HARARE, ZIMBABWE:  Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe clenches his fist to salute Zanu PF comrades in Harare, 03 May 2000. Mugabe launched his ruling party election manifesto today ahead the upcoming elections. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO  ODD ANDERSEN. (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Robert Mugabe's legacy is complicated
02:22 - Source: CNN
Harare CNN  — 

Thousands of people including foreign dignitaries bid farewell to former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in a memorial service on Saturday.

A number of current and former African leaders attended the memorial at the national stadium in Harare. Although the service was open to public, many seats in the arena remained empty as the turnout failed to match the crowds seen during the body viewing earlier this week.

The current Zimbabwean leader Emmerson Mnangagwa, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, former Zambian President and freedom fighter Kenneth Kaunda and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo all paid tribute to Mugabe, as did his wife Grace and other members of his family.

“A giant tree of Africa has fallen. Indeed the bold steadfast and resolute revolutionary, comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe is no more, taken away from us, the people he fought hard to free,” Mnangagwa said.

Zimbabwe's former first lady Grace Mugabe, center, attends the official farewell ceremony for her late husband Robert Mugabe.

During the memorial service, 21 gun salutes were fired and 95 doves released to represent each year of Mugabe’s life.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa was heckled by the crowds during his speech, a response to a recent spate of xenophobia attacks against African immigrants in his country.

Mugabe will be buried in the country’s National Heroes Acre monument.

Mugabe’s family had been at loggerheads with the current President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa over where the funeral should take place.

The family said in a statement that the government did not initially consult them on burial plans. They had previously insisted the former president would be laid to rest in his hometown of Kutama, west of the capital city Harare, while the government insisted on the burial at the hilltop monument where the country’s national heroes are laid to rest.

Mugabe’s funeral will be held there as a private affair at a later, undisclosed date, Leo Mugabe, Mugabe’s nephew and the family spokesman told CNN on Friday.

In the meantime, Mugabe’s body will “go to Zvimba for the people in Zvimba to pay their respects and then he will be kept somewhere until the burial place is complete,” Leo Mugabe said.

“Burial will be done later at the National Heroes Acre. So when the rituals are done the family will do a private burial at the National Heroes Acre,” he said.

Crunch meeting

A crunch meeting was held Thursday at Mugabe’s mansion Blue Roof, Harare but ended in a stalemate and the family released the terse statement, accusing the government of “coercing them.”

Relations have since thawed as both parties appear to have reached an agreement and Mugabe will join other distinguished Zimbabweans at the Heroes Acres – but not before traditional burial rites are performed by elders from his village.

“On Sunday, we will have a normal government burial function, which normally happens at the Heroes Acre and then the 21 gun salute. But we will not do the actual burial on Sunday. We will take him away. The traditional leaders have asked for some time to perform traditional rituals,” Leo Mugabe told CNN.

Soldiers welcome Mugabe's body at the airport in Harare

Thousands of Zimbabweans walked through Harare’s Rufaro Sports Stadium to pay their last respects to the late leader who died in a Singaporean hospital last Friday.

At least five peop