By John Ikani
Zimbabwean Magistrate Court on Friday ordered that the body of former President Robert Mugabe be exhumed from his village and be reburied at the National Heroes’ Acre cemetery in the capital, Harare.
In May, a traditional court in Zimbabwe ordered Mugabe’s widow, Grace, to exhume his body and have him reburied at Heroes’ Acre. A traditional Chief from Mugabe’s rural Zvimba said Grace Mugabe had not followed local traditions when burying the former President, and also fined her five cattles and a goat.
Reacting, Mugabe’s three children Bona, Bellarmine and Tinotenda Mugabe, filed a court application for the chief’s order to be set aside, arguing that the Zvimba chief acted out of his authority when he approached a village court to decide on Mugabe’s rightful place of burial.
Delivering her ruling, Regional Magistrate Ruth Moyo threw out the court challenge, noting that the children have no say in the matter because it directly involved their mother. But Grace, the late statesman’s wife, has been out of Zimbabwe for well over a year now. Family sources say she’s in Singapore, where she sought medical treatment and never returned.
Once feted as a promising leader at independence in 1980, Mugabe’s long rule divided Zimbabweans between supporters who hailed him as a champion of black empowerment, and opponents who cast him as an authoritarian who ran down a once successful economy.
Mugabe’s relatives oppose his reburial at National Heroes Acre, saying the man who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years until he was ousted in an army coup had expressed fears before his death that some of those who overthrew him would seek to conduct a traditional ritual with some of his body parts.
Chimwamurombe said Mugabe’s wife had separately sought a review of the chief’s ruling and the case will be heard in Chinhoyi on Sept. 21.
Chiefs in Zimbabwe have jurisdiction over their local subjects, but it is rare for them to order families to exhume bodies for reburial.