BY NUNURAI JENA
The controversy surrounding the late former president Robert Mugabe’s final resting place continues to haunt the country as the battle now shifts to the courts.
When Mugabe died, it took nearly three weeks before he was laid to rest at his Zvimba rural home amid accusations of witchcraft.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF party wanted his remains to be interred at the National Heroes Acres like most of his colleagues in the liberation struggle, but the Mugabe family stood by his wife, former first lady Grace Mugabe who put her foot down, saying the late veteran politician wanted to be buried at his Kutama home.
That was his death bed wish, she said.
Two years later, those who thought Mugabe’s burial issue was now water under the bridge were shocked to hear that some little known villager of Mugabe’s Gushungo totem, Headman Tinos Manongovere from the neighbouring village had approached Chief Zvimba, born Stanley Wurayayi Mhondoro claiming that Zimbabwe’s once longtime ruler was buried against the norms and customs of the area.
He said Mugabe’s remains needed to be dug up and reburied elsewhere.
This development stirred the anger of Kutama villagers in Zvimba who are furious about the proposed exhumation of Mugabe’s remains.
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Mugabe’s neighbour who claims to be his aunt, Josephine Jaricha pointed an accusing finger at Mnangagwa whom she accused of trying to manipulate villagers allegedly to satisfy his wish to get access to Mugabe’s body.
Jaricha said the exhumation would not resurrect Mugabe or solve the current problems Zimbabwe was facing, including shortages of medicine in hospitals, inflation and the obtaining economic meltdown.
“Even if they exhume his body and rebury him at the National Heroes Acres that will not resurrect our child,” Jaricha said.
Jaricha said instead of solving problems being faced by the people in the country, Mnangagwa wanted to waste time and taxpayers’ money to exhume and rebury Mugabe.
“Besides, most people are suffering; (government) should be working towards solving people’s problems. This is a failed leadership.
“Things are worse off than during Mugabe’s time.
“Exhuming Mugabe will not put food on the table and those leading the country should preoccupy themselves with solving national problems rather than engaging in these frivolous things like exhuming Mugabe’s body,” Jaricha charged.
Mugabe’s headman, Camiro Kutama who appeared concerned about being sidelined by the Mugabe family during the burial ceremony said the villagers were shocked by the exhumation saga since it had never happened in his area of jurisdiction.
Kutama said if it was a case of violating customs and norms within Zvimba in general and Kutama in particular, he should have been the first person to be informed, but nothing like that happened.
“The chief erred by presiding over a case that I don’t even know about,” Kutama said.
“The case should have first come to me…besides people are buried at places of their choice and it’s not something out of this world.”
Another Kutama villager, elder Cephas Chioto who sits in headman Kutama’s court said the Mugabe issue was unique in so many ways.
Chioto said it was not new that someone was buried in the courtyard of their homestead.
It’s now “fashionable” in most parts of Zvimba, and interestingly, when Mugabe was buried, most Zvimba chiefs and Manongovere were present, but the issue was never raised.
“My son, go around this village and see for yourself graves at people’s homesteads, but nothing is being said about it,” Chioto said.
“Interestingly all those people involved (Chief Zvimba and Manongovere) were present when Mugabe was buried but none of them raised the issue.”
Chioto said it was very clear that some chiefs and villagers were being bribed to make ridiculous decisions.
“This can only point to people receiving money to make such ridiculous judgements because if they were genuine, they were supposed to raise the issue on the day Mugabe was buried ….but why waiting for two years?” Chioto queried.
Pressed further to reveal names of those involved, Chioto refused to name the people he suspected to be dishing out money to influence Mugabe’s exhumation and reburial.
“I will be required to bring evidence, which can be difficult to get, but these outrageous rulings by people who were part of the burial ceremony point to that direction” Chioto said.
Asked why he did not report the case first to Mugabe’s Kutama as required at law, Manongovere said Kutama was not of the Gushungo totem and did not know the norms and customs of the Zvimba people since he was from Masvingo and of Madyirapanze totem.
“I couldn’t report to Sabhuku Kutama because he doesn’t know our Gushungo way of doing cultural things since he is from Masvingo and of Madyirapanze totem,” he said.
Manongovere also said it was not true that Chief Zvimba and Chief Chidziva were present during Mugabe’s burial, insisting that they were chased away from Mugabe’s Blue Roof house by Grace Mugabe.
“According to our tradition Chief Chidziva and Chief Serima from Gutu representing Mugabe’s mother’s family identified Mugabe’s resting place at the Heroes Acre and marked the site (kutema rukawo) in the presence of Mugabe’s children, but Grace Mugabe disregarded all that and chased some chiefs from her Blue Roof residence,” said Manongovere.
He said he was not foolish to arraign the former first lady, a Mugabe family in-law before Chief Zvimba instead of the head of the Mugabe family, but he did so because Grace Mugabe dictated everything to do with the Mugabe burial.
“Grace was bullying everyone at the funeral. That’s the reason I took her to Chief Zvimba instead of the Mugabes,” said Manongovere.
Mugabe’s nephew and family spokesperson Leo Mugabe said it was appropriate for the former Zanu PF strongman’s to remain in Zvimba since they were in the process of renovating some rooms to be turned into a museum.
“We are constructing a museum befitting the Zimbabwean icon,” said Leo Mugabe.
“He deserved such because the country’s history will not be complete without his immense contribution before, during and after the liberation struggle.”
But some culturists say whether the courts ruled in favour of exhumation and reburial that could not be done without involving the family.
As of now, it is a stalemate.