Zimbabwe Chief Orders Remains of Dictator Robert Mugabe Exhumed and Reburied

The coffin carrying the body of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is seen at during mass at his rural home in Zvimba, about 100 kilometers north west of the capital Harare, Saturday. Sept, 28, 2019. According to a family spokesperson Mugabe is expected to be buried at the residence after …
AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

A Zimbabwean village chief on Monday ordered the remains of the late Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe to be exhumed from his country estate and reburied at a national cemetery in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.

“I give 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 a copy of the ruling by Zimbabwean traditional chief Stanley Mhondoro or “Chief Zvimba.” The ruling was issued in the local Shona language of Kutama, a rural province in northern Zimbabwe over which Mhondoro claims to have jurisdiction.

Mugabe died in September 2019, two years after a military coup ousted him from the Zimbabwean presidency. The dictator’s widow, Grace Mugabe, buried Mugabe “in the courtyard of her birthplace in Kutama, 90 km west of the capital Harare,” according to Africa News.

Mhondoro presided over a village court last week after allegedly receiving complaints from multiple Mugabe clan members over the manner of Robert Mugabe’s burial in Kutama. Chief Zvimba issued a ruling on May 20 that found Grace Mugabe guilty of breaking traditional norms in Kutama by burying her husband “in a manner deemed inappropriate.” The village chief ruled that Robert Mugabe should have been buried “in a location chosen by his mother or the family he was born [sic].” Mhondoro fined Grace Mugabe five cows and a goat as a punishment for her alleged violation.

Chief Zvimba banned journalists from attending last week’s village court hearing, and his entourage cited Mhondoro’s need for “some privacy” as the reason. The court met in Murombedzi, about 15 miles east of Kutama, in the presence of roughly fifteen people. Grace Mugabe did not attend the hearing.

Leo Mugabe, a spokesman for Robert Mugabe’s family, rejected Mhondoro’s May 20 ruling against Grace Mugabe.

“He [Chief Zvimba] has no jurisdiction over Kutama. And even if the correct chief had made that ruling we would have appealed to the court,” he said in a statement.

Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party urged Robert Mugabe’s family to bury the late dictator in Harare’s national cemetery shortly after his death in September 2019. The Mugabe family refused, claiming the then-recently ousted dictator had expressed fears to relatives shortly before his death “that some of the people who ousted him would seek to conduct a traditional ritual with his body parts.”

Robert Mugabe ruled over Zimbabwe as its president for 37 years before he was ousted in a military coup in 2017. The dictator’s successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, served as Mugabe’s vice president and longtime ally within the leftist Zanu-PF party before becoming president of Zimbabwe in 2017. The Zanu-PF party continues to rule over Zimbabwe through Mnangagwa and appears to have come closer to realizing its goal of burying Mugabe in Harare’s National Heroes cemetery through Monday’s Katuma court ruling.

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