An order for the exhumation and reburial of former President Robert Mugabe issued by a traditional chief this week is “outrageous” and “defies common sense and logic,” constitutional law expert Professor Madhuku said Tuesday.
Prof Madhuku said Chief Zvimba, real name Stanley Mhondoro, has no legal authority to order the exhumation of any body, let alone decide its burial place well outside his area of control.
The traditional court sat on May 20, and its judgement was delivered to the Mugabe rural home in Kutama where his family buried him in line with his wishes. Mugabe’s widow, Grace, was fined five cows and a goat, the court taking the view that Mugabe should have been buried at the Heroes Acre in Harare where President Emmerson Mnangagwa – who took over following Mugabe’s ouster in a military coup in 2017 – desperately wanted him interred.
The traditional court gave Mugabe’s widow – who has been in Singapore for a year and who did not attend the hearing – up to July 1 to ensure Mugabe is reburied at the hilltop shrine for independence war heroes in Harare.
“It clearly appears that the traditional court has gone outside its jurisdiction, for example the whole point of exhuming a body is not governed by customary law in Zimbabwe,” Prof Madhuku said.
“If you want to exhume any body in any part of the country, you don’t go to a customary law court. A customary community court in this case does not have the power to order what appears to have been ordered. The furthest they can go is to try and say whether or not Grace Mugabe would have done something wrong here, but not to the extent of making an exhumation order, so that is a reviewable ground, you can take that court to a higher court and say that it went outside its jurisdiction.”
Madhuku, a senior law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said he was convinced that Chief Zvimba’s ruling “would not stand scrutiny in any superior court because it strikes me as extremely outrageous in its defiance of common sense or logic.”
Madhuku noted that although the constitution recognises customary law, and the existence of different customary laws for particular communities, he disputed if there was “any custom of the people of any community of this country that would put a wife or a widow in the position of Grace Mugabe.”
He added: “I doubt that the custom of that area would tolerate that. We know that when a person is buried, it doesn’t matter what prominent role is played by the wife. It will still remain a burial by the Mugabe family. It still remains a decision by the Mugabe family, even when those decisions made by the Mugabe family are decisions dominated by the wife.
“You have a group of people in a family, and they make decisions, it is very wrong to actually try and go behind every decision and say that this is the decision of so and so.”
Mugabe’s family and the former president’s supporters charge that Chief Zvimba is in fact fronting for Mnangagwa.
Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwawo accused Mnangagwa of being the invisible force orchestrating the exhumation bid in the bizarre belief that Mugabe was buried with a mystic scepter that would give him commanding authority as a leader of Zimbabwe, as 2023 elections beckon.