By Prince Kurupati
Controversy seems to follow Zimbabwe’s former president, the late Robert Mugabe even in death. Almost two years to his death, Mugabe’s remains are set to be exhumed and reburied. The news came after a local court ruled that Mugabe’s remains need to be buried at the Zimbabwe National Heroes Acre.
Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s former president who ruled for close to three decades died a couple of years back. His final wishes before his death according to close family members was to be buried at his rural home in Zvimba. Mugabe according to close sources wanted to rest in the same place as his kith and kin.
Upon his death however, contestations emerged between his family and the country’s presidium and ruling party ZANU (PF). Mugabe’s family wanted to honour his final wishes and bury him at his rural home while the country’s presidium and ruling party ZANU (PF) wanted Mugabe to be buried at the National Heroes Acre. After several discussions, arguments and at times public spats, the country’s presidium finally gave in and allowed Mugabe to be buried at his rural home.
Over a year later after Mugabe’s burial, a traditional chief from Mugabe’s rural home presided over a traditional court session where a ruling was passed that Mugabe’s widow Grace Mugabe had erred by burying Mugabe in the family home compound. A fine of five cows and a goat was levied against Grace Mugabe and the family was given a grace period of up to 1 July 2021 to exhume Mugabe’s remains and bury him at the Heroes Acre.
Following the traditional court session, Mugabe’s three children challenged the ruling passed and took matters to the magistrates’ court. The hope in lodging an appeal was to have the traditional court ruling set aside. Unfortunately for the Mugabe family, the Chinhoyi Magistrates Court rejected the appeal.
Though the Chinhoyi Magistrates Court rejected the appeal, the Mugabe family lawyer Fungai Chimwamurombe said any reburial plans will definitely not be happening anytime soon as the family is challenging the ruling passed by the magistrates’ court. In a statement, Chimwamurombe said, “The children have a right to appeal. It is a ruling that ought to be challenged.”
The ruling by the traditional court in Zvimba and the subsequent appeal rejection by the magistrates’ court over Mugabe’s reburial plans has sharply divided opinion. There are some who argue that Mugabe – in death – is getting a taste of his own medicine as during his tenure, he forcibly instructed some ZANU (PF) bigwigs to be buried at the Heroes Acre against their wishes. Some of those who were buried at the shrine against their wishes include former Vice President Joshua Nkomo, former Midlands Province governor Cephas Msipa and former minister Enos Nkala.
The Mugabe family has strongly condemned the efforts to rebury Mugabe with some alleging that Mugabe’s body may be used for ritual purposes. Nephew to the late Robert Mugabe, Leo Mugabe said, “You know some people have an inclination for rituals. We are afraid that some people are after his body parts or even his whole body and they want to use that for rituals.”
The worries expressed by Leo Mugabe were echoed by political analyst Farai Gwenhure who said, “Mnangagwa believes the failure to obtain performance legitimacy is because of unhappy ancestors and traditional spirits.”
Director of Information for ZANU (PF) Tafadzwa Mugwadi has however quashed the sentiments expressed by the Mugabe family saying, “The party is not part of whatever that is. The party has no stake in Chief Zvimba’s local traditional court processes. Only them at (the) family level and Chief Zvimba are aware of what is going on… It is therefore absolutely shameless, mischievous and malicious for anyone to try and drag the party into whatever is going on there.”
According to political analyst Alexander Rusero, the contestations surrounding Mugabe’s burial is nothing but a subtle power game by ZANU (PF). Mugabe’s burial to ZANU (PF) “is a case of unfinished business. What is at play is the logistics of power. ZANU (PF) is a party that is so obsessed with the accumulation of power… It is a party that does not take defeat in any matter: be it an argument or an election result. So, the burial of Mugabe at Kutama, to ZANU (PF) is a loss.”