BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
THE late former President Robert Mugabe’s family has warned traditional leaders to stop “playing with fire” by pushing for the exhumation of their father’s remains from his Zvimba rural home for reburial at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.
The family through its lawyer Advocate Tawanda Zhuwarara is challenging village head Tinos Manongovere’s push for the exhumation of the late statesman who died in 2019, two years after he was booted out of office in a coup.
Manongovere filed a complaint before Chief Zvimba’s traditional court last year saying Mugabe was “improperly” interred in a courtyard.
Manongovere’s request was upheld by the chief who then convicted First Lady Grace for contempt of court and ordered her to pay five cows and two goats to the traditional court.
Mugabe’s three children — Bona, Bellarmine Chatunga and Robert Jnr — appealed the ruling at the Chinhoyi Magistrates Court. Magistrate Ruth Moyo, however, dismissed the appeal, saying the trio had no locus standi to file an appeal as they were not cited as respondents at the chief’s court.
Grace then launched an appeal, saying her children were entitled to appeal against their father’s reburial.
In their High Court appeal, Mugabe’s children argued that the Chinhoyi magistrate misdirected herself at law.
“The magistrate ignored the locus standi of Bona and siblings in this matter. They are the only heirs as such. The appellants being sons and daughter of Mugabe had locus standi to approach the magistrate on a notice of appeal to set aside the determination by Manongovere,” Zhuwarara submitted.
“Only the heirs are authorised to act when it comes to the question of burial, burial rights or location. The appeal ought to be heard in the court aquo because it has to be determined whether Manongovere had authority to determine the burial issue.
“Section 26 of the Burial Act says it is criminal to interfere with a grave so it is important that Moyo deals with this matter because her court has jurisdiction. She has to rehear the matter and determine if the respondent was entitled to order the exhumation of Mugabe.”
According to the section, anyone who wilfully destroys or causes to be done any damage, defacement or disfigurement to any monument, vault, tombstone or grave whether within or without a cemetery shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level five or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both.
Mugabe died in Singapore in September 2019 while receiving treatment at a private hospital.
He was buried in the family courtyard at Kutama in Zvimba, his rural home after the family resisted attempts to have him interred at the national shrine in Harare.