The family of liberation icon Joshua Nkomo says it is not ruling out exhuming his body from the National Heroes Acre in Harare for reburial at his homestead in Kezi, Matabeleland South.
Nkomo’s son, Sibangilizwe, spoke after former President Robert Mugabe was buried at his rural village in Kutama last week. His family said he left specific instructions that he did not wish to be buried at the hilltop shrine in Harare where Nkomo and many other veterans of the 1970s guerrilla war for independence are buried.
“I actually refused that he be buried at the Heroes Acre because he had told me he wanted to be buried at his homestead. I failed to achieve this because most probably I didn’t have as much power as Grace Mugabe,” Nkomo, one of the former vice president’s two surviving children, is quoted as saying by The Daily News.
Nkomo died in 1999. When his widow Johanna died in 2003, she too was buried at the Heroes Acre next to her husband after being declared a national hero.
“We still have that wish to bury him next to his parents as he wanted,” Sibangilizwe said. “The nation must understand that should we decide as a family to remove his remains from the Heroes Acre, it will be because we are following his wishes.”
Sibangilizwe said any decision to exhume the former vice president’s body would also be extended to his wife.
“They went through thick and thin together, I don’t see a scenario where we exhume one and leave the other,” he said.
A decision on exhumation and reburial would also require the approval of Thandiwe, Nkomo’s other surviving child, but will likely be fiercely resisted by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
Mugabe’s decision to snub the Heroes Acre stunned the government which is reported to have tried to use strong arm tactics to see him buried at the shrine.
The Heroes Acre is diminished as a burial site for national heroes after Mugabe’s snub, say political analysts.
Exiled former minister and political scientist Professor Jonathan Moyo, writing on Twitter, said the Heroes Acre was now “soiled and confirmed as just a Zanu PF cemetery and thus permanently discredited.”