Relatives and government officials attended a mass for Zimbabwe’s ex-president Robert Mugabe in Singapore on Tuesday after arriving in the country where he died to collect his body.
Mugabe, a guerrilla leader who swept to power after Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain and went on to rule for 37 years until he was ousted in 2017, died on Friday, aged 95.
His health deteriorated after he was toppled by the military and former loyalists in November 2017, ending an increasingly tyrannical rule that sent the economy into ruin.
Family members and officials arrived in Singapore, where he was treated for several months before dying, early Tuesday on a chartered flight.
They are due to fly out with his body at around 8:30 am (0030 GMT) Wednesday, said his nephew Adam Molai.
The group, who included Vice President Kembo Mohadi, attended a private Catholic mass for Mugabe at the funeral parlour where his body is, officiated by a Zimbabwean priest.
The mood at the service was “sombre, everybody is sad”, said Molai.
“I will always remember the immense, immense contribution he made not only to the people of Zimbabwe but to the people of Africa,” he said.
Asked whether Mugabe had been bitter about being ousted, he said: “Everybody is human. When you go through an experience of that sort, of course you feel pain.”
Zimbabweans have been divided over how to mourn a former leader once hailed as a liberation hero but who later brutally repressed his opponents.
On arrival in Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s body will be taken straight to his village in Kutama, in Zvimba district west of the capital Harare, for an overnight wake.
On Thursday and Friday the body will lie in state at Rufaro Stadium in Mbare township in Harare — where Mugabe took his oath of office — for the public to pay their final respects.
The official funeral will be held on Saturday at the giant 60,000-seat National Sports Stadium in Harare and foreign leaders are expected to attend.
The location of the burial remains unclear, with Mugabe’s family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government apparently at odds over whether it would be at his homestead northwest of Harare or at a shrine for liberation heroes in the capital.