The body of Zimbabwe’s ex-president, Robert Mugabe, was flown out of Singapore Wednesday, heading home for burial in a country divided over the legacy of a former liberation hero whose 37-year rule was marked by repression and economic ruin. Mugabe, a guerrilla leader who swept to power after Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain and governed until he was ousted by the military in 2017, died on Friday, aged 95.
His health deteriorated after he was toppled by the army and former loyalists in November 2017, ending an increasingly iron-fisted rule during which he crushed his opponents. He died on a medical trip to Singapore, where he had been travelling regularly for treatment. A delegation including Vice President Kembo Mohadi headed to the affluent city-state on a chartered flight to bring him home. Early Wednesday a hearse transporting Mugabe’s body left a Singapore funeral parlour and made its way to an airport accompanied by a police escort, driving past a group of waiting journalists.
A plane carrying the former leader and the visiting delegation departed shortly afterwards, his nephew Adam Molai told AFP. “It just left now,” he said by phone from the plane as it took off, with the noise of the aircraft audible in the background. 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.
Mugabe’s final burial place on Sunday, though, is still unclear.