The body of Zimbabwe’s ex-president Robert Mugabe was flown out of Singapore Wednesday following his death last week, his nephew said, heading home for burial in a country bitterly divided by the hero-turned-despot’s legacy.
Mugabe, a guerrilla leader who swept to power after Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain and went on to rule for 37 years until he was ousted in 2017, died on Friday, aged 95.
His health deteriorated after he was toppled by the military and former loyalists in November 2017, ending an increasingly iron-fisted rule that sent the economy into ruin.
He died after receiving treatment at a Singapore hospital for several months, and a delegation including Vice President Kembo Mohadi travelled to the affluent city-state on a chartered flight to bring him home.
Early Wednesday a hearse transporting Mugabe’s body left a Singapore funeral parlour bound for an airport and accompanied by a police escort, driving past a group of waiting journalists.
A plane carrying the former leader and the visiting delegation departed shortly afterwards, his nephew Adam Molai told AFP.
“It just left now,” he said by phone from the plane as it took off, with the noise of the aircraft audible in the background.
The Zimbabwean delegation arrived on Tuesday and attended a private Catholic mass for Mugabe at the funeral parlour, officiated by a Zimbabwean priest.
Zimbabweans have been divided over how to mourn a former leader once hailed as a liberation hero but who later brutally repressed his opponents.
He was initially praised for ridding the former British colony Rhodesia of white minority rule, but later used repression and fear to govern until he was finally ousted.
His increasingly tyrannical leadership and economic mismanagement prompted millions to leave the country.
Following his death, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced he had been declared a “national hero”, flags flew at half mast across Harare and news of his passing was splashed across newspaper front pages.