Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
A team of experts will soon visit London to engage British authorities on the repatriation of skulls of heroes and heroