Zimbabwe was on Saturday due to begin a period of national mourning following the 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 honoured for the bold and historic land reform programme which he undertook,” said Mnangagwa during a national address broadcast on television.
Mugabe, 95, passed away on Friday at 0240 GMT in Singapore, where he had been hospitalised 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 named 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,” he said.
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”.
“We are pained by his loss. But we also celebrate the life of a legend. He was a living legend. He was a pan-Africanist. He brought the country of Zimbabwe from colonialism to the freedom that we had,” Molai told reporters outside the funeral parlour in Singapore.
He said the president was likely to announce when the body would move “sometime next week”, adding that he could give no further details on the “state funeral”.
In Zvimba, Mugabe’s rural homestead, another nephew Leo Mugabe told reporters the family had “not yet deliberated on where he is going to be buried”.