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Monday, July 5, 1999 Published at 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK

World: Africa

Farewell to Nkomo

A hero's burial: Thousands paid their last respects

Thousands of people have attended the funeral of Zimbabwean Vice-President Joshua Nkomo in Harare.

The BBC's Grant Ferrett: President Mugabe used the ceremony to denounce the IMF
Speaking at the ceremony, President Robert Mugabe described Mr Nkomo as the founder of the nation.

But as foreign dignitaries paid their last respects there were also concerns that old political and ethnic rivalries may resurface following his death.

Mr Nkomo was able to control the simmering discontent in his home region of Matabeleland against the political and economic dominance of the Shona-led Zanu (PF) government of President Robert Mugabe.

[ image: Joshua Nkomo: Controlling influence]
Joshua Nkomo: Controlling influence
In Matabeleland many people, especially the younger generation, believe it is time for a new wave of politicians.

A new movement Zapu 2000, has been formed - named after the group originally founded by Mr Nkomo. Although Zapu 2000 denies an ethnic dimension to their party most of their supporters are from Matabeleland.

And political commentators say the choice of Mr Mkomo's successor could be critical to Zimbabwe's future.

Hero's burial

Mr Nkomo, who with Mr Mugabe led the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe, died last Thursday aged 82, after suffering from prostate cancer.

[ image: A Matabele warrior led the procession]
A Matabele warrior led the procession
Tens of thousands of people, both VIPs and ordinary Zimbabweans, filed past Mr Nkomo's body as it lay in state - many of them weeping openly.

Thousands more lined the streets as a hearse carried Mr Nkomo to his final resting place, Heroes' Acre - a national shrine dedicated to leaders of Zimbabwe's war of independence.

Many had travelled on special trains and buses from other parts of the country.

Requiem Mass

On Sunday, thousands of people including President Mugabe packed Harare's Catholic cathedral for a special requiem Mass to remember the veteran independence fighter.

Mr Nkomo, who for most of his life had been an inactive member of the London Missionary Society church, became a Catholic earlier this year.

Pope John Paul II sent a message of condolence to Zimbabwe.

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