The exhumation of Robert Mugabe's remains was ordered by Chief Zvimba, born Stanley Wurayayi Mhondoro. Chief Zvimba ordered that Mugabe's remains be exhumed for reburial at the National Heroes Acre on July 1 2021.
The ruling by Chief Zvimba was challenged by Mugabe's three children.
Prior to delivering the ruling sanctioning Mugabe's exhumation, there were reports that Chief Zvimba had summoned Grace Mugabe to a traditional court. However, in an interview with NewsDay, Chief Zvimba denied summoning Grace to a traditional court to force the exhumation of Mugabe’s remains.
The summons was delivered to Mugabe’s residence on April 29 2021 by top police officers in the company of an aide from President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office. The summons was inviting Grace to Chief Zvimba’s traditional court to answer to charges of “improperly” burying Mugabe at his Kutama homestead in September 2019.
The State had wanted him to be interred at the National Heroes’ Acre, but Mugabe's family stood its ground and buried him as per “his wish”.
Chief Zvimba is quoted by NewsDay as saying he was not aware of the summons. Chief Zvimba said:
“I know nothing about this issue (summons).I am hearing it only from inquiries coming from here and there. I know absolutely nothing about that. I have not seen anything and I have nothing to say on that because I am in the dark. I am not aware of anything.”
Reasons For Mugabe's Exhumation
Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao said Emmerson Mnangagwa was behind the attempt to exhume Robert Mugabe's remains.
He said the involvement of a Central Intelligence Organisation officer in delivering the summons at Mugabe’s Blue Roof mansion as a clear indication of Mnangagwa’s involvement in the matter.
Zhuwao told South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) that the alleged attempt by government to exhume Mugabe’s remains was motivated by a belief that Zimbabwe's first post independence leader was buried with a sceptre that has spiritual powers which enhances a leader’s ability to govern.
“We took a position as a family and that position was informed by President Mugabe’s wishes to be buried at his rural home and that is what we did. The reason that he wants to exhume the mortal remains of President Mugabe is because he has been looking for a sceptre that he believes has the authority to be leader of Zimbabwe."
In response, Zanu PF and government officials took to Twitter to dismiss Zhuwao’s claims. Zanu PF director of information Tafadzwa Mugwadi dismissed the assertions as fake whilst Nick Mangwana mocked Mugabe for being buried with a sceptre that failed to resuscitate the economy.
Chief Zvimba's Ruling
On 25 May 2021, Chief Zvimba ruled that Robert Mugabe's remains be exhumed for reburial at the National Heroes Acre on July 1 2021.
The ruling by Chief Zvimba read:
“I give powers to those empowered at law to exhume the body of the late Robert Mugabe from Kutama and rebury him at the National Heroes’ Acre in Harare at a place shown by his father Chief Chidziva as per our culture. 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. It was proven that you led the process until the burial, and if it was not you, it was not going to be allowed to have Mugabe buried at home.
Chief Zvimba also fined Mugabe's widow Grace Mugabe five heads of cattle and a goat. Chief Zvimba found Grace guilty of “improperly” leading the burial of Mugabe’s body at his Kutama homestead. He also found Grace guilty of neglecting Mugabe’s properties.
He ordered that Grace should ensure that Mugabe’s property is collected from all over the country before July 1 2021.
Chief Zvimba added that if Grace failed to comply, he would take the matter to the Messenger of Court in Chinhoyi and have the “property” brought to the Mugabe homestead in Kutama.
Mugabe's Family Response
Mugabe’s children approached the courts challenging Chief Zvimba’s order to exhume their father’s remains.
The children took the matter to the Chinhoyi civil court.
Bona Mugabe, Bellarmine Chatunga Mugabe and Tinotenda Robert Mugabe say Chief Zvimba did not have the legal authority to order the exhumation of their late father's remains. Part of the notice of appeal reads:
“The chief erred at law by making an order that overthrows a burial order in respect of the burial of the late Robert Mugabe when the chief has no judicial authority to interpret legal acts from superior legislation to his jurisdiction. Chief Zvimba erred at law in making an order that affects property rights of a part that is not part of the proceedings.”
- EVERSON MUSHAVA/MOSES MATENGA, Chief Zvimba denies summoning Grace over Mugabe exhumation, NewsDay, Published: May 14, 2021, Retrieved: June 7, 2021
- MOSES MATENGA, Exhume Mugabe, chief orders, NewsDay, Published: May 25, 2021, Retrieved: June 7, 2021
- RICHARD MUPONDE, Mugabe’s children move to block exhumation, The Standard, Published: June 6, 2021, Retrieved: June 7, 2021