President Mnangagwa yesterday received the body of former President Robert Mugabe at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, where he described him as an icon of the liberation struggle.
The former leader died last Friday in Singapore aged 95.
The President led dignitaries, including First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, Government officials, Zanu-PF officials and service chiefs in welcoming the body which arrived in the afternoon.
From the airport, the body was taken to One Commando Regiment where the State parlour is located and President Mnangagwa led mourners in a prayer.
In his speech after receiving the body, President Mnangagwa described the former President as a revolutionary icon and pan-Africanist who made Zimbabwe what it is today.
He said the work and ideology of Cde Mugabe will continue to guide Zimbabwe as the nation adjusted to life without him.
“We have gathered here to welcome our founding father of the nation, independent Zimbabwe,” said President Mnangagwa.
“Our revolutionary commander during our armed liberation struggle, an icon of pan-Africanism, the man that created our nation, the man that led us to this day has left us.
“We are gathered here to receive his body and we are grieved and we say our sincere and deep condolences to the former First Lady who has brought the body, Amai Grace Mugabe, children and immediate family members, the entire nation of Zimbabwe, our people who are grieved and are in mourning because the light which led us to independence is no more, but his works, ideology will continue to guide this nation.”
President Mnangagwa appealed for peace and calm as the nation mourned the national hero and prepares for his burial on Sunday.
“May I take this opportunity to say to the great people of Zimbabwe, on the day we shall lay him to rest on Sunday, I appeal to you in your hundreds, thousands and millions to show your love to our great leader who has left us,” he said.
“Today as we leave here, our icon and commander will first pass through One Commando where the military will say their prayer and the body will proceed to the residence of our former President – the Blue Roof – today. Thereafter the programme will be announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage.
“May I, therefore, appeal to you all to be peaceful and to be loving, united, Zimbabwe is ours together. We are one people and one nation.”
Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport was a hive of activity from early morning as people arrived to witness the arrival of Cde Mugabe’s body, which touched down at 3:35pm aboard a chartered flight.
The body was accompanied by his widow, former First Lady Grace Mugabe, Vice President Kembo Mohadi, who together with other senior Government and Zanu-PF officials had flown to Singapore to help bring the body to Harare.
The Presidential Guard Brigade mounted a military parade in honour of the former president.
Service chiefs led the body from the plane to the podium.
Several Zanu-PF supporters could be seen ululating, waving fists and punching the air, reminiscent of what Cde Mugabe used to do.
After a brief ceremony at the airport, the body was taken to One Commando Regiment where another devotion was conducted.
Thereafter, the body was taken Cde Mugabe’s Blue Roof residence in Borrowdale where it was expected to lie in State.
Hundreds of mourners including Cabinet Ministers, senior Government officials, Zanu-PF supporters and various church members gathered at the mansion to pay their condolences.
Roman Catholic priest, Father Kennedy Muguti, who was with Cde Mugabe in Singapore, narrated the late hero’s last days.
He said although Cde Mugabe was ill, he still looked up to God.
Father Muguti said Cde Mugabe kept his faith up to the end and died peacefully.