The late president of Zimbabwe Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe has refused to exit the limelight. Now he has ignited a huge traditional problem for the nation and the world. Mugabe has proved to be a source of controversy in life and in death.
On the 29th April 2021 chief Zvimba summoned Mugabe’s widow to appear before the traditional court to answer some charges. The charges are in short that Grace buried Mugabe in the house which is a taboo in Zvimba area. The other charge was that the Widow of Mugabe did not give out clothes for Mugabe to be distributed according to custom
Surprisingly before even tried the chief gave out the penalty before trial. Before the accused was head the decision is already spelt out.
Chief Zvimba is a traditional leader and has constitutional rights to summon his subjects.
Traditional leaders in Zimbabwe play many roles in their communities. They help to promote and uphold cultural values, facilitate development and resolving of disputes in their communities. The main functions of chiefs include dispute settlement, codification of customary law, arrangement of ceremonies and festivals, organisation of communal labour and promotion of socio-economic development. Chiefs have been involved in the development of their areas since precolonial times. Section 211(2) of the Constitution84 regards traditional authorities as primary agents of development. They are seen as the representatives of the community and as such are entrusted with an important responsibility, namely that of harmonising community customs and traditions with the ethos of the Constitution.
Zimbabwe adopted a new Constitution in 2013, which, among other things, recognises the role of traditional leadership institutions which operate alongside modern politics and judicial authority. The Constitution draws the line for the traditional leaders with regards to the scope and extent of their duties. In a number of ways there exists a conflict between traditional forms of judicial authority and modern forms of judicial authority, and this contributes considerably to the significance of traditional leadership institutions and customary law towards the realisation of the right to access to justice.
The institution of traditional leadership has always been central to the governance of communities in Zimbabwe. For example, the structures and systems of the institution of leadership in Ndebele, Shona, Kalanga, Tonga and Venda ethnic communities have some remarkable differences even though they also depict certain similarities. Currently and generally, the institution of traditional leadership comprises of chiefs, headmen and village heads in order of hierarchy. Traditional leaders are the closest to the people and therefore interact more with the citizens in the rural areas. Prior to the colonisation of Zimbabwe, the institution of traditional leadership was the sole governing body with legitimacy to govern derived from tradition and culture. So it comes without any surprise that Chief Zvimba summonses Grace Mugabe over the manner in which Mugabe was buried.
The question many people are asking is whether this is a systematic torture of the former First Lady
Days leading to Mugabe’s resignation during a military intervention, the First Lady had become a pain in the flesh. The nation has not yet forgotten the mouthfuls which the First Lady majored in. Is what is coming to her a payback? Considering that the former First Lady aimed her Slovo at the current President.
Is the president hand visible and clearly unseen in this or is it? The issue with Mugabe’s burial place has nothing to do with President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa. This is a matter of the traditional leader.
The taboo was so pronounced and it has taken these years to have a complaint.
Traditional leaders had fused ‘governmental’ powers and authority, that is, judicial, administrative and political powers, which is not the case with the modern state constitutional framework where there is strict adherence to the principle of separation of powers. Soon after colonisation in 1890, the colonial government dismantled, and in some places replaced, traditional governance structures with ‘modern’ state institutions.
So taking us back to the burial the Gushungo family conveyed their message to the government , the message was then changed and a decision was made to take Mugabe home. If there was any time when the family’s wishes would have been disregarded it was when the hero of Mugabe’s nature dies. Mugabe is a national hero; his heroics suppressed his faults. He was not only a member of ZANU PF. He was ZANU PF itself. Love him or hate him Mugabe won the hearts of both friends and enemies alike.
Burying him at heroes acre could not have been decided by his relatives or by Grace especially considering that she was not mentally stable due to grief. There is no person who is supposed to be buried at heroes acre more than Mugabe. Some people had scores to settle or had political reasons to offer dissenting voices made the burial place an issue, the reasons they gave was that Mugabe did not want Mnangagwa to gain political milage by officiating at Mugabe’s funeral. This could not be a reason for Mnangagwa to be involved in village politics. The burial of Mugabe is not a rally so there are no political gains to be won in officiating at his burial.
People should understand the presidency.
The president, in government, is the officer in whom the chief executive power of a nation is vested.
The traditional role of chiefs in the dispute resolution framework can be appropriately understood from an access to justice perspective. The term ‘access to justice’ implies availability of the means of implementing the laws provided in the statutes of a given area (a state in this case) for purposes of promoting justice. So taking Mugabe’s matter to the chief is perfectly correct. The complainant has the ability to seek and obtain a remedy through formal or informal institutions of justice for grievances in compliance with human rights.
Read: “Tsvimbo Yakasirwa Kasukuwere”: Zivhu Claims Mugabe Anointed Kasukuwere
Zimbabwe endowed the office of president with immutable executive powers, including the power to dissolve the national legislature and call national referendum. The elected president becomes a national property.
This means the president among being a human being is the property of the state. He is the face of the country and indeed his person is solely the person of the state.
When the president leaves office his welfare remains the responsibility of the state. He can not decide his fate. Mugabe’s burial place was therefore supposed to be decided by the politburo.
There are some organs of the party that had denigrated the person of Mugabe and his office. Most of these people were in diapers when Mugabe was in the trenches. Mugabe had taken decisions that made him unpopular but which enriched the people. The land reform programme needed a brave leader to issue a brave nod to the land issue. It is this decision that made Mugabe a hated person by the west.
