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Mugabe remains to stay in Zvimba. . .amid uncertainty about what local chief will do next

ALL indications are that the remains of the late former president and longtime Zimbabwean ruler, Robert Mugabe, will — for now — stay buried at his rural home in Zvimba, in Mashonaland West.

At the same time, the government once again reiterated yesterday that it had no interest whatsoever in the raging saga regarding a local chief’s recent controversial push for Mugabe’s remains to be exhumed and reburied at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.

All this comes as Mugabe’s family has been emphatic in its position that it will never exhume their late patriarch’s remains.

One of Mugabe’s nephew’s, Leo, said yesterday that the expiry of a July 1 deadline that was set by Chief Zvimba to have the former president’s widow Grace exhume her husband’s remains and allow them to be interred in Harare was of no consequence to the family.

“We have not heard anything from that side (Chief Zvimba) since the dubious judgment. So, we leave it like that.

“You can ask the chief because he is the one better placed to say what course of action he will take since his deadline lapsed. We stand by what we said in the past,” he told the Daily News.

This follows the fine that was imposed by Chief Zvimba on Grace in May of five beasts and two goats, for burying Mugabe in the courtyard of his rural home in Kutama upon his death in September 2019 — which allegedly violated the customs of the area.

Then, Chief Zvimba ordered the erratic former first lady to process Mugabe’s exhumation and subsequently have him buried at the National Heroes Acre by July 1.

However, the deadline came and passed without this happening, in a clear message by the late former president’s family that his remains would remain in Kutama Village.

Chief Zvimba had warned that the failure by Grace to exhume Mugabe would compel him to direct authorities to lead the exhumation and reburial of the remains at the national shrine.

Apart from that, Chief Zvimba also warned that he would empower the State, through the local sheriff, to repossess Grace’s livestock from her farm.

This controversial edict had, in turn, been occasioned by a complaint filed to Chief Zvimba by a local villager, Tinos Manongovere, who is said to be a distant relative of the late former president.

Despite protests from the Mugabe family that it was not Grace who decided Mugabe’s burial place, Chief Zvimba was adamant in putting pressure on the former first lady.

“The complainant and witnesses provided evidence that it was you who led the burial proceedings which violated the Zvimba tradition.

“If it were not you who committed this crime, you would not have allowed your husband to be buried in your house given that you are the one who now solely owns it. 

“In that regard, you are supposed to approach the deceased’s father Chief Chidziva, who marked the place of his burial to lead you into exhuming him and rebury him at the National Heroes Acres in Harare before July 1, 2021,” Chief Zvimba ruled in his judgment that was delivered in May. 

The traditional leader also ordered Grace to bring all of Mugabe’s clothes and other belongings to his Kutama rural home before the deadline.

Chief Zvimba was not reachable for a comment yesterday.

On its part, the government said it had no interest in the Mugabe re-burial saga.

Mugabe, who died on 6 September 2019, at the top-notch Gleneagles Medical Centre in Singapore, was interred in a fortified grave in Zvimba.

Dramatic scenes later unfolded in Harare when his family clashed over where his remains should be interred — with some preferring Zvimba and others the National Heroes Acre.

Both his family and the government kept giving conflicting statements on the issue, amid the deep family divisions.

As the confusion continued to swirl, the chaotic funeral arrangements were further blighted by an excessive adherence to traditional beliefs — with Grace said to have refused to let his casket out of her sight, amid apparent fears that it could be used for ritual purposes by some of Mugabe’s former Zanu PF rivals.

Seemingly giving grist to these fears was Mugabe’s exiled other nephew, Patrick Zhuwao — who released a formal statement to the effect that the family was concerned about how the government was conducting his uncle’s funeral.

Before this, and as Mugabe’s body was about to be flown to Zimbabwe from Singapore, Zhuwao had warned the government that it risked the wrath of Mugabe’s avenging spirit and those of his clan if it stampeded his family into burying him where it wanted, and without their agreement.

Well-placed sources told the Daily News at the time that some of Mugabe’s relatives were “very superstitious” and believed that when strong winds also put down a giant tent at the family’s plush Borrowdale home, that this was a sign that the deceased former president was unhappy with funeral proceedings.

After days of massive confusion over where Mugabe was to be buried, his close family finally prevailed when it changed its mind and decided to bury him in Zvimba — and not in a special grave at the Heroes Acre in Harare, as was being planned by the government.

Grace took the decision in the absence of President Emmerson Mnangagwa from the country — who was in New York where he had gone to address the United Nations General Assembly.

To add salt to the government’s wounds, the State was also building a controversial and exceedingly expensive mausoleum — an elaborate structure which was intended to house Mugabe’s tomb — at the national shrine.

Mugabe’s family also later confirmed that he had died a very bitter man over the way he had been removed from power by his former colleagues in Zanu PF.

The former president left behind not just a nation mired in poverty and rising divisions, but also a polarising legacy.