President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been sucked into the exhumation of the late former president Robert Mugabe’s remains saga after it emerged he chaired a high-level meeting of the deceased strongman’s clansmen.
It is the same meeting at which the decision to summon Mugabe’s widow, Grace, to a trial at Chief Zvimba’s traditional court was made, according to minutes seen by the Zimbabwe Independent this week.
The meeting, held at the State House on September 11, 2020 was attended by several senior government and Zanu-PF officials, as well as representatives of the Zvimba clan. This was just over a year after Mugabe’s death in Singapore at the age of 95.
There was a vicious tug-of-war between Mugabe’s immediate family and the government over the burial of his body, with the family insisting they were bound to respect his wish to be buried besides his mother at their rural homestead in Zvimba while government wanted to bury him at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.
As a result of this, the body spent almost a month at his “Blue Roof” mansion in Borrowdale before the family prevailed.
According to the minutes, those who attended the State House meeting last year include Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, Defence and War Veterans minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Information and Publicity minister Monica Mutsvangwa, Local Government and Public Works ministers July Moyo, Zanu-PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu, Chief Zvimba, Chief Beperere, Chief Chidziva, Headman Chisora, Phillip Chiyangwa, Madzima Bhajabha, Nyikadzino Kamuruko, Edward Tome and one Nelson Mawomo who was taking minutes.
During the gathering, soon after introductions, Zvimba clan spokesman Edward Tome, declared that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the manner in which Mugabe was buried, which he said is haunting the clan.
He pointed out that the late Mugabe was appointed Chief Zvimba soon after his return from Ghana, but requested that someone represent him as he was involved in politics.
Tome went on to say the family had, upon Mugabe’s death, requested for a mausoleum to be created at the national shrine, but after a misunderstanding with the former first lady Grace Mugabe both members of the Zvimba clan and his uncles from Gutu pulled out. Grace and foreign dignitaries went ahead with the burial.
Tome further told the meeting that the former president should be buried like a chief not like an ordinary person.
He gave the example of the popular Nyanga traditional leader, Chief Rekai Tangwena whose grave is at the National Heroes Acre but his remains were interred in his rural home in line with their culture.
Bhajabha then interjected and told the meeting that the Zvimba clan was requesting government assistance to rebury Mugabe.
He went on to say some of the things needed for the reburial include a casket, national flag, transport before they bury the chief and report back to the president.
Bhajabha added that a mausoleum could be erected after the burial and a tombstone in the image of the former leader with a clenched fist facing to the east erected. Before a ceremony could be conducted the clan requested access to the national shrine to carry out rituals.
The whole process was supposed to be completed before the sacred month (Mbudzi) which starts on October 15 and ends on December 15 according to Shona culture.
The clan also requested a national commemoration in the form of a gala.
According to the minutes, Mnangagwa agreed to the Zvimba clan’s requests but had questions over how the family intended to exhume and rebury the former president without attracting public attention.
“His Excellency the President indicated that as a government they were happy with the gesture by the clan which seeks to strengthen the relationships. The president agreed with the clan that indeed the former leader was the son of the country. He pointed out that they accepted the wish of the Zvimba people as they seek to strengthen the path which was soiled at the very end. He indicated that the future generations should be able to understand the correct history of our founding father,” the minutes read.
Chief Chidziva thanked Mnangagwa for accepting their request.
Chief Zvimba said the clan would put into consideration the request by the government for more time to attend to the issue.
The chiefs also took the opportunity during the meeting to ask Mnangagwa for favours in settling their personal grievances.
Chief Zvimba told Mnangagwa that he was grounded because his farming equipment was attached by the High Court.
He went on to accuse the district and provincial lands officers of being corrupt, singling out the District Development Coordinator (DDC) for Zvimba district.
The President tasked minister Moyo to engage his counterpart to carry out an assessment on the farm. Chief Zvimba was then promised a tractor and a planter.
Chief Beperere also bemoaned rampant corruption at the Zvimba district lands committee. He went on to say his farm was derelict as he was surrounded by former Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo’s associates whom he accused of vandalising his irrigation equipment.