Robert Mugabe's funeral takes place in Harare at quarter-full stadium

African leaders have hailed Robert Mugabe as a “liberation hero” at his official funeral service which is took place today in the national stadium in the capital Harare.

Zimbabwe's former president, who died earlier this month aged 95 in a clinic in Singapore, was called a visionary by current Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who said "our motherland is in tears".

However, the 60,000 capacity stadium was only a quarter full as many Zimbabweans said they would shun the ceremony because of soaring inflation and high unemployment rates under his rule in his later years.

The casket of former president Robert Mugabe is escorted by military officers as it departs after a state funeral at the National Sports Stadium in the capital Harare (AP)

A military brass band was led family members along with officials from the ruling Zanu-PF party and foreign dignitaries from across Africa carried the casket, which was draped in the national flag, across the grass of the stadium.

A number of Zimbabwe’s opposition leaders were also present.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa was also there but was booed by some in the crowd because of the xenophobic violence in South Africa.

Members of the military sit in the stands as Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa is seen on a video screen above, during the state funeral. (AP)
However, the 60,000 capacity stadium was only a quarter full as many Zimbabweans said they would shun the ceremony because of soaring inflation and high unemployment rates under his rule in his later years. (AP)
The casket is escorted by military officers and followed by family and dignitaries as it departs after the funeral (AP)
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta delivers a speech during the ceremony (AP)

Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years but was forced out of office in 2017.

His rule was mired in accusations of human rights abuses and corruption. The country struggles with food and fuel shortages caused by decades of economic mismanagement.

"We are happier now that he is gone. Why should I go to his funeral? I don't have fuel," one Harare resident told AFP.

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"We don't want to hear anything about him anymore. He is the cause of our problems."

President Mnangagwa - the man who overthrew Mr Mugabe - sat just two seats away from Mr Mugabe's widow, Grace.

The Mugabe family's representative, Walter Chidhakwa's voice cracked as he spoke of his uncle's final years after he'd been removed from office.

African heads of state and envoys gathered to attend a state funeral for Zimbabwe's founding president, Robert Mugabe, whose burial has been delayed for at least a month until a special mausoleum can be built for his remains. (AP)

“Despite certain misgivings, within certain quarters about his so-called mistakes ... the government’s position is clear,” the foreign minister, Sibusiso Moyo, told Agence France-Presse. “The late President Mugabe is an icon.”

The burial of the former President will be delayed for at least a month until a special mausoleum can be built at a prominent spot at the national Heroes' Acre monument.

The decision is the latest turn in a dramatic tussle between his family and the country's current leader over where he should be laid to rest, with his widow, Grace, insisting on a private burial rather than the state funeral and burial in a simple plot alongside other national heroes planned by the government.

Mnangagwa said his predecessor had been declared a "national hero" and that Zimbabwe would mourn him until the burial.

Mugabe was President of Zimbabwe for 37 years but was forced out of office in 2017. His rule was mired in accusations of human rights abuses and corruption.
Zimbabwean military officers fired a 21-gun salute (AP)

"The late departed icon will be eternally remembered and honoured for the bold and historic land reform programme which he undertook," he said.

Mugabe passed away in Singapore, where he had been hospitalised in April.

He had been battling ill health, and following his fall from office.

Adam Molai, Mugabe's nephew, said the former president died of old age "surrounded by family".