Queen's death revives memories both fond and bitter in Zimbabwe

·2-min read

By Nyasha Chingono

HARARE (Reuters) - A memorial service in Zimbabwe for Queen Elizabeth drew a handful of mourners on Thursday but some on the streets of the capital said she was a symbol of British colonial rule that should not be celebrated.

Scriptures were read aloud and solemn songs were sung during the two-hour service at the Anglican Church in Harare. Priests led a mixed congregation of Black and white attendees to the church, where a portrait of the Queen was surrounded by flowers.

Some congregants expressed fond memories of the British monarch, who visited Zimbabwe in 1947 with her parents and again as queen in 1991 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, when she was hosted by former president Robert Mugabe.

"I think she always held Zimbabwe in her heart and the visits that the royal family made to Africa showed they were very interested in what happened in Africa. They were guiding lights for the population," said Rhona Datlow, 82, who attended the memorial service.

At the time of Elizabeth's first visit to Zimbabwe, the country was a British-ruled colony with some autonomy, known as Southern Rhodesia and with a white minority government.

Some Zimbabweans said that history was inextricably entwined with Elizabeth's 70-year reign.

"I do not think it is necessary to celebrate her life. In times past she led the colonial era," said Rownward Manzungu, 47, standing near the church.

"It is painful that they took our land while we were left to suffer. We will never forget."

Langton Muza, 36, said he did not see any need for a memorial service for Elizabeth in Zimbabwe, which became formally independent in 1980.

Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth network of mostly former territories of the British Empire in 2003 after Mugabe, who had ruled the country from independence, came under criticism over disputed elections and land seizures from white farmers.

Elizabeth awarded Mugabe an honorary knighthood in 1994 but stripped him of the title in 2008, citing the abuse of human rights and disregard for the democratic process.

The queen's death a week ago has stirred mixed feelings among some Africans about the legacy of colonialism on a continent where Britain once ruled more than half the territory.

(Reporting by Nyasha Chingono; Writing by James Macharia Chege; Editing by Catherine Evans)