The children of former president Robert Mugabe have appealed the judgment by Chief Zvimba ordering the exhumation of their father’s remains for reburial at the National Heroes Acre, arguing the traditional leader overstepped his jurisdiction.
Chief Zvimba, born Stanley Mhondoro, hauled Mugabe’s widow Grace before his village court last month on accusations of breaking local custom by burying her husband in the courtyard of their rural homestead in Kutama, Zvimba district.
The former first lady, who is said to be indisposed and seeking treatment in Singapore, did not attend but was convicted in absentia with the chief ruling that 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.
He also fined Grace five cows and two goats.
But Mugabe’s three children – Bona [the executrix of his estate], Bellarmine Chatunga and Tinotenda Robert Jr., have filed an appeal with the magistrates’ court in Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West, 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.”
Local villager Tinos Manongovere, the complainant in the initial case, is cited as the sole respondent in a notice of appeal filed on June 4, in which the three siblings submitted that the chief had made a mistake by “making an order that affects property rights of a party that is not part of the proceedings.”
They also slammed the controversial ruling calling it “incompetent”, adding “the chief made 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. This misdirection nullifies the ratio decidendi [the reason] of his judgment.”
They contended: “Chief Zvimba erred at law in granting an incompetent order for the exhumation of the body of the late Robert Gabriel 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.”
Praying for relief, Mugabe’s offspring asked the magistrate to overrule Chief Zvimba saying “wherefore, the appellant prays that the instant appeal be allowed with costs; the judgment of the court a quo be set aside and the following be substituted in its stead: ‘the plaintiff’s claim is dismissed.”’
Mugabe’s exiled nephew Patrick Zhuwawo and other family members have accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa of orchestrating the exhumation attempt in the vain belief that his predecessor was buried with a supernatural scepter that would give him commanding authority as a leader.
Mnangagwa, through spokespersons George Charamba and Nick Mangwana has denied the allegations.
Mugabe, who succumbed to cancer in 2019, just less than two years after his forced removal from power by Mnangagwa in a military coup, was buried in a tamper-proof casket, with his family saying they were fearing his body parts would be dug up and used for ritual purposes.
He was buried after 22 days of acrimonious haggling between his family and government, which wanted him rested at the national shrine where other national liberation war heroes lay, but the Mugabes stood their ground, insisting that the late strongman’s wishes were that he be buried at his homestead.