to burial at the national shrine, the family then changed tact and claimed the former President himself had requested that he be buried in Zvimba.”
Mugabe was subsequently buried at his Kutama rural home, leaving the ruling Zanu PF party angry.
Malema paid tribute to Grace describing her as a strong woman and urged her to protect her late husband’s legacy.
“She serves as an inspiration to a lot of us and that she must protect President Mugabe’s legacy with everything against any form of opportunism which want to ride behind his legacy even when they tormented him to the last day,” Malema told journalists after meeting Grace.
Government has since stopped the construction of a mausoleum in which Mugabe was set to be buried.