June 24, 2021

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Zimbabwe chief orders Mugabe remains exhumed, reburied

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Traditional leader says former first lady broke local customs by burying Mugabe at his rural home.

A traditional chief in Zimbabwe has ordered the exhumation of Robert Mugabe’s remains and their reburial at the national heroes’ shrine in Harare after accusing the late leader’s wife of breaking local custom by interring him at his rural home in 2019.

Mugabe, who was removed in a coup that brought Emmerson Mnangagwa to power in November 2017, was buried in the courtyard of his home at his village of Kutama after weeks of dispute with President Mnangagwa’s government over his final resting place.

A traditional chief in the Zvimba district, which 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 Stanly Wurayayi Mhondoro on Monday issued a ruling that found Grace Mugabe guilty of breaking traditional norms by burying her husband in his home.

In his ruling, the chief said the late Mugabe “shall be exhumed and reburied at the National Heroes Acre in Harare within 30 days or before the 1st of June 2021”.

“You are also ordered to gather clothes and all his belongings and surrender them on or before the 1st of July,” the ruling added.

Grace Mugabe, who did not attend the hearing, was fined five cows and a goat. The former first lady was also ordered to provide compensation to the workers who would be tasked with exhuming and reburying the remains of her husband.

Leo Mugabe, the late president’s nephew and spokesman for the family, immediately rejected the ruling.

“He (chief) has no jurisdiction over Kutama. And even if the correct chief had made that ruling we would have appealed to the court,” Leo Mugabe told Reuters news agency.

Chiefs in Zimbabwe have jurisdiction over their local subjects but it is rare for them to order families to exhume bodies for reburial.

The chief’s order will likely rekindle a row over Mugabe’s final resting place.

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 removed him would seek to conduct a traditional ritual with some of his body parts.

Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, died on September 6, 2019, at the age of 95.

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