The ruling far-left regime in Zimbabwe refused to confirm this week how much the construction of a mausoleum for late dictator Robert Mugabe will cost.
The Herald’s senior reporter Zvamaida Murwira reported Tuesday that work on the building has already begun, less than two weeks after Mugabe died aged 95.
“What the nation might want to know is that work has commenced,” said Local Government, Public Works, and National Housing Deputy Minister Jennifer Mhlanga. “In as far as design is concerned, yes, work is being done. The costs will only be known once we have the design.”
Secretary for Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Melusi Matshiya added that they were coordinating efforts with the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works, and National Housing.
“Yes, work is going on, but the lead ministry is that of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing when it comes to construction work,” Matshiya said.
According to Herald journalists who visited the National Heroes Acre where Mugabe’s tomb will be located, authorities have already brought in earthmoving equipment and construction personnel.
The location was confirmed last week by his nephew Leo Mugabe, who works as the family spokesperson, who announced that they had agreed to a government request to bury Mugabe in an official cemetery in the capital of Harare.
“The government and the chiefs went to the Heroes Acre, showed each other where President Mugabe is going to be buried, and that place would take about 30 days to complete,” he said. “So what that means is the burial will take that long.”
The Mugabe family had previously insisted that he be buried at his home village in the district of Zvimba, around 50 miles outside Harare, suggesting that a symbolic funeral at Heroes’ Acre as a compromise.
Eventually, it was agreed that he be given a state funeral in what turned out to be a sparsely attended ceremony at the National Sports Stadium here in Harare. Despite having a capacity 60,000 people, it is estimated that three-quarters of the stadium remained empty, a sign of his widespread unpopularity in recent years.
The shrine currently being built will be paid for by taxpayers. The government has yet to reveal its price, or even offer an estimate.
Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years before being ousted in a coup in 2017 and replaced with former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Despite allowing protests so long as they enabled his rule, Mnangagwa has attempted to rehabilitate Mugabe’s image while in power, establishing a national holiday for the dictator and spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars on luxury amenities for Mugabe and wife Grace. Zimbabwe’s impoverished citizens paid for, among other things, a 20-person staff of servants, three luxury vehicles, a “reasonably-sized” mansion, and first-class international air travel.
Mugabe’s 40-year leadership of Zimbabwe was marked by genocide, persecution of political opponents, and vote-rigging on an industrial scale. His left-wing economic policies also turned the country from of the wealthiest in Africa, into an unprecedented economic disaster of such a scale that his government was forced to introduce a one hundred trillion-dollar note before eventually reverting to the U.S. dollar.