Days of official mourning have begun in Zimbabwe for Robert Mugabe, who had become a national hero despite decades of rule that left the country struggling.

Mr Mugabe, an ex-guerrilla chief who took power in 1980 when Zimbabwe shook off white minority rule and presided for decades while economic turmoil and human rights violations eroded its early promise, died on Friday at a hospital in Singapore.

Zimbabwe Obit Robert MugabeFormer Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe (Ben Curtis/AP)

He was 95 and had been forced to relinquish power by a previously loyal military in November 2017.

Flags flew at half-mast on Saturday, but there were no public activities to mark the death of a man who singularly shaped the once-prosperous southern African country in his own image and created a repressive system that some say remains even today.