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Monday 9 September 2019

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FILE - Zimbabwe's former president Robert Mugabe looks on during a press conference at his private residence nicknamed "Blue Roof" in Harare, Zimbabwe, July 29, 2018.

Former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe's body will lie in state at two different stadiums in the capital city for three days, the information minister said Monday, but she did not announce where he would be buried on Sunday.

Mugabe, an ex-guerrilla chief who took power in 1980 when the African country shook off white minority rule and ruled for decades, died on Friday at a hospital in Singapore. He was 95.

Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said in a statement that the government has dispatched Vice President Kembo Mohadi and other senior officials and family members to Singapore to accompany Mugabe's body home.

The body will arrive in the country “any time on Wednesday,” she said. The body will lie in state at Harare's Rufaro Stadium and then at the National Sports Stadium, also in the capital, she said.

Mutsvangwa said Mugabe would be buried on Sunday but she did not say where he will be buried, saying more updates will be provided “as more information on the program trickles in.”

Presidential spokesman George Charamba and deputy information minister Energy Mutodi at the weekend said the former ruler would be buried at the National Heroes' Acre, a monumental burial site reserved for people viewed by the ruling ZANU-PF party as having served the country with distinction during and after the 1970s war of independence. Mugabe's first wife, Sally, is buried at Heroes' Acre and a vacant plot reserved for the former president is next to her grave.

However, family spokesman Leo Mugabe, a nephew of the former president, said over the weekend that burial arrangements have not yet been finalized. This has prompted speculation of a rift between the government and members of Mugabe's family, who want him to be buried at his rural home in Kutama, about 85 kilometers (52 miles) southwest of Harare.

Leo Mugabe told reporters that Mugabe had died “a very bitter man” because he felt betrayed by the former political and military leaders who were his allies for close to four decades before they forced him to resign in November, 2017.

He dismissed reports that Mugabe had refused to be buried at the Heroes' Acre, but also refused to say where the burial will take place.

James Nyatanga and his wife Febby Felictus Dube from Zvimba district say their 95-year old hero died of stress after he was deposed in 2017 and since then life has been miserable for Zimbabweans. (C. Mavhunga/VOA)

Ahead of a state funeral for Robert Mugabe, some Zimbabweans are mourning their former leader, who died last week in Singapore. A hero to some, Mugabe was also a controversial figure.

Mourners gathered at the home of former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, about 100 kilometers southwest of Harare.

Febby Felictus Dube was among them.

She said, “To us he is a hero and made us better people. Right now it’s different. We lost our father.”

But Mugabe isn't revered by everyone. Thirty-two-year-old Sam Callisto Kabhara is a critic.

Sam Callisto Kabhara sells firewood in Norton town in Zimbabwe. He blames Mugabe’s 37-year rule for his unemployment. (C.Mavhunga/VOA)

“Mugabe is not a hero. We can’t say he is a hero,” he said.

Kabhara's job is to fetch and sell firewood about five kilometers outside Harare. Kabhara said Mugabe’s 37-year rule is responsible for his unemployment.

Kabhara also said, “Yes, he fought against colonialism but after fighting for our independence he still made us suffer. The current leaders should learn from Mugabe’s mistakes.”

Shadreck Makau blames sanctions for Zimbabwe's poor economy, not Mugabe.

Shadreck Makau blames sanctions for Zimbabwe's poor economy, not Mugabe. (C. Mavhunga/VOA)

Makau said, “I feel pained for the loss of Mugabe because he provided free education. I do not think Mugabe had a hand in the destruction of the economy.”

During his nearly 40 years in power, Mugabe would blame sanctions for the state of the economy. The West imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 after Mugabe was alleged to have violently seized land from white commercial farmers.

Regarding human rights, Mugabe was accused of unleashing death squads to squash the opposition. He was also accused of election rigging.

Mugabe's body will arrive Wednesday from Singapore.

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