Outrage over war vets move

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Cultural leaders in Matabeleland have condemned attempts by war veterans to exhume Cecil John Rhodes’ remains at Matopos Hills, saying the region’s heritage must be respected.

A group of about 50 Zanla war veterans were allegedly stopped from desecrating Rhodes’ grave last week by Chief Masuku.

The former fighters, who formed Zanu PF’s military wing during the liberation war, claimed the presence of the grave, which is a tourist attraction, was responsible for the poor rainfall in the region.

Peter Zwidekalanga Khumalo, a descendant of King Mzilikazi, said the Matopos Hills must be respected because that was where the Njelele Shrine was allocated.Njelele is a prominent rainmaking shrine in Matabeleland.

“Rhodes’s grave is protected by the laws of this country and I don’t think it is possible to just remove it like that,” Khumalo said.

“There is a need for deep dialogue with the locals who are the custodians of Njelele.

“While it is a culture that is normal to other people, among the Ndebele it is taboo to dig graves and take bones to a rain shrine like Njelele. We accept that Njelele is a national shrine, but it shouldn’t be exposed to anyone to abuse it.”

Cont Mhlanga, a cultural activist, said communities must be allowed to debate issues around history and their culture.

“That an initiative that involves the rest of the country should be decided by a few individuals is sheer arrogance,” he said.

“It is the arrogance of Cecil John Rhodes that they are showing. It should be discussed nationally. As Zanla, what (development) have they brought to Bulawayo, to this city that was built by Rhodes? Rhodes should stay there,” Mhlanga charged.

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

National Museums and Monuments director Godfrey Mahachi said the grave was a “tangible element” of Zimbabwe’s history.