The children of Zimbabwe’s late founding leader, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, have maintained that the traditional leaders who ordered the exhumation of their father’s remains for reburial have no legal right to do so.
This emerged during the hearing of a matter in which Mugabe’s children are challenging their village head over their father’s reburial.
The village head Tinos Manongovere, filed a complaint before Chief Zvimba last year that Mugabe was “improperly” buried in a courtyard.
Chief Zvimba sanctioned the exhumation of the late veteran leader and reburial at the National Heroes Acre in Harare and also fined Grace, Mugabe’s widow for contempt of court and incorrectly burying her husband.
The matter was referred to the Magistrate Court where Chinhoyi magistrate Ruth Moyo allowed the exhumation to be conducted saying Mugabe’s children had no locus standi (right) to appeal against their father’s reburial.
The children – Bona Mugabe-Chikore and her siblings, Bellarmine Chatunga and Robert Junior – appealed the ruling against the magistrate and also challenged the chief’s decision at the traditional court.
In the latest development, High court judge, Justice Ammy Tsanga reserved her judgment in the case.
The judge also reserved her judgement in the submissions by Manongovere’s lawyer that their appeal is fatally defective because it does not comply with the rules of the magistrate’s court.
Mugabe’s children, on Thursday, argued that no one except them has the authority over their father’s grave, warning that anyone who would tamper with it will be committing a criminal offence as outlined in the Burial Act. Their lawyer Zhuwarara argued:
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 said 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.
However, Pardon Nhokwara representing Manongovere argued that Grace should have appealed against the decision and not her children.
Grace last year also filed a High Court application challenging the reburial of her husband insisting that her children have authority to appeal against their father’s reburial.
Mugabe died in Singapore on September 6, 2019, while receiving medical treatment at a private hospital. He was buried in a family courtyard at Kutama in Zvimba, his rural home.
This was after several attempts by senior government officials to have him interred at the National Heroes Acre where other late nationalists are buried.