UK confirms repatriation deal

President Mugabe said it was baffling that Britain enjoyed keeping the heads as a sign of conquest in this modern era

President Mugabe said it was baffling that Britain enjoyed keeping the heads as a sign of conquest in this modern era

Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter
THE heads of heroes and heroines of the First Chimurenga — who were brutally decapitated by the settler regime before being ferried to Britain as trophies of conquest — will be repatriated soon as authorities from both countries are working out the logistics to conclude the process.

The heads, that are reported to be on display in a British history museum, testify to the horrendous price Zimbabweans paid for the independence and democracy the country enjoys today.

The British Embassy in Harare yesterday confirmed the development, saying discussions between Harare and London on the issue began in December last year.

Speaking at the National Heroes Acre during Heroes Day commemorations on Monday, President Mugabe said it was baffling that Britain enjoyed keeping the heads as a sign of conquest in this modern era.

He said the Government believed the heads belonged to some of the heroes and heroines of the First Chimurenga, among them Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, Chingaira Makoni, Chinengundu Mashayamombe, Mapondera, Mashonganyika and Chitekedza Chiwashira.

In response to questions from The Herald, the British embassy said they wanted the heads returned to Zimbabwe.

“The UK has since invited Zimbabwe to appoint technical experts to meet their museum counterparts in London to discuss some remains of Zimbabwean origin,” said the embassy in an emailed response to The Herald.

“We await the appointment of the required Zimbabwean experts to take this forward. We welcome the President’s statement which shows the importance of following a due process when handling sensitive museum collections.”

“It is not, however, yet clear whether the remains are related to the events, places or people referred to in the President’s speech.”

National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) executive director Dr Godfrey Mahachi said discussions were on-going between Zimbabwean and British authorities over the matter.

“Of course, Britain has confirmed that they are holding our human remains that got into the British museums sometime soon after the First Chimurenga,” he said.

“The process that is now taking place is about how we are going to handle the repatriation. This is why there is an invitation for Zimbabwe to constitute a team to discuss with British authorities.

Mr Mahachi said the situation would be clear after the meetings.

“We will only be able to get the full details after those discussions about how many are the remains, when and under what circumstances they were taken to the UK,” he said.

“That will enable us to reconstruct whose remains they are using our own history as well. What we want is to repatriate heroes that we are able to identify.”

President Mugabe said once the remains are repatriated, Government would consult with traditional leaders about how to bury them at the sacred shrines scattered throughout the country.

He said Zimbabwe would repatriate the remains with bitterness, questioning the rationale behind the rationale of the decapitations.

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