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WorldSinging, dancing as Robert Mugabe's body is returned to Zimbabwe

21:15  11 september  2019
21:15  11 september  2019 Source:   cnn.com

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Singing, dancing as Robert Mugabe's body is returned to Zimbabwe© JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images Pall bearers stand by the casket of late Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as its arrives in Harare on September 11, 2019. - The body of Zimbabwe's ex-president, Robert Mugabe, arrived home on September 11, 2019 for burial in a country divided over the legacy of a former liberation hero whose 37-year rule was marked by repression and economic ruin. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

Scores of Zimbabweans gathered Wednesday to pay their respects to former President Robert Mugabe whose body was repatriated from Singapore.

Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist for close to 40 years, died aged 95, last Friday after months of treatment in a Singapore hospital.

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A state funeral will be held on Saturday at the National Sports Stadium in the capital Harare, the government said.

There was singing and dancing as the plane carrying his remains touched down at the Robert Mugabe International Airport. Women dressed in all-white outfits waved handkerchiefs and sang local songs as they danced in tribute.

President Emerson Mnangagwa and his wife also joined the gathered crowd Wednesday at the airport.

Mugabe's legacy in Zimbabwe is a bittersweet one.

While many revere him as the nation's founding father who stood up to the British colonials and helped his country gain independence, his latter years in power were marked by brutality and violence towards his own citizens.

Yet many still choose to mourn him and celebrate him as a national hero.

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One commentator on Facebook wrote: "He is home to Rest.. The Giant of Zimbabwe."

Zimbabwean TV host and producer Vimbai Mutihinri told CNN: "The Mugabe I knew was a quick-witted man, with an incredible sense of humor and a totally disarming presence. And he loved patriotic, young people," the Nigeria-based TV personality said.

Mutihinri, whose father served as a diplomat during Mugabe's regime, had a chance to meet him several times and as a young child even pinned a rose on his lapel during a visit to their home in Yugoslavia where her father was the ambassador.

Mugabe also threw a special banquet in her honor when she represented Zimbabwe in the reality show Big Brother Africa in 2011.

"My personal experience is distant to the reality of many," she said. "But this is why it is important for me to share it because while his public roles will face more scrutiny and judgment than ever, it is important to also keep the moments and gestures of love and goodwill that Robert Mugabe extended alive and to celebrate them as a part of his legacy," she added.

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Even in death, Mugabe continues to divide as details of his final resting place are kept under wraps amid suggestions that his family does not want him to be buried at the National Hero's Acre.

President Mnangagwa declared him a national hero last week and the expectation is that he would join other dead dignitaries there.

Leo Mugabe, his nephew, and the family spokesman said the final decision would ultimately be made by elders in Mugabe's village.

"We tried to press them for a definite answer, but they said we should not rush them. They are doing what is required by the tradition, you know what happens when a King dies," the younger Mugabe told CNN.

This story has been updated to reflect the latest information

Singing, dancing as Robert Mugabe's body is returned to Zimbabwe© TONY KARUMBA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images Soldiers welcome Mugabe's body at the airport in Harare
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