HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — A Zimbabwean court Friday upheld a traditional court’s ruling that the body of former President Robert Mugabe should be exhumed and reburied at a national shrine in the capital.
The Chinhoyi Magistrates Court rejected an appeal by Mugabe’s children that the traditional court’s ruling should be ignored, Mugabe family lawyer Fungai Chimwamurombe said. The three children had challenged the exhumation ruling made by the traditional chief of the Zvimba area, Mugabe’s rural home. Mugabe’s current grave in the Zvimba area is part of the chief’s jurisdiction.
Chief Stanley Wurayayi Mhondoro ruled in May that Mugabe’s widow, Grace, had violated traditional customs by organizing Mugabe’s burial in the family home compound. He also fined Grace five cows and a goat for not carrying out the burial properly.
Mugabe’s three children, who did not attend the chief’s court hearing, appealed the ruling in June.
Mugabe’s body is unlikely to be moved quickly as the case is likely to remain in the courts for a long time, said the lawyer.
“The children have a right to appeal. It is a ruling that ought to be challenged,” said Chimwamurombe.
It’s the latest twist in the controversy regarding the burial of one of Africa’s longest serving and controversial rulers. Mugabe led a 1970s bush war to end the white-minority rule of the country, then known as Rhodesia. He came to power in 1980 and the early years of his rule were marked by improvements in health, education and pay for the country’s black majority but soon he faced accusations of ethnic killings in the west of the country. By the year 2000 Mugabe had become a more repressive leader.
He died aged 95 in Sept. 2019 and was buried in a private ceremony in his rural home’s courtyard after a weeks-long dispute with the government over his resting place.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government wanted Mugabe’s burial to be a public event at the hilltop National Heroes Acre, reserved mainly for top officials and military leaders of the ruling party, ZANU-PF.
The Mugabe family refused, claiming that Mugabe had left orders for a private burial because he was bitter at being deposed in a 2017 coup by Mnangagwa and the military that had anchored his rule for decades.
The government has denied it has had a hand in the latest saga, saying this is a matter between a traditional chief and his subjects.
The second anniversary of Mugabe’s death last week went largely unnoticed in Zimbabwe.