A chief in Zimbabwe has ordered the exhumation and reburial of Robert Mugabe’s remains at the national heroes’ shrine in Harare, in a move likely to rekindle a row over the former president’s final resting place.
Chief Zvimba made the order after accusing the late leader’s wife, Grace Mugabe, of breaking local custom by interring him at his rural home.
Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup that brought Emmerson Mnangagwa to power in November 2017, was buried at his village of Kutama in 2019 after weeks of dispute with Mnangagwa’s government over his final resting place.
Though much of Mugabe’s 37 years in power were marked by violence, economic mismanagement and corruption, the former guerrilla fighter is still revered as a liberation leader. Many in Zimbabwe see him as a national hero, remembering his role in the war against white rule.
Zvimba, whose district includes Kutama, said he had received a complaint from a Mugabe clan member over the manner of his burial.
After presiding over a village court last week, Chief Zvimba on Monday issued a ruling that found Grace Mugabe guilty of breaking traditional norms by burying her husband in the courtyard of his home. He also fined her five cows and a goat. The former first lady did not attend the hearing.
“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,” said a copy of the ruling in the local Shona language.
Leo Mugabe, spokesman for the Mugabe family, immediately rejected the ruling.
“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,” Leo Mugabe said.
Chiefs in Zimbabwe have jurisdiction over their local subjects but it is rare for them to order families to exhume bodies for reburial.
Mnangagwa had pushed for Mugabe to be buried at the monument for liberation war heroes, but the family refused, saying Mugabe had expressed fears to close family members before his death that some of the people who ousted him would seek to conduct a traditional ritual with his body parts.