SINCE the death of former president Robert Mugabe on September 6, 2019 at an opulent hospital in Singapore and burial at his rural Zvimba home, there has been a push to have his remains exhumed and reburied at the National Heroes Acre.
Chief Zvimba and the magistrates court have ruled to have him exhumed, but the Mugabe family has fiercely resisted the move. The family has since approached the High Court to overturn the ruling.
The Daily News on Sunday Political Editor Mugove Tafirenyika on Friday sat down with the late strongman’s eldest nephew, Leo, to discuss this and other issues.
Below are the excerpts of the nail-biting interview.
Q: You have generally been very quiet of late. What have you been up to?
A: I am doing a lot of projects, including keeping road runner chickens, horticulture and several other things such as crop production. This has been giving me a life and I am glad I chose to do this. I do all this at my farm in Mhangura.
Q: Outside farming what else do you do?
A: I am working on a business project and we are almost through with the project and it’s almost ready to be launched.
We have a platform known as Land Fortune Commodity Exchange. It’s a farmers’ online trading platform. We are trying to make it easy for the farmer to deliver his produce to the market because Covid-19 changed everything and we had to come up with innovative ways to help us through the pandemic.
Q: Maybe to jog you down memory lane. You are a former Zifa president. What is your evaluation of the state of football in the country right now?
A: I have been following football with a keen interest ever since I left the association. It is unfortunate that by removing Phillip Chiyangwa from Zifa and replacing him with Felton Kamambo, we didn’t extricate ourselves from problems.
It doesn’t look like we did ourselves any favour because as it stands right now things have become worse. We have a team that lacks coherence, doesn’t play friendly matches, with players just coming to play a particular match and as a result we are losing.
So far, we only have one draw (in the World Cup qualifiers), meaning one point and that is not pleasing at all.
Before, the team was producing results and qualifying for major tournaments.
Even during my time, we produced the Dream Team although we failed to qualify, but we went on to build a formidable team from 1995 when our juniors won silver at the All Africa Games. It is that same team that graduated into the senior team and qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Currently, we don’t even have an under 17, under 20 and not even a Zifa Cup being played.
We used to have a programme we called Just Play. It is where boozers played with professional clubs and they also played in the Zifa Cup. If you remember, we had a couple of upsets with CAPS United losing to a boozer’s team for example. It generated interest and everyone got keen to watch the games, but as it stands we are in a mess.
Q: Let us shift to the Mugabe family. You are the eldest nephew of the late former president. There has been a push to exhume his remains for reburial at the National Heroes Acre, but we also hear that Chief Zvimba has made a U-turn and called on you to have the grave that had been prepared for Mugabe at the national shrine filled up. Is there any truth in that?
“Yes … the family was briefed about that. To be honest, we are happy with that process where we hear that Chief Zvimba held a meeting with our headman Karigamombe over that matter.
We are ready to go and fill it up (the open grave) once we get the formal green light because that is what should have been done in the first place.
If that process had been undertaken after my uncle’s burial, it would have saved us all these arguments,” Leo told the Daily News On Sunday.
In Shona, normally if you dig a grave for someone in advance then for whatever reason you don’t bury them there, it should be filled up and a tree of life is planted there.
So, should what they are planning come through, we will gratefully oblige,”
Q: How has all this talk of exhumation affected the Mugabe family?
A: We know that the chiefs in our area went to see the president along with some politicians to discuss the matter.
The president asked how they intended to deal with the people who were opposed to their exhumation proposal, warning they would rebel against them.
I have the minutes of that meeting and it is so straightforward that the president left it to the chiefs.
So, they (traditional leaders) concocted this whole thing of later having someone making a report on a matter that had been discussed at the highest level.
The president warned them, but they did not take heed and these are the consequences.
We also want to dispel the lies that President Mugabe was buried in a house when the fact is that it was in the courtyard.
We have just built a mausoleum now and everybody can now see that it was not in the house.
The chief made a judgment without proof and on the basis of falsehoods that should not be allowed to happen to other families.
Q: What do you think is Chief Zvimba’s interest in all this?
A: I think he is being used by politicians who have the mistaken belief that President Mnangagwa is keen on having my uncle buried at the National Heroes Acre.
They think if they succeed they will have made the president happy. It is not a coincidence that after the meeting that was also attended by Local Government minister July Moyo, a couple of months later, there is Trynos Monongovere reporting the same case, seeking to get the same result that the chiefs wanted.
Q: We also hear that the late former president recorded a video stating what he wanted done after his death. Is that true?
A: “Yes it’s true, but obviously the family has kept that confidential. However, each time he was talking, he would call everyone to witness what he was saying, including employees.
He would call them and ask what they could have done if their own children had staged an uprising against them. All that is recorded.
When we unveiled the mausoleum (at Mugabe’s rural home in Zvimba), we had some testimonies from the people he worked with. The bitterness (Mugabe’s) was so terrifying, to the extent that he told them he would not want to hear anything to do with President Emmerson Mnangagwa … he would actually cry.
“You can imagine such testimonies, but as a family we want to let bygones be bygones.
We have lives to live and we want to get along with all, including the government.
We are trying our best, although it is still very difficult for some family members, especially the widow.
It is still very difficult for her to come to terms with what happened, but we are encouraging each other to say let us move on.
Slowly and slowly we will get there … whatever happens we will not forget, but let sleeping dogs lie.
Q: It is also said that in one of the videos, he was talking to his regional and continental peers? Is that true and who in particular?
A: I know that is true. I know the president of Equatorial Guinea Theodore Nguema, for example, visited him in Singapore and obviously they spoke. But again those issues are confidential.
Q: You did not always enjoy a cordial relationship with his widow, Grace. How can you describe your relations now?
A: You know, we are grownups and we must accept that families will always have problems, but we must also aim to solve them. So we have solved our side of things and we are going along very well.
Q: How is she doing?
A: Gogo is fine, she has been busy with the durawalls (precast walls) around the family home in Zvimba, and now she is doing some concrete roads inside. It is really beautiful.
Once the museum we are planning on is done, it will be open to the public. People will get to understand why we buried him there. School children will be allowed to visit to see artefacts there, while tourists can also come.
Q: Some have said that Mugabe was buried with a mystic walking stick. Why did you do that?
A: There is nothing like that. Mugabe was buried the Catholic way. Sekuru would be given walking sticks wherever he went so he would have them, but I am not sure which one you are referring to and who gave him that.
If it worked, what people are saying, then why can’t people go and get another from wherever he got it. None of his walking sticks were buried together with him. He was Christian and everything was done that way.