Former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s body arrived in Harare from South Africa yesterday afternoon amid chaotic scenes after the government decided to take it to an army mortuary overnight.
The MDC-T leader’s body arrived aboard a South African Airways flight after 4pm accompanied by close family members, who including his elderly mother and Tsvangirai’s deputy Thokozani Khupe.
Thousands of Zimbabweans brought the airport to a standstill for several hours as they waited for the release of the body.
There was pandemonium when Tsvangirai’s body was taken to the army’s One Commando barracks in Cranborne instead of a Doves funeral parlour as previously announced.
A Tsvangirai family member said they were taken by surprise as there was no prior warning about the army’s involvement. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government rejected calls to accord the veteran opposition leader national hero status.
Acting Information minister Simon Khaya Moyo said he was instructed by Mnangagwa that the body of Zanu PF’s most strident opponent must be taken to the military mortuary.
“I have been instructed by the president to have the body taken to One Commando Barracks,” Moyo said much to the disapproval of thousands of MDC-T supporters gathered at the Robert Mugabe International Airport.
The opposition party youths broke into song and dance accusing Zanu PF of causing Tsvangirai’s death.
Earlier, Khaya Moyo refused to provide reasons why Tsvangirai was not accorded national hero status.
Khaya Moyo said Mnangagwa would pay his respects at the Tsvangirai homestead in Buhera at a later date when asked if the president would attend the funeral.
“He will go to the homestead sometime to pay his respects,” he told The Standard.
At One Commando, MDC-T youths waited outside the entrance singing as they demanded that the army hands over the body to the family.
“When he was alive you hated him, mistreated him even to the extent of denying him his victory and now you want to honour him here,” shouted some of the youths.
“You are hypocrites. You soldiers you refused to salute him when he was alive and now you want to salute him.”
Tsvangirai will be buried on Tuesday at his Buhera home. A church service is scheduled for today in Harare ahead of a send-off rally at Freedom Square.
Feuding MDC vice-presidents Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mdzuri were at the airport to receive the body.