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Rhodes exhumation blocked


A group of about 50 Zanla war veterans last week allegedly stormed Matopo Hills in Matabeleland South Province, but were blocked by Chief Masuku after they attempted to dig up the remains of Cecil John Rhodes from the tourist resort area.

The incident occurred on Monday at Matopo Hills, 30km outside Bulawayo.

Sources said the former freedom fighters claimed they wanted to create space for reburial of their fallen heroes lying at Chimoio Shrine in Mozambique.

Zanla was Zanu PF’s military wing during the armed struggle.

The group was allegedly being led by former Zanu PF Bulawayo provincial executive member Monica Mguni-Sikhosana.

Mguni-Sikhosana could not be reached for comment on her mobile phone. Senior party officials are on record as pushing for the exhumation of Rhodes’ remains, arguing their presence belittled Zimbabwe’s independence.

Rhodes was buried on World’s View (Malindidzimu Hill) in Matopo National Park following his death in 1902.

According to sources, the former Zanla cadres performed rituals at the site and at Hove River where they bathed naked as part of the ceremony before visiting Chief Masuku to notify him of their plans to exhume the remains.

They reportedly claimed the remains of the former colonialist were causing poor rains in the region.
But Chief Masuku reportedly stood his ground and refused to sanction their mission.

Although the matter was not reported to the police, National Museums and Monuments director Godfrey Mahachi described the move as illegal.

“All I can say is that the reason why we are keeping Rhodes’ grave is that it is part and parcel of the history of Zimbabwe,” he told NewsDay yesterday.

“The grave continues to be a reminder of the colonisation of this country.

“It is a tangible element of that history. We can’t deny the fact that Rhodes headed colonisation.

“I don’t think that removing the grave will assist in any way in getting us to appreciate our history, in particular the colonisation of this country. It might hurt some of us in our society to keep the grave, but we can’t deny that Rhodes is part of our history.

“The call for the removal of the grave is not new, but our view is that it is part of national history and heritage,” he said.

Marshal Mpofu, the spokesperson for the Zipra Veterans’ Trust, described the move as “disgusting”.
“We are saddened by this unusual act by Zanla war veterans,” he said.

“While they were performing the rituals naked, they had also forced a widow, 70-year-old Mrs Ndlovu, to sing, ululate and clap for their disgusting act.

“The thought of it is just sickening. It’s uncultural and disrespectful what they did,” Mpofu said. Their sickening ritual act is the one which is blocking the rains, not Rhodes’ grave, as they claim.

“We wonder where they are getting permission and guts to do that, because that is a respected and protected area.”

He said as Zipra, they would not allow “these criminals to destroy Rhodes’ grave, abuse villagers and disrespect the people of that area and their culture they way they did”.

Mpofu said instead, the Zanla ex-combatants should focus their energies on pushing for the exhumation and reburial of Gukurahundi victims buried in mass graves in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.

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