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Mixed feelings as Zimbabwe begins national mourning for Mugabe

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe looks on during a rally marking Zimbabwe's 32nd independence anniversary celebrations in Harare April 18, 2012.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe looks on during a rally marking Zimbabwe's 32nd independence anniversary celebrations in Harare April 18, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

Zimbabwe has begun a first full day of national mourning after the death of former president Robert Mugabe. Flags flew at half-mast in the capital Harare, as Zimbabweans remained divided over the legacy of the guerrilla hero turned despot who ruled the country for 37 years.

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"We are not mourning, why should we mourn when we are suffering like this," said Ozias Mupeti, 55, standing on a dusty curb in downtown Harare on a cold and cloudy morning.

"Look at me selling pieces of ginger on the streets, at my age. I should have been an employer by now."

Mugabe, 95, passed away at 0240 GMT on Friday in Singapore, where he had been for medical treatment since April.

As Zimbabweans expressed sharply divided opinions about Mugabe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Friday that his predecessor had been declared a "national hero" and that Zimbabwe would mourn him until the burial.

State-owned national daily The Herald dedicated a special edition to the former president, calling him “Founder, Liberator, National Hero,” while DailyNews proclaimed the "End of an era. "95 and out", echoed NewsDay.

Repression and fear

Yet residents in Harare appeared largely unconcerned by the headlines.

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.

Only a handful of Mugabe supporters came out the streets, sporting Mugabe-emblazoned T-shirts in honour of his passing.

One small group chanted and danced, another blasted music from a car.

"Mugabe provided education and scholarships to most Zimbabweans," Comrade Bhobhi told AFP. "Of course he failed somewhere but on the education side he did great."

Stupid British

"We will never get any other president like president Mugabe who during his time had the guts to call the British 'these stupid British' right in their face," said Vivian Jena, another supporter.

But while some Zimbabweans hailed Mugabe as a "revolutionary icon", for others his named evoked only "destruction" and "suffering".

"He destroyed this country. Now he's gone and we have nothing left in the country because of him," said Mupeti, puffing at a cigarette.

"Why should I shed any tear for him when I'm suffering like this. I can't even pay fees for my daughter who is doing Form 4."

Adam Molai, Mugabe's nephew, said the former president died of old age "surrounded by family".

Close relatives gathered for a vigil in Mugabe's rural homestead Zvimba on Friday.

The mood was sombre and another nephew, Leo Mugabe, said the family had "not yet deliberated on where he is going to be buried".

(With AFP)

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