Family outraged over Robert Mugabe reburial plan

By Itumeleng Mafisa Time of article published May 26, 2021

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THE FAMILY of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe says it is outraged by a local chief’s decision to have the remains of the former statesman reburied at the country’s National Heroes’ Acre.

In an exclusive interview with The Star, Leo Mugabe, the nephew of Robert Mugabe, said the family was shocked that in a democratic country, a traditional court could ignore the wishes of the Mugabe family.

Mugabe said the chief who made the decision to fine Grace Mugabe and instruct her to exhume the former president’s remains was a “distant relative” who did not understand the local tradition.

The traditional court in Kutama village had ruled that Robert Mugabe’s remains should be buried in Harare at the National Heroes’ Acre cemetery by July 1. Mugabe was buried at his hometown of Kutama in the Zvimba district.

“Basically, we woke up to the news that the chief had made a judgment against the former first lady and we had objected to her being summoned to the chief’s court on the basis that she is only married in the Mugabe family, she does not make decisions on behalf of the Mugabe family, particularly the decision of where my uncle was buried; it was made by the Mugabe family and as such we were outraged by the decision and we will not stand idly by,” Leo Mugabe said.

He said the family enjoyed great support from the entire Zimbabwean nation. The Mugabe family was also banking on receiving support from the government of Zimbabwe.

“The chief has no jurisdiction to tell people where they should be buried and he is a distant cousin to my uncle so he can’t be taking decisions on behalf of the clan because the clan has nothing to do with individual burials. Even the last chief that he replaced he was buried in his yard. He didn’t raise his head to say he must be buried where the other chiefs are buried; we are taken aback so we want to see if the government can take instructions from a traditional leader.”

Mugabe said his uncle Robert Mugabe would have been angered by the entire debacle.

“He would have not tolerated a decision of this kind being taken on anybody. While he insisted on some of his colleagues being taken to Heroes’ Acre, he would go to the family and explain to them why he thinks they should go to the Heroes’ Acre; it was always the case, but the family is free to bury their loved ones where they want to bury them. We can’t be forced to take him to the Heroes’ Acre.”

Mugabe said the family was in disbelief over the entire matter. He said the family including Robert Mugabe’s children were all united in fighting the “ridiculous” ruling by the local chief.

“People are behind us and we have a lot of support from everywhere and we are not going to accept this.”

Cultural expert Mcebo Dlamini said the matter was not as clear cut because Robert Mugabe belonged to the people of Zimbabwe, while at the same time, he was a family man and a leader in his own community.

“With us as Africans a family cemetery speaks volumes, it’s a form of ownership, it’s how we claim the land when we are asked, where is the home of your forefathers? There is significance in terms of rituals and culture, but Mugabe went beyond (that) and he became a father of a nation and a struggle icon. The country claims him,” Dlamini said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, Father William Slattery, said Robert Mugabe was a devoted Catholic who had close relations with the church and was spotted many times at the Vatican. He said should the family decide to move his remains, prayers would need to be undertaken by a priest before and after the exhumation.

“The Catholic church has a deep respect for the dead and we place the departed at the cemetery where they lie in hope of resurrection.”

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