While the issue before the chief has nothing to do with heroes acre it becomes imperative to discuss another burial place should Grace lose the case. For the place of burial, there is a place for heroes and there are some heroes who are not allowed to have a choice. Robert Mugabe appears to be a president in rebellion against his former office.
We might say what we want to say but Mugabe remains a property of the state and he can not choose where he wants to be buried.
There are some vindictive people in ED’s government who would want to see the total humiliation of Mugabe even after death. They have not understood ED when he said Mugabe was his icon. Indeed Mugabe is iconic but his position prohibits him from making sweeping statements about our hero himself. He does not belong to Grace or Gushungos anymore. He is a national property.
Heroes acre will lose its weight without Mugabe. It will become a white elephant if it is not serving its purpose.
Without any further negotiations, Mugabe must be buried at the heroes acre.
Maybe Grace does not want to see Mugabe’s grave near Sally. This madness must stop. Our hero to the heroes acre.
Mugabe was part of Zimbabwe and he should be buried at a place where his contributions to the state is recognised. The word Zimbabwe can never be in a paragraph without Robert Gabriel Mugabe.
However, that being said the rumour making rounds that Mugabe was buried with some spiritual powers hidden in a sepulchre or a traditional knobkerrie is total idiocy. Yes, there are traditions that must be done and strictly followed. Zimbabwe did not follow such traditions.
The way to hand over power from one leader to another or among traditional leaders in modern Africa, especially in modern African democracies, is complex and multifaceted. The power passing over is both “traditionalists” and “modernists.”
Traditionalists regard Africa’s traditional chiefs and elders as the true representatives of their people, accessible, respected, and legitimate, and therefore still essential to politics on the continent. “Modernists,” by contrast, view traditional authority as a gerontocratic, chauvinistic, authoritarian and increasingly irrelevant form of rule that is antithetical to democracy. Regardless of what they believe some traditional custom has to be applied. With all the cultural and traditional corruption we can not understand better popular perceptions of traditional leaders, how they are formed, and how they relate both to perceptions of elected leaders, and to support for a democratic system of government.
local traditional leaders appear to draw their sustenance and legitimacy from the same well as elected officials. African societies are often quite adept at integrating seemingly incompatible institutional structures, such as traditional institutions.
Africa’s traditional chiefs and elders are the true representatives of their people, accessible, respected, and legitimate, and therefore still essential to politics on the continent, and especially to the building of democracies. Because of this there is always a serious belief that the president needs traditional recognition if he wants to be a good leader. To that end it becomes planted in people’s minds that a traditional power transfer must be done before the president becomes acceptable.
With such a superstitious mind, it is expected to have the rumour machine to hitch to life.
It is because of such a belief that Grace Mugabe decided to bury the former president and his husband under the tones and tones of cement. The former First Lady had believed that President Mugabe and all that he touched was spiritually anointed.
There are those who believe that
traditional authority is a gerontocratic, chauvinistic, authoritarian and increasingly irrelevant form of power that is antithetical to democracy.
The belief in the traditional political systems is relics of the past that may actually impede democratic development, and which must therefore be overcome. If the belief in supernatural powers is removed the traditional institutions have proved both malleable and adaptable, and that even if they are much changed, they still draw on their historical roots in unique and valuable ways. The “tradition” – however, contested – as a resource to strengthen the community and polity, and to overcome the many failures of the Western liberal democratic model as it has been applied in Africa. It is only the belief in powers vested in sepulchres and snuff which undermines our cultural democracy.
Perhaps one thing that traditionalists and modernists often agree on, however, is that both portray traditional authority and elected political leaders as competitors. Whatever authority a traditional leader wrench from the state is treated as a loss for “official” state leadership, and vice versa.
It is therefore the perception of these powers which makes people anxious and panicking over Mugabe’s burying place.
African political elites of various persuasions, along with academics, activists, and chiefs themselves, believe that without these traditional rituals the one in power remains weak.
While traditional leaders, chiefs and elders clearly still play an important role in the lives of many Africans: only religious leaders are contacted more frequently by ordinary Africans in their efforts to solve their problems or express their views.
The belief in superstitious narrative is especially strong between traditional authorities and local government leaders. This is why they are fighting a pitched battle for public support, the fates of each appear to be inextricably linked.
The belief in powers of the dead shows an individual’s level of modernization, this plays a much bigger role in shaping perceptions of traditional authority than we might have expected.
And most significantly the debate about the reburial of Mugabe is based on this superstition that there is a powerful stick which Grace made sure Mugabe took it to the grave. This democraticness” of traditional powers has created a conflict between supporting traditional leadership and being a committed and active democrat.
This empty belief should not be taken serious. It is because of it that people start spreading rumours.
What we have on record is that the former First Lady has been summoned to explain why she buried her husband in a house. This is clearly nothing to do with the president.
There is no stick with powers and there is no amount of gossip which will make things better
Exhuming Mugabe is just a waste of time. Mugabe deserves better his body must be left to rest.
If there are traditions that were not followed they are now bygones. Fighting over a corpse is pagan and must not suck in our good government.
Chief Zvimba must use his brains if he has them.
President Mnangagwa respected the wishes of Mugabe’s family.