Robert Mugabe’s Body Arrives Home in Zimbabwe Amid Burial Site Discord

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

The flag-draped casket carrying the body of former President Robert Mugabe was somberly welcomed in Harare by top officials, by the military elite, and by thousands of mourners as it returned to the country that Mugabe ruled for 37 years.

Mr. 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.

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

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

President Emerson Mnangagwa, who was formally elected a year ago, has declared a period of national mourning until the burial.“The entire nation of Zimbabwe, our people, across the board, are grieved and are in mourning because the light which led us to independence is no more,” he said, as Mugabe’s widow, Grace, clad head-to-toe in black lace, dabbed at her eyes with tissues. “But his works, his ideology, will continue to guide this nation.”

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa stands next to Grace Mugabe, after receiving the body of her husband, former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in Harare, Sept. 11, 2019.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa stands next to Grace Mugabe, after receiving the body of her husband, former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in Harare, Sept. 11, 2019.

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.

Mourners gather as Mugabe's body arrives home in Zimbabwe.
Mourners gather as Mugabe’s body arrives at Harare.

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

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

Mugabe’s body being taken to the airport in Singapore, where he died last week. Photograph: Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images
Mugabe’s body being taken to the airport in Singapore, where he died last week. Photograph: Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

What are the funeral plans?

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.

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 Mr. 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.

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