Former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe died in Singapore on Friday. He had been receiving medical treatment there for two months. Much of the southern African country will mourn his passing—despite Mugabe’s checkered reputation.
Mugabe was an ex-guerrilla leader who became Zimbabwe’s first leader following the nation’s independence from white minority rule in 1980. At first, he enjoyed strong backing from Zimbabwe’s people. But his support waned following decades of oppression, economic mismanagement, and charges of election-rigging. Mugabe held on to power until he was forced to resign in 2017.
Many ordinary Zimbabweans still regard Mugabe as a hero—especially after his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, failed to revive the economy and used the country’s army to crush opposition.
Officials say Mugabe will be buried next Sunday. His body will arrive in Zimbabwe on Wednesday. Mnangagwa and family members will receive the body at the airport in the capital, Harare. The body will then be taken to Mugabe’s rural home about 53 miles away before being placed in a giant stadium for public viewing.
Mnangagwa describes Mugabe as “a great teacher and mentor.” He declared his former rival a national hero, the highest posthumous (after-death) award in the country. The president also declared official mourning will end only after Mugabe’s burial at the National Heroes Acre. The burial ground is reserved for Zimbabweans who made huge sacrifices during the war against white-minority rule.
At a Roman Catholic cathedral where Mugabe used to attend Mass, a priest on Sunday opened the church service by paying tribute to the former ruler. He asked congregants to forgive Mugabe.
Father Richard Mushuku said, “He did a lot of positive things for our country, but not everything that he did was right. We should learn to forgive for all the wrongs he may have committed. May God grant him mercy.”
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. — 1 John 1:9
(A church member prays during mass at the Roman Catholic Church in Harare, Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe regularly attended. September 8, 2019. AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)