HARARE: The body of Zimbabwe’s ex-president, Robert Mugabe, arrived home on Wednesday to an honour guard in a country divided over the legacy of a former liberation hero whose 37-year rule was marked by repression and economic ruin.

Mugabe, a guerrilla leader who rose to power after Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain and governed until he was ousted by the military in 2017, died on Friday in Singapore, aged 95.

His health deteriorated after he was toppled by the army and former loyalists in November 2017, ending an increasingly iron-fisted rule during which he crushed his opponents.

Around two thousand supporters, family members and government officials were on the tarmac at Harare airport to welcome Mugabe’s remains as they arrived by charter flight from Singapore, a reporter said.

Soldiers stood guard along a red carpet as military officers walked solemnly alongside the coffin drapped in the green, gold, black and red national flag.

Mugabe’s wife, Grace, wearing a black veil, sat with President Emmerson Mnangagwa as a military band played a gospel song.

“We are gathered here to receive our founding father of the nation.... an icon of Pan-Africanism, the man that created our nation,” Mnangagwa said.

“The light which led to independence is no more, but his works, his ideology will continue to guide this nation.” Mugabe died on a medical trip to Singapore, where he had been travelling regularly for treatment. A delegation including Vice President Kembo Mohadi headed to the city-state on the chartered flight to bring him home.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2019