Mugabe’s body heads back to a divided Zimbabwe for burial – World

The body of former Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, was transferred out of Singapore on Wednesday after his death last week, his nephew said, going home to be buried in a country divided by the legacy of the hero turned despot.

Mugabe, a guerrilla leader who came to power after Zimbabwe's independence from Britain and ruled for 37 years until he was overthrown in 2017, died Friday at age 95.

His health deteriorated after he was overthrown by the military and former loyalists in November 2017, ending an increasingly fierce rule that ruined the economy.

He died after receiving treatment at a hospital in Singapore for several months, and a delegation, including Vice President Kembo Mohadi, traveled to the wealthy city-state on a chartered flight to take him home.

Early Wednesday morning, a hearse carrying Mugabe's body left a funeral home in Singapore bound for an airport and accompanied by a police escort, passing by a group of waiting journalists.

A plane carrying the former leader and the visiting delegation departed shortly afterwards, said his nephew Adam Molai. AFP

"He just left now," he said by phone from the plane when he took off, with the noise of the audible plane in the background.

The Zimbabwean delegation arrived on Tuesday and attended a private Catholic mass for Mugabe at the funeral home, officiated by a Zimbabwean priest.

From hero to tyrant

Zimbabweans have divided on how to mourn a former leader who was once hailed as a liberation hero, but then brutally repressed his opponents.

He was initially praised for ridding the former British colony Rhodesia of the white minority government, but then used repression and fear to rule until he was finally expelled.

His increasingly tyrannical leadership and economic mismanagement led millions of people to leave the country.

After his death, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that he had been declared a "national hero", the flags flew at half-mast through Harare and news of his death appeared on the front pages of the newspapers.

However, Harare residents seemed largely unconcerned, stores remained open and people made their daily errands.

Upon arrival in Zimbabwe, Mugabe's body will be taken directly to his village in Kutama, in the district of Zvimba, west of the capital, Harare, for a night of vigil.

On Thursday and Friday, the body will remain in state at the Rufaro stadium in the municipality of Mbare in Harare for the public to pay their final respects.

The 35,000-seat stadium is where Mugabe swore in a colorful ceremony when Rhodesia's colonial prime minister, Ian Smith, delivered the country.

There, Mugabe raised the new flag of Zimbabwe and lit the flame of independence on April 18, 1980, bringing hope for a new era after a long guerrilla war.

The official funeral will be held on Saturday at the gigantic 60,000-seat National Sports Stadium in Harare and foreign leaders are expected to attend.

He will be buried on Sunday, but the location remains unclear.

Mugabe's family and the Mnangagwa government apparently disagree about whether it would be on their farm northwest of Harare or in a sanctuary for liberation heroes in the capital.

A relative has said that, according to Shona's native customs, traditional Zvimba chiefs will have one last word about where the former leader will be buried.



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