Repatriation of remains of First Chimurenga heroes inches closer

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Harare (New Ziana) – Following years of lobbying, efforts to secure the remains of heroes and heroines of Zimbabwe’s first chimurenga war that are being kept in British museums have moved an inch closer, with the institutions holding them expressing willingness to repatriate them following positive engagements between Harare and London.

The National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe dispatched a team of experts to the United Kingdom to assess a catalogue of skulls believed to be of First Chimurenga war heroes and heroines shipped as war trophies to Europe during the early colonial years.

Some of the skulls are believed to belong to revered early leaders of the struggle against colonialism, including Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, Chief Mashayamombe Chinengundu and Chief Makoni Chingaira among others.

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Cabinet had been briefed on the outcomes of the Fact-Finding Mission to the United Kingdom.

“The delegation was satisfied that there are indeed human remains of Zimbabwean origin in the United Kingdom as confirmed by the Natural History Museum and the Duckworth laboratory,” she told a post Cabinet briefing.
“Both the Natural History Museum and the University of Cambridge are willing to collaborate on the repatriation of the human remains in their institutions.”

Mutsvangwa said archival documents associated with the remains were examined to verify their authenticity and integrity.

“Government will spare no effort to ensure the repatriation of our ancestors,” she said.

The breakthrough in securing the remains comes hardly a week after reports indicated that a new law (Charities Act 2022) empowered museums and galleries in England and Wales to dispose of objects in their collections if there was a compelling moral obligation to do so.

Statutes governing most national institutions had restricted trustees’ powers to dispose of objects, with narrow exceptions on items such as duplicates.

Meanwhile, in keeping with efforts to honor the country’s heroes, the National Heroes Acre and other smaller burial sites for the country’s heroes would be upgraded.

For the National Heroes Acre, Mutsvangwa said Cabinet approved the proposed Architectural Designs for Phase II of the extension works which will see an additional 104 graves being added.

“The National Heroes Acre at its establishment had 195 graves. Forty-two years later, 161 graves have been utilised leaving 35. It is therefore important that an additional 104 graves be created to ensure that the national shrine is able to accommodate new burials at all times,” she said.

“Cabinet also directed the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage to ensure that the national shrine is refurbished. Provincial and district heroes acres will also be spruced up. Cabinet also discussed the need to maintain our heroes monuments outside the country.

“The national shrine will also have a Zimbabwe Liberation War Museum in its vicinity, to memorialise Zimbabwe’s colonial and liberation experiences together with the individual contributions of the heroes and heroines interred at the shrine. The National Heroes Acre is a symbol and celebration of Zimbabwe’s triumph over adversities associated with dispossession and colonialism.”
New Ziana

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