The body of the late retired High Court judge, Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe, was last night expected to arrive in Zimbabwe ahead of his burial in Mutare on Saturday, amid indications that Zanu PF will not accord him national hero status despite his liberation struggle credentials.
The retired jurist died in Namibia last week, where he was working as a judge of the Supreme Court after quitting his post as Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson in unclear circumstances.
Family spokesperson and son of the late judge, Tumai, said the body of his father and war veteran was expected in Harare last night as they prepared for his burial at the family rural home in Mutare.
“He will be buried on Saturday at our family home in Mutare. For now, mourners are gathered in Mandara and we shall announce further proceedings from there,” Tumai said.
The Zanu PF Manicaland provincial leadership had said that it had recommended national hero status for Mutambanengwe.
But party secretary for administration and Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo professed ignorance of the request by Manicaland.
“I am in Angola at the moment, but I don’t have such a letter, unless it was delivered today (yesterday). I never saw any letter from Manicaland until I left for Angola,” Chombo said.
Acting Zanu PF Manicaland chairperson Joseph Mujati, who on Monday revealed the province had requested national hero status for Mutambanengwe, was last night no longer eager to talk about the issue as he refused to comment.
Mutambanengwe worked as an independent lawyer from 1979 until 1986 when he was appointed High Court judge.
In 1994, he was appointed to the Namibian High Court.
Mutambanengwe also served as a judge of the Supreme Court in Namibia, and as acting Chief Justice.
After his retirement, he was serving as acting Judge of Appeal.
After the formation of the unity government in 2009, he was appointed as Zec chairperson in 2010 and resigned shortly before the country held its constitutional referendum in 2013.
Politically, Mutambanengwe was a key figure in the Nhari rebellion in 1974, and known for his outspokenness and independent judgments on various courts.