Robert Mugabe’s nephew and former Cabinet minister Patrick Zhuwao on Tuesday made a dramatic intervention in the row over where the former Zimbabwe president should be laid to rest, warning that those pushing for his burial at the National Heroes Acre were “inviting the spiritual wrath of the whole clan.”
“Speculation around President Mugabe’s final resting is totally uncalled for. There are people to whom President Mugabe outlined his wishes on where he would like his mortal remains to be interred,” Zhuwao wrote on his personal blog.
The government said the burial would take place on Sunday, September 15, but family sources told ZimLive on Tuesday that this was likely to change, without giving reasons.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa made a direct intervention earlier Tuesday, inviting tribal chiefs from Mugabe’s rural home in Zvimba to plead with them to allow the country’s founding leader to be buried at the hilltop monument in Harare reserved for veterans of Zimbabwe’s independence war.
Mugabe, who died aged 95 in a hospital in Singapore last Friday, was a totemic figure for his role in the struggle against white minority rule, leading Zimbabwe from independence in 1980 until he was toppled by his own army in November 2017.
The manner in which he was removed from power by the army and replaced by his former deputy Mnangagwa left a sour taste with his family. They say his health deteriorated quickly after his ousting and he was hurt that those who removed him never apologised.
Mugabe’s family has been pushing back, holding out for a burial in rural Kutama, 85km from the capital Harare, where Mugabe reportedly left instructions he wanted to be buried next to his mother, Bona.
An interment in Kutama would deny Mnangagwa the opportunity to preside over the burial of a man he shadowed for over 45 years, before a political fallout that would eventually end with Mugabe out of power and his allies, including Zhuwao, driven into exile.
Zimbabwe’s foreign ministry wrote to foreign embassies last Sunday saying foreign leaders intending to attend a funeral service scheduled for Saturday should leave immediately after the ceremony.
Ibbo Mandaza, a political analyst who is writing a biography of Mugabe, said Mnangagwa was trying to avoid the possibility of a situation where heads of state would attend a burial service in Mugabe’s home district to which he was not invited.
“That is the dilemma Mnangagwa faces, he can’t be sleeping well,” Mandaza said.
Zhuwao, now living in South Africa, did not state what Mugabe’s wishes were – but also left little doubt that he was opposed a Heroes Acre burial.
“President Mugabe’s wishes on his final resting place must be respected irrespective of the desires and wishes of any politician, no matter what lofty positions or office they think they occupy. Those who know President Mugabe’s wishes must NEVER be threatened or intimidated,” Zhuwao said.
The former youth and indigenisation minister who fled into exile when the military moved against his uncle, charged that “charlatans who are seeking to hijack President Mugabe’s legacy for their own selfish reasons.”
“Unfortunately, hijacking President Mugabe’s legacy for expediency will only provide transient relief to such grave robbers,” Zhuwao warned.
One of Mugabe’s loyalists Saviour Kasukuwere, also exiled, flew to Singapore with Zhuwao’s wife, Beauty, last week. Zhuwao did not travel, he said in his blog post.
“It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t able to visit him from the time I became aware that his health had taken a turn for the worse a couple of months ago. The same unholy conspiracy that wouldn’t allow me to have one last conversation with him also stopped me from paying my last respects to him in Singapore,” Zhuwao wrote, without explaining how his travel had been curtailed.
“As nephew of the Gushungo clan,” he went on, “I’m very aware of the spiritual power that vanaGushungo have over matters to do with their wishes, traditions and legacy. Let those who think they can torment President Mugabe’s departed soul and subjugate the wishes of the Gushungo ancestors know that they are inviting the spiritual wrath of the whole clan. Be warned; you will never win that spiritual war; kuzvikokera ngozi (that is inviting a curse on oneself).”