Zimbabweans in their hundreds thronged ’the country’s main airport on Saturday as the body of opposition icon Morgan Tsvangirai, who died of cancer in neighbouring South Africa, arrived home for burial.
Tsvangirai, a fearless opponent to the ruling Zanu-PF party, died on Wednesday at the age of 65 after a lengthy battle with colon cancer.
The body was taken to a military camp where the bodies of national heroes lie in state before burial.
Opposition compatriots earlier held memorial services in the capital Harare and in the second city of Bulawayo to honour Tsvangirai who was often derided by former president Robert Mugabe as “a stooge of the west”.
Tsvangirai will be buried on Tuesday in his rural home in Buhera, 250km south of Harare.
He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016.
The former trade union stalwart led the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) since its formation in 1999, posing the most formidable challenge to Zanu-PF’s nearly four-decade rule.
In 2008, Tsvangirai beat long-time ruler Mugabe in the first round of presidential elections, narrowly came short of garnering enough votes to be declared outright winner.
However he then pulled out of the second round of voting, which was marred by violence including the killing of around 200 opposition supporters.
Tsvangirai’s death came as tensions over his succession are threatening to tear the MDC apart.