Govt launches cultural property trafficking manual

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RURAL Development, Promotion and Preservation of National Culture and Heritage minister Abednico Ncube on Wednesday night said government was concerned by increasing trafficking of cultural artefacts in the country.

BY WINSTONE ANTONIO

The remarks were made in a speech read on his behalf by Sport, Arts and Culture permanent secretary Thokozile Chitepo at the National Art Gallery during the launch of a manual on Combating Heritage Crime and Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property.

The manual, which was co-authored by Prisca Nyaunde and Kundishora Chipunza, will help law enforcement agencies, border control units, courier, shipping and forwarding companies to combat the illicit trafficking of cultural property.

“The promotion and preservation of national culture and heritage is a critical facet of a nation’s livelihood. Cultural heritage is a reflection of our history, our civilisation and how we Zimbabweans have co-existed with other people,” Ncube said.

Thokozile Chitepo

“The project comes at a time when government is increasingly taking note of the implications of criminal activity for cultural heritage, taking into account the historical trafficking of decapitated heads of the first Chimurenga heroes to Europe.”

Ncube said the country has been a victim of illegal trafficking of cultural property since the colonial era when thousands of cultural and art objects were looted from Zimbabwe and sold abroad.

“The theft and trafficking of cultural property and other items of archaeological and historical significance represent a profound and often irreparable loss, one that we must work together to stop before it is too late,” he said.

Ncube said trafficking in cultural property represents a source of enormous illicit profits accruing to Western countries, while disenfranchising Third World countries like Zimbabwe.

One of the authors, Nyaunde, said the manual highlights preventive strategies that can be used to protect cultural heritage and the challenges that are faced by the heritage institutions in protecting this heritage.

“It is our hope as the co-authors of the manual that it will create a platform for collaborative interaction among the heritage institutions and law enforcement agencies, Immigration, Interpol, Civil Aviation Authority and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority among other bodies,” he said.