Mugabe’s body arrives home, State funeral set for Saturday

Thursday, September 12th, 2019 00:00 |
Pall bearers pay their respects by the casket of late Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as its arrives in Harare yesterday. Photo/PD/AFP

Harare, Wednesday

The body of Robert Mugabe arrived back in Zimbabwe today after a private flight from Singapore, where he died last week aged 95.

He will be buried on Sunday after a state funeral on Saturday. However, his final resting place remains in doubt. 

Mugabe was Zimbabwe’s first leader after the country became independent in 1980. He held on to power for almost four decades before being ousted in a coup in 2017.

The specially chartered flight carrying Mugabe’s body landed at about 13:30 GMT. He had been receiving hospital treatment in Singapore.

A convoy of vehicles with “RG Mugabe” number plates was seen next to the runway and a crowd of people, some wearing the former president’s image on T-shirts, awaited the arrival of the plane.

Mugabe’s wife Grace was also on the flight, the former president’s nephew, Leo Mugabe, said.

The body has now been taken to the family home known as the “Blue Roof” in Harare.

On Thursday and Friday, Mr Mugabe is due to lie in state at Rufaro Stadium, in Mbare township in Harare, where he was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s first prime minister after independence from the UK in 1980.

His official state funeral will take place on Saturday at the 60,000-seat National Sports Stadium in Harare.

But the BBC’s reporter in Harare says the former strongman remains as controversial in death as he was in life.

The government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared him a “national hero” for his role in helping Zimbabwe gain independence, and a grave has been reserved at Heroes’ Acre, a shrine in Harare for all those who fought against colonial rule.

But reports suggest Mugabe did not want those who ousted him from power to preside over his funeral and so he might instead be buried at his rural home in a private event.   

Mugabe died on Friday, aged 95.  He died on a medical trip to Singapore, where he had been travelling regularly for treatment. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping, former Cuban leader Raul Castro and a dozen African presidents, including South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, are among those expected to attend Mugabe’s state funeral on Saturday in Harare, Zimbabwe’s presidency said.

At home, Zimbabweans have been divided over how to mourn a man once hailed for ridding the former British colony Rhodesia of white-minority rule but who later purged his foes in a campaign of massacres and executions known as the Gukurahundi.

His increasingly tyrannical leadership and economic mismanagement prompted millions to flee a country crippled by hyper-inflation and shortages of food, drugs and fuel.

Following his death, Mnangagwa announced Mugabe had been declared a “national hero”, flags flew at half mast across Harare and news of his passing was splashed across newspaper front pages.

Yet Harare residents appeared largely unconcerned, with shops remaining open and people going about their daily errands. 

On Thursday and Friday the body will lie in state at Rufaro Stadium in Mbare township in Harare for the public to pay their final respects.   -BBC and AFP

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