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Zimbabweans mourn Mugabe’s death

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File photo taken on July 30, 2013 shows former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe answering a question at a press conference in Harare. Xinhua

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabweans on Saturday mourned the death of their founding father Robert Mugabe but there was confusion over when his body would be returned from abroad for burial, two years after he was toppled in a coup.

Mugabe died on Friday aged 95 in Singapore, where he had long received medical treatment.

He was one of the most polarizing figures in African history, a giant of national liberation movements whose 37-year rule ended in ignominy when he was overthrown by his own army in November 2017.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who worked closely with Mugabe for decades before helping to oust him, granted him the status of national hero on Friday, while tributes poured in from leaders across the continent.

There was still no word on Saturday afternoon about when Mugabe’s body would leave Singapore. His nephew, Leo Mugabe, said the family would meet on Sunday to discuss the body’s departure.

In the capital Harare, some government buildings and state-owned companies flew their flags at half-mast. Mnangagwa’s office near parliament had not lowered its flag.

It was unclear whether Mugabe would be buried at Heroes Acre, a monument built with the help of North Korean architects.

The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported last month that Mugabe, who had cut a bitter figure since the coup, preferred not to be buried there because he did not want Mnangagwa to “pontificate over his dead body”.

But on Saturday Zimbabwe’s deputy information minister Energy Mutodi wrote on Twitter that the plan was still for Mugabe to be interred at the monument.

Leo Mugabe said the family would decide the burial site.

“Obviously there is a need to consult with the wife in Singapore … but the people that make the decisions are the Zvimba people, the chiefs, those that are sitting in that room right now,” he said, pointing to a room where more than 20 traditional chiefs huddled deep in discussion.

Mugabe was feted as a champion of racial reconciliation when he came to power in 1980 in one of the last African states to throw off white colonial rule.

By the time he was toppled to wild celebrations across the country of 13 million, he was viewed by many at home and abroad as a power-obsessed autocrat who unleashed death squads, rigged elections and ruined the economy to keep control.

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