Zimbabwe leader Mnangagwa declares Robert Mugabe a national hero

Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. File photo.
Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. File photo.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has officially declared his predecessor Robert Mugabe a national hero, saying the country will mourn him until he is laid to rest.

In a press briefing at State House on Friday, Mnangagwa said: “Zanu-PF, the party which the late president founded, has met and accorded him national hero status, which he earned and deserved.”

Mnangagwa worked closely with Mugabe, beginning as his assistant and bodyguard in the late 1970s. He later became one of his trusted cabinet ministers and vice-president before their fallout in 2017, which ultimately resulted in a military-assisted transition.

He eulogised Mugabe, whose health had deteriorated early this year and who was flown to meet doctors in Singapore from time to time – with the government footing the bill.

Mugabe died on Friday morning.

Before Mugabe’s death there were brief episodes where he and Mnangagwa would share moments, such as when the latter hired a Gulfstream jet worth a reported US$6.5m to bring Grace Mugabe home from Singapore to attend her mother’s funeral in September last year.

“We have accepted the result [of government change in Zimbabwe] and we hope that we will continue respecting the will of the people,” Mugabe said at the funeral wake, a major climbdown from his earlier position.

Mugabe died at the age of 95 at a hospital in Singapore in the early hours of Friday. with his wife, Grace, and a few close family members at his side. He is survived by Grace; a daughter, Bona; two sons, Robert Junior and Chatunga Bellarmaine; and a grandson.

Meanwhile, condolences poured in from across Africa after Mnangagwa announced the news of Mugabe’s death on his official Twitter account.

SA President Cyril Ramaphosa said that under Mugabe, Zimbabwe had sustained the struggle against colonialism, which also inspired SA's fight against apartheid. Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta also conveyed his people’s “deepest sympathies” and declared three days of mourning.

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