Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe may have his body “dried”, his teeth “extracted” and his finger and toenails “ripped off” before burial

The late Robert Mugabe.
  • This is according to Zvimba traditional which dictates chief such as Mugabe be buried strictly according to the spiritual beliefs, superstitions and rituals of the tribe.
  • Mugabe grew up Catholic and was educated by Jesuits. But according to Burombo, he still followed “traditional norms and practices” despite “going to church”.
  • Since his death, Mugabe's burial has attracted sharp dispute between his family and the government who are literally ‘fighting for the possession of his body’.

The late Robert Mugabe, who died on September 6th at a Singaporean hospital, may have his body ‘dried”, his teeth “extracted” and his finger and toenails “ripped off”.

This is according to Zvimba traditional which dictates chief such as Mugabe be buried strictly according to the spiritual beliefs, superstitions and rituals of the tribe.

Once Mugabe’s remains were returned to his rural homestead Zvimba on Monday, traditional leaders demanded the burial remain in line with local rites.

A prominent Zimbabwean traditional healer, Benjamin Burombo Jnr, detailed the cultural beliefs and superstition surrounding the deaths and funerals of chiefs.

When a chief such as Mugabe dies, he is not a person that can be buried at Heroes Acre, that is forbidden. He should be buried in a cave,” Burombo told AFP.

Mugabe was not just a president, but he was the embodiment of the spirit of Kaguvi,” he added, referring to one of Zimbabwe’s revered spirit mediums and pre-colonial nationalist leader.

When a chief died, often his body “would be dried”, his teeth “extracted” and his finger and toenails “ripped off”, Burombo said.

He said the body would then be wrapped in skin hides before burial, and could even be swapped with a token such as a goat’s head to be buried instead.

“You can build that monument, but it doesn’t mean that is where the remains of Mugabe will be buried… it’s just for people to continue remembering him.”

Clash of cultures and religion beliefs play out

Since his death, Mugabe's burial has attracted sharp dispute between his family and the government who are literally ‘fighting for the possession of his body’.

His family wanted to bury him at his rural homestead Zvimba while the government wants his body to rest at a national monument at Heroes Acre Cemetery in Harare.

The two finally agreed Mugabe would be buried at the National Heroes Acre monument, in about 30 days, once a mausoleum was built for him.

One of the Zvimba chiefs, Raphael Zvikaramba, said they had “so far” accepted the government’s proposal, but refused to comment on the details.

“(Zvimba) chiefs are buried in caves and the burial is secretly conducted at night,” Mugabe’s nephew Dominic Matibiri told AFP, standing outside his late uncle’s rural house.

So how should Mugabe remains be interred

Mugabe grew up Catholic and was educated by Jesuits. But according to Burombo, he still followed “traditional norms and practices” despite “going to church”.

During a mass held in his honour, priest Emmanuel Ribeiro, a former acquaintance said the former president “was secretive and private” about his beliefs.

Mugabe’s remains currently lie in his childhood village of Kutama, in Zvimba district, about 90 kilometres (56 miles) west of Harare.

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