Mugabe's burial spat resolved
Publish date: 16 September 2019
Issue Number: 841
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Zimbabwean politicians, international dignitaries and thousands of citizens on Saturday gathered at a stadium in Harare to pay their final respects to former President Robert Mugabe. Al Jazeera reports that the state funeral followed a week of disputes between the Mugabe family and the government over where he will be laid to rest. The ruling ZANU-PF party and President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe's former deputy who helped remove him from power, wanted him to be buried at a national monument to heroes of the liberation war against white minority rule. But some relatives, expressing bitterness at the way former comrades had deposed Mugabe, pushed for him to be buried in his ancestral village of Kutama. The two parties on Friday finally agreed he should lie at National Heroes Acre in Harare. The burial will take place next month, once a new mausoleum has been built. Mugabe's coffin, draped in the green, black, gold and red Zimbabwe flag, was marched slowly into the stadium, which was only half-filled, accompanied by a military band and an escort of officers. His wife, Grace, in a black veil, and family followed behind. In a tribute to his predecessor, Mnangagwa said Mugabe stood in defence of Africans. He urged the West to remove sanctions that were imposed during Mugabe's rule. 'We who remain shall continue to hear his rich, brave, defiant and inspiring voice ... encouraging and warning us to be vigilant and astute,' Mnangagwa said.
Legalbrief reports that the spotlight is beginning to shift from former Mugabe to his widow, Grace, who enjoyed unparalleled protection from prosecution while he was alive, and his children who have inherited his chequered legacy. When Mugabe married Grace, she had a son, Russell from a previous marriage to an air force officer. He was involved in his mother’s business interests and used her influence to secure major contracts. A TimesLIVE report notes that his most publicised deal was the acquisition of platinum concessions by a Kazakhstan company, Todal Mining, in which he played the role of middleman. Russell who also acted as his mother’s ‘fixer’ in a deal where they purchased a $1.5m diamond ring from Lebanese businessman Jamal Hamed, who is now suing them for $4m over the alleged ‘unlawful seizure’ of his Harare houses. At the time of his stepfather’s death, Russell had relocated to Sandton, Johannesburg, with some associates who ruled the Harare social scene when Mugabe was in power.
Legalbrief reports that Mugabe’s first born and daughter Bona is married to a former pilot, Simba Chikore, who was charged with ‘detaining’ Zimbabwe Airways legal head Bertha Zakeyo at the airline’s offices last year. The two ‘bad boys’ of the Mugabe household, Robert Junior and Bellarmine Chatunga, are the most prominent. The inseparable pair’s champagne lifestyle sparked a diplomatic furore when their mother allegedly beat model Gabriella Engels in Sandton. Fox News reports that Grace Mugabe's future is far from certain, particularly since her immunity for that assault was stripped away last year. When their fall from power was imminent, Mugabe and his family were promised immunity from prosecution and granted a generous pension by now-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. According to some reports, the agreement between Mugabe and the military concerned Mugabe's direct and extended family, including his three children with Grace. However, following his death, unclear whether his pension or unquestioned protection remain, particularly with regards to the polarising former first lady, whose time next to her husband left a bitter taste across Africa.