Mugabe's children rush to court as row over exhumation deepens

The children of Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe have gone to court seeking to block the exhumation of his remains from a grave in his rural village of Kutama following a recent controversial ruling by a traditional court.

Chief Zvimba last month hauled Mugabe’s widow, Grace, before his village court on accusations of breaking local customs by burying her late husband in the courtyard of their rural home. 

The former first lady was ordered to facilitate exhumation of the long serving ruler’s remains for reburial at a national shrine in Harare set aside for luminaries of the country’s 1970s liberation war. 

She was fined five cows and two goats. Ms Mugabe, who is said to be indisposed and seeking treatment in Singapore, was tried in absentia.

The traditional leader said he was “giving powers to those who are permitted by law to exhume the late Robert Mugabe’s remains from Kutama and rebury them at the National Heroes Acre in Harare before July 1, 2021.” 

But Mugabe’s three children - Bona, Bellarmine Chatunga and Tinotenda Robert - have filed an appeal at a local magistrate court arguing that “Chief Zvimba erred at law by making an order that overturns a burial order in respect of the burial of the late Robert Mugabe when the chief had no judicial authority to interpret legal acts from superior legislation to his jurisdiction.” 

The siblings say the chief made a mistake by “making an order that affects property rights of a party that is not part of the proceedings.” 

They accused the chief of making a “false finding of fact, which amounts to an error at law when he found that the late Robert Mugabe was buried inside a house.” 

“The misdirection nullifies the ration decidendi (the reason) of his judgment,” they said in their appeal papers dated June 4.

“Chief Zvimba erred at law in granting an incompetent order for the exhumation of the body of the late Robert Mugabe, thereby usurping the lawful bounds of his judicial authority. The chief further erred at law by imposing himself with territorial jurisdiction to the affairs of an area that he does not have any territorial jurisdiction over.” 

Some of Mr Mugabe’s relatives, including former Cabinet minister Patrick Zhuwao, accuse President Emmerson Mnangagwa of being behind the bizarre push to exhume Mugabe’s remains for ritual purposes. The government denies the allegations. 

Following the late strongman’s death in Singapore in 2019, there was a standoff between the government and his family that stretched for nearly three weeks over where his final resting place would be. 

The family argued that Mugabe made it clear on his deathbed that he did not want to be buried at the National Heroes Acre because he did not want erstwhile colleagues that staged a coup against him in 2017 to preside over his funeral.

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