A Zimbabwean traditional leader has ordered the exhumation and reburial of Robert Mugabe’s remains at the national shrine, rekindling a row over the former strongman’s final resting place.
Chief Zvimba accused former first lady Grace Mugabe of breaking local custom by interring Zimbabwe’s long serving ruler at his homestead about 100 kilometres from Harare.
Mr Mugabe, who died in September 2019 two years after he was ousted in a military coup, was buried at his village of Kutama as his family resisted moves by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to inter his remains at the Heroes Acre in Harare.
The family said they were respecting his deathbed wish that President Mnangagwa must not preside over his funeral following their fallout over the coup.
Chief Zvimba on Monday presided over the case where the widow of Zimbabwe’s first black leader was found guilty of breaking traditional norms by burying her husband in the courtyard of his home.
Ms Mugabe, who did not attend the hearing because she is receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment in Singapore, was also fined five cows and a goat.
“I gave powers to those who are permitted by law to exhume the late Robert Mugabe’s remains from Kutama and rebury them at the National Heroes Acre in Harare,” read part of the chief’s ruling.
“The father of the deceased, who is Chief Chidziva, and the mother of the deceased, who is Chief Gutu, have all agreed that he be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre,” he added.
The Mugabe family immediately rejected the ruling saying the chief had no jurisdiction over their area and that the complainant was not part of their clan.
“They (the chief and the government) are the ones who were pushing for the Heroes Acre and the immediate family was saying ‘no’, we must follow the late president’s wish,” the late leader’s nephew Leo Mugabe said.
“This case should have gone to the kraal head first. It’s like taking a case to the Supreme Court at the first instance and after the Supreme Court it won’t go anywhere,” he added.
“You have to follow the hierarchy of the courts. They should have gone to a kraal head and then to a headman before going to a chief. That could have been the right thing to do.”
Chiefs in Zimbabwe have jurisdiction over their local subjects, but they are subordinate to conventional courts.
Although Mr Mugabe’s 37-year-old rule was marked by extreme violence and economic hardships, he is still considered by many as a hero for leading Zimbabwe’s 1970s war of liberation and his pan-African credentials.