Zimbabwe began a period of national mourning following the Sept. 6 death of Robert Mugabe, the former guerrilla hero turned despot who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years.
As Zimbabweans expressed sharply divided opinions about Mugabe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his predecessor had been declared a “national hero” and that Zimbabwe would mourn him until the burial.
“The late departed icon will be eternally remembered and honored for the bold and historic land reform program which he undertook,” Mnangagwa said during a nationally televised address.
Mugabe, 95, died early Friday morning in Singapore, where he had been hospitalized in April.
First heralded as a liberator who rid the former British colony Rhodesia of white minority rule, Mugabe used repression and fear to govern until he was finally ousted by his previously loyal generals in November 2017.
His increasingly tyrannical leadership and economic mismanagement prompted millions to leave the country.
He had been battling ill health, and after a humiliating fall from office, his stamina seeped away rapidly.
Some Zimbabweans hailed him as a “true African” and a “revolutionary icon.” For others, however, his name evoked only “evil,” “destruction” and “suffering.”
“Mugabe was an educated man but he used his education for evil,” said Baster Magwizi, a war veteran in the southwestern city of Bulawayo. “He manipulated everyone around him and fooled the world. Only Zimbabweans can testify to this as we lived in hell under his leadership.”
But Harare schoolteacher Tatenda Musoni was forgiving.
“To be honest I thought I would celebrate when he died but … I’m actually sad because he was an embodiment of what a true African should be.
“He had his flaws but he did a lot of positive things for us which I doubt we will ever see again in this country.”
Adam Molai, Mugabe’s nephew, said the former president died of old age “surrounded by family.”