Harare provincial leaders of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) yesterday threatened to shut down NewsDay unless the newspaper disclosed who leaked the story alleging the ex-combatants had attempted to dig up the remains of Cecil John Rhodes from Matobo Hills.
Last month, NewsDay carried a report where Chief Masuku of Matobo had reportedly blocked a group of about 50 ex-Zanla fighters from exhuming Rhodes remains from the national tourist attraction.
The group, according to sources, was allegedly being led by former Zanu PF Bulawayo provincial executive member Monica Mguni-Sikhosana.
Chief Masuku reportedly confirmed the incident and said he would raise the matter at the Chiefs Council conference currently underway in Bulawayo.
But ZNLWVA chairman Charles Mpofu said yesterday: We want you to direct us to the person who gave out that information about war veterans going to Cecil John Rhodes grave and if we do not find that person, we will close down your offices in five days.
We will close down the company until we find the person. It is tarnishing the image of the war veterans, and it also divides us. Our members were never there on the day in question.
Rhodes was buried on Worlds View (Malindidzimu Hill) in Matopo National Park in 1902.
According to sources, the former Zanla cadres performed rituals at the site and at Hove River, stripping naked and bathing in the river while forcing a 70-year old woman to ululate and clap hands before approaching Chief Masuku at his homestead to notify him of their plans to exhume the remains.
War veterans national leader Jabulani Sibanda last night said he was not aware of the threat on NewsDay but advised that the newspaper gives in to the ex-fighters demands.
I was not aware of that, but all I can advise you is to provide them with the source (of the story) so that the two parties can meet and understand, because I also found out about the Rhodes story from your paper, Sibanda said.
Minister of Information and Publicity Webster Shamu said he could only comment after hearing the ex-fighters side of the story. He said he had last night made strenuous efforts to contact Mpofu and others in his team that issued the ultimatum to NewsDay, but had been unsuccessful.
I am the Minister of Information and have the obligation to protect the interests of the media in the country, but I also have no right to comment about what is said about someone without me getting what that person has to say for themselves, the minister said.
I will keep trying to get hold of them so that they tell me what transpired. Otherwise I might comment on what you are telling me and then the people deny the allegations tomorrow.
Without a full investigation, I have no right to comment.National Museums and Monuments director Godfrey Mahachi has described the move to exhume Rhodes remains as illegal.
Last year, another group of war veterans from Harare, Mutare, Kadoma, Kwekwe and Rusape reportedly visited the sacred Njelele Shrine for cleansing purposes.
They spent the night here on Friday, singing and chanting slogans, Chief Masuku said. They came again on Sunday night before leaving today (Monday).
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