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Mugabe's widow joins mourners as his body is brought home

The body of Robert Mugabe, long-time ruler of Zimbabwe, has arrived back in the capital city of Harare.

Mr Mugabe’s widow Grace, dressed in a black veil, joined other mourners as her husband’s body was removed from a plane following its journey from Singapore.

She stood alongside Zimbabwe’s current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as Mr Mugabe’s coffin was accompanied by a full military delegation.

Mr Mnangagwa, who was Mr Mugabe’s closest ally and vice-president before joining a military-led effort to oust him in 2017, addressed the crowd at Harare airport, calling him an “icon of pan-Africanism” and “the man who created our nation”.

The 95-year-old died last Friday in a Singapore hospital, where he was treated in the months leading up to his death.

As she left the airport in a vehicle behind the coffin, Mrs Mugabe could be seen wiping away tears and being consoled by one of her sisters.

His body was taken to a nearby military barracks for prayers before being transferred to his family home in the suburb of Borrowdale, where mourners greeted her.

The body of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe arrives at the 'Blue Roof', his residence in Borrowdale, Harare, Zimbabwe, September 11,2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
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Mr Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years before being ousted by the military

Mrs Mugabe gained the nickname “Gucci Grace” because of her lavish lifestyle. She once reportedly spent $75,000 (£56,000) during a shopping spree in Paris, despite Zimbabwe’s on-going economic crisis while her husband was in office.

Mr Mugabe’s body will be displayed at several historic locations before being laid to rest on Sunday.

But the burial site has not yet been announced, sparking speculation of a disagreement between the Mugabe family and the government.

Mr Mnangagwa was part of a group, including army generals, who ousted Mr Mugabe from power two years ago.

The government has said Mr Mugabe would be buried at the Heroes’ Acre state monument, a burial place reserved for those at the top of the ZANU-PF party, which Mr Mugabe used to lead.

Mr Mugabe’s first wife, Sally, is also buried at the monument – a plot of land had already been assigned for him.

But some members of the Mugabe family disagree with the government’s plan, asking for his body to be laid to rest in his birth village of Zvumba, 55 miles (85 km) from Harare, as is Zimbabwean tradition.

Mr Mugabe’s nephew, Leo Mugabe, said, however, the relationship between the government and Mugabe family was good.

He said: “[President Mnangagwa] has been looking after the president, paying all the bills, sending the charter flight, inviting all the foreign dignitaries – I think he has been extra good.

“We went to thank him yesterday for what he has done this far. Now we really appreciate what the government has done.”

The comments were in contrast to those he gave shortly after the former president’s death.

Grace Mugabe sits below a portrait of her late husband, former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, at her residence, The 'Blue Roof' in Borrowdale, Harare, Zimbabwe, September 11,2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
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The Mugabe family gathered at his family home in the suburb of Borrowdale to celebrate his life

At the time, Mr Mugabe had said his uncle had died “a very bitter man”. Mr Mnangagwa and army generals put Mr Mugabe under house arrest and forced him to resign in 2017, despite having previously been his allies.

During his life, Mr Mugabe pushed for the end of white-minority rule in the country, which was, at that point, known as Rhodesia. He was the country’s president from 1980, when it gained its independence.

Mr Mugabe ruled as an authoritarian during his 37-year presidency. His time in power saw Zimbabwe’s economy turn on itself, with hyperinflation and unemployment seeing a drop in the living standards for the country’s 16 million people.

The former president’s mismanagement of the country’s economy began with the purging of farmland belonging to white farmers in 2000, which crippled the country’s once flourishing agricultural sector.

At one point in 2009, hyperinflation reached one billion per cent, only halted when Zimbabwe adopted the US dollar.

President Mnangagwa has promised to return Zimbabwe to its once affluent former self, but has so far not succeeded, despite having been in power for two years.

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