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Letter from America: Mugabe: Historical insights into funeral rituals!

By Professor Ken Mufuka

The death of former President Robert Mugabe on September 6 has exposed all the skeletons to the public which should have remained hidden.

Ken Mufuka
Ken Mufuka

The purpose of funeral rituals is to bring a modicum of unity between the departed (now entering the realm of ancestors) and those remaining. In the case of a national leader like Mugabe, the rituals would have served the purpose of uniting the family, the opposition party and the ruling party, at least for the few days before and after the funeral celebrations.

But we must not miss the reason why there were hold-ups before burial. Traditionally, certain scores were to be settled, certain debts paid or promises made and forgiveness sought followed by reconciliation. In my short life I have had the privilege of sitting at the feet of two of the African luminaries, Reverend Bishop Desmond Tutu and Professor John Mbiti.

I remember clearly their emphasis on the presence of invisible spiritual forces in the universe as well as forces that enforce natural law. This twin ideological understanding of the universe is very important in the African psyche but as Basil Davidson and B. Malinowski have shown, they are recognized universally. A little emphasis is not amiss.

The whole premise of ZANU-PF since the murder of Herbert Chitepo, has been the assumption that the powerful can murder, rape, cheat, use the treasury as their piggy bank, and loot diamonds; as long as they remain in power, there are no outside forces that can compel them to comply with the norms of society, whether spiritual or material. The same idea has prevailed in their economic thinking.

It is alright to seize and occupy white-owned farmland, drive former owners away, take no precautions or care about the farm workers left indigent. Having done all these, they do not expect any consequences; in fact, they expect the world to come to their aid, fund their projects and feed their starving populace.

According to this thinking, there are no spiritual forces over and above those enforceable by human hands. Holding power in their hands is the key to prosperity.

Mugabe was the chief practitioner of this gospel of power.

Need for cleansing

Having practiced these dark arts of government, it s no surprise that Mugabe’s successor is faced by a plethora of impediments to his rule, some of which directly emanate from ZANU-PF succession method.

Foremost among Mnangagwa’s difficulty is the crisis of legitimacy even among his own. Second is the spiraling economic chaos, which is a direct result of lack of trust and legitimacy. Third, as if the spiritual world has deserted him, the heavens have with-held rains, thus destroying half the economic base.

Clearly, there the intertwining of the spiritual world, as Professor George Kahari used to say, “Zvinhu hazvizi right” something ought to be done, atonement and repentance on the spiritual level and change of economic policies on the material level.

Mugabe, in death, as in life, sought to deny his successor both.

Mugabe and national atonement

The history of ZANU-PF is replete with secret national rituals aimed at advancing the national cause. When the liberation war had stalled in 1971, Herbert Chitepo sent a delegation to the spirit of Prophetess Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana

 A lesser known medium, Patrick Zimbiru of the Shiri Hungwe clan, was shot dead by Rhodesian forces after he held similar ritual ceremonies at Dombo-Mashava in 1974 in favor of the liberation forces. Dombo-Mashava is situated in the Chinamhora paramountcy.

But the great matter of national atonement is that war crimes were never accounted for, proper compensation done and reconciliation sought.

Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina and 2008 murders come to mind. I was approached in 1984 by a Mbonga joice Makwiramiti, a comrade who, a war veteran who joined the prison services at Mutimurefu in Masvingo province. As a Mbonga (a woman-who assumes the role of male prophet) she was in the line of Sekuru Kaguvi. I was then Director of National monuments at Great Zimbabwe, the proper place for such ceremonies.

But ZANU-PF leadership never accepted the need for a national atonement day. Instead, they preferred secret preventative ceremonies aimed to at preventing avenging spirits from taking a toll of the perpetrators of war crimes. (kutanda ngozi-kutanda zviremwa-remwa-chasing evil spirits by using necromancers, wizards or magicians).

Some of this necromancy has been hidden in plain sight. General Solomon Mujuru’s death was an assisted termination of life for which a cigarette fire was blamed. Mugabe, in his funeral oration, said that the death was “unexplainable.” Even deeper into the annals of ZANU-PF, the widow, who was then vice president, was persuaded to go along with the pretensions, on the grounds that her position in state and in society would remain protected.

Verily, I say unto you there are no blind men as those who do not want to see.

A very pronounced absence of Christian religious leaders marked all these burials. Mugabe was Catholic and yet the Holy Fathers were not prominent at his funeral ceremonies.

The agreed facts are cause for concern.

The family feared that Mugabe’s bodily parts, (ears, teeth and private parts) could be removed for ritual ceremonies. It is standard procedure for the presiding wizard to use a portion of the deceased’s body, dip it I some muti, (usually smoked mbanda leaf, mixed with human parts and other muti).

The wizard then pronounces in a smoke filled room: “We have buried you today, go and never return to trouble the living. We are finished with you.” Very often a goat’s body is buried with the deceased, as a scapegoat-carrying the malefactions of those who remain.

The Mugabe family was afraid that if Mugabe was buried at heroes Acre, there would no guarantee that his body would not be secretly violated during darkness by these wizards.

Mugabe’s explicit instruction that Ms. Grace should never leave the body, speaks to that.

These ritual ceremonies are I direct contrast to Christian ceremonies (or Jewish ceremony of atonement). These rituals are intended to transfer by magic the powers and aura formerly carried by a previous ruler through magical transference to the next ruler.

Christian ceremonies require confession and repentance to be followed by reconciliation and recompense. Confession exposes them to even greater danger of worldly punishment through criminal courts.

The aim, by Mugabe, in death, was to deny his successor E.D. Mnangagwa, a role in the funeral ceremonies, I private and in public, whether ritual or even peripheral, the old wizard denied his brother in arms, the passing of Elijah’s mantle. Other sources have since reported that Mugabe called Savior Kasukuwere to Singapore and passed on the staff and cloth of Mbuya Nehanda.

By these actions, as he had previously chosen Ambrose Mutinhiri to form the National Patriotic Front and prior to that had been fronting the name of Dr. Sydney Sekeramayi, the old wizard has sown the seeds of a whirlwind whose destination in unknowable.

In our ten year research, Cyril Zenda and I came to the conclusion that to Mugabe, men were to be used and discarded when their usefulness expired. Zimbabwe was his formation (as Shaka Zulu also assumed that Zulu nation was his formation).

Therefore, at his death, rather than allow Nehanda’s staff to pass on to Mnangagwa, he has denied him his blessings, thus creating a contested leadership. It was Mugabe’s lifetime motto, whatever he could not master, he destroyed.

(Ken Mufuka (and Cyril Zenda) was engaged in a ten year project which resulted in the book, Life and Times of Robert Mugabe 1980-2017: Dream Betrayed). The book is available in Zimbabwe through INNOV Bookshops and on the Internet through kenmufukabooks.com. Mufuka served as Regional Director of Monuments at great Zimbabwe 1982-1984.)