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Bones will Rise: Myths, Facts Behind the Zimbabwe 'Presidential' Sceptre

Christianity remains the dominant religion in Zimbabwe, at least on paper, because some citizens still practice African traditions. At 80 p...

Christianity remains the dominant religion in Zimbabwe, at least on paper, because some citizens still practice African traditions.

At 80 percent, Christians consist the largest section of believers in the country, dating back to the 16th century fronted by missionaries, including Father Gonsalo Da Silveira.

By @Comic24Derick

However, while some claim to be Christians because they attend church services regularly, though they indulge in traditional rituals from time to time.

Christianity plays an integral part in Zimbabwe society, with marriages, baptism and other practices being religiously followed in the country for years.

History of liberation

Historically, the nation’s liberation struggle was said to anchor on spirit mediums, who are believed to have played a leading role in redeeming the country from the vices of colonization.

The story of Mbuya Nehanda, a powerful, respected female Shona spirit medium – dating back from 1840 to 1898. 
A Traditional Leader Hans Over Traditional Item to the Late Joshua Nkomo
As a leading spiritual leader, she led the Chimurenga revolt against the British South Africa Company’s colonization and minority rule led by Cecil John Rhodes in 1889.

Her revolt, sadly led to her death, after she was captured in the 1897 rebellion and charged with the murder of a white commissioner. A year later, she was hanged. However, her heroism greatly inspired the nationalist struggle for liberation in the 1950s and 70s.

Some places and roads have been named after her. Sekuru Kaguvi another spiritual medium was instrumental in the liberation struggle. He was said to possess the ability to speak to the creator, directly. Again, he was hanged in 1898 after being accused of killing an African policeman.

The liberation war was underpinned by certain rituals that were performed by various fighters in consultation with traditional leaders, who played a leading role, in conducting various rituals. 

This rich historic account, it reveals that Zimbabweans are heavily spiritually inclined. And the recent tiff over the so-called scepter, allegedly owned by the late president Robert Mugabe is not a surprise.

A coup that was not a coup

It all began in November 2017. Then, the military dethroned the former president. The humiliation via his trusted lieutenants, left Mugabe bitter, such that in one of his speeches, just before 2018 harmonised elections, he vowed to vote for the opposition as opposed to his former party, which had recalled him from the party he had served his entire life.

Mugabe was a controversial character, both in life and death. After his demise in Singapore in September 2019, the state rightfully declared him a national hero following his undisputed vast contribution to the emancipation of the county. But the controversy was just beginning.
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While the world had prepared for an impending burial of Mugabe at the heroes’ shrine, next to his comrades whom he had fought side by side until his demise, a confrontation between the family and state, fronted by this wife Grace began. 

Grace insisted that Mugabe’s last wish was to be buried in his rural home, next to his late mother Bona. Mugabe’s election to be buried in his village was largely persuaded by his 2017 removal by the army.

“We are happy the burial has finally been conducted here at the Mugabe homestead, as this was the late Robert Mugabe’s last wish,” Shuvai Gumbochuma, the elder sister of former first lady Grace Mugabe told the Anadolu Agency (AA).

The sister added, “Our brother-in-law told us before he died that he was ridiculed by his successor and as such he longer wanted to be associated with the current government.”

Back to the village of birth

In the end, Mugabe who had attracted multitudes to his gatherings was only attended by 200 close relatives and friends. From the way he was buried, his body taken in a hasty to the village against the government’s wishes meant there was more to the story than mere squabbles over a dead body.

And it did not take time to manifest. Only two years later, a Zvimba chief, Stanley Mhondoro summoned Mugabe’s wife to his traditional court, accusing her of improperly burying her husband, further charging her five beats plus a goat.

“You are facing charges of burying the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe at his homestead,” reads the summons from the chief dated April 21, 2021.

“This is unheard of in Chief Zvimba’s area. At the same time, you are accused of abandoning Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s property, which is scattered nationwide. All properties of the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe are supposed to be kept at his homestead and handled in line with our traditions.

“I want you to rebury the late president in accordance with our traditions and in Zvimba at a place designated by the family and his late mother. These charges you are facing attract a fine of two cattle and a goat,” the chief demanded.

However, the chief later refuted that he summoned Mugabe’s widow. “I know nothing about this issue (summons),” Chief Zvimba told NewsDay. 
Some Still Believe the Sceptre was Buried with Mugabe

“I am hearing it only from inquiries coming from here and there. I know absolutely nothing about that. I have not seen anything and I have nothing to say on that because I am in the dark. I am not aware of anything.”

Where is the sceptre?

Mugabe’s exiled nephew, Patrick Zhuwawo said the reason for the planned exhumation was to allegedly retrieve a sceptre that is believed to have been buried alongside Mugabe.

“The reason that he wants to exhume the mortal remains of President Mugabe is that he has been looking for a sceptre that he believes has the authority to be the leader of Zimbabwe,” Zhuwawo told the SABC.

“Mnangagwa, in my presence and in the presence of two of my colleagues, has indicated that he believes they are 16 traditional leaders who will effectively anoint the person that will be able to effectively govern and rule Zimbabwe and he believes that President Mugabe had that sceptre. He believed the sceptre was buried with him.”

The ruling party dismissed the scepter issue, however, a Twitter post by Norton MP, Temba Mliswa and a former ruling party member revealed more. 

“In our culture, the issue of tsvimbo (sceptre) & handing it down is very important. Much as there’s a lot of westernisation, our country is still very spiritual,” Mliswa tweeted.

“So for as long as Spirit Mediums aren’t happy, as a country we’ll not get where we want to be. They feel they’ve been neglected. Spirit Mediums played a major role in the liberation of this country and yet lack the requisite recognition.”

As Zimbabwe prepares for the impending 2023 elections, the bickering continues in the avenues of power for a sceptre that is believed to possess magical powers to transform the nation’s fortunes, and also offer uncontested leadership abilities to the president.

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