Mugabe, who died last Friday at the age of 95, has proved troublesome even in death with his family and his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa at loggerheads about how his burial should be handled. It is not unprecedented: other national heroes have declined to be buried at the Heroes Acre national shrine in Harare, but not one of Robert Mugabe's stature.
The government had earlier stated that Mugabe would be buried at the Heroes' Acre state monument, a burial place reserved for top officials of Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party who contributed to ending white colonial rule.
Leo Mugabe, the late president's nephew, said the burial ceremony would be private, without saying where it would be.
"As long as ZANU-PF is in power and as long as I am leading, no one will deviate, you remain our icon, our commander and founding father", Mnangagwa said of Mugabe, addressing relatives and associates in the room where the coffin draped in the Zimbabwean flag was being kept. He held on to power for nearly four decades before being ousted in the 2017 coup.
"This is a cultural thing and nobody can push the chiefs to divulge where they are going to bury [Mugabe]", he said. "He said Mugabe's widow had instructed him to tell the world that they were being coerced by Mnangagwa to ignore Mugabe's wishes on where he should be buried".
The former leader had been travelling to Singapore regularly for medical treatment, but his health deteriorated rapidly after his ouster, which allies say left him a "broken soul".
Later on Thursday, Mugabe's body will lie in state at a Harare soccer stadium where ordinary Zimbabweans and supporters are expected to pay their respects.
Mnangagwa calls on Zimbabweans to mourn Mugabe
Zhuwao said Mugabe, who died in Singapore last week, had given specific instructions to his wife and children on how and where he should be buried.
But many Zimbabweans also remember Mugabe as their country's liberator from white minority rule and for broadening people's access to education and land.
"We thought he would go to Heroes (monument), but if it's their decision we respect it", said Zephaniah Duri, who was mourning Mugabe. But some family members said he should be buried at his birthplace, according to Zimbabwean tradition. "Otherwise he will become a ghost".
His leadership and economic mismanagement forced millions to escape a country crippled by hyper-inflation and shortages of food, drugs and fuel.
It had always been expected that Mugabe would be buried at Heroes' Acre, a monumental burial location atop a prominent hill featuring a grandiose towering sculpture of guerrilla fighters that Mugabe built with help from North Korea.
Mnangagwa himself is under pressure after promising to attract investment and create jobs in a post-Mugabe era, with little success.
Mugabe was ousted by the military following following massive protests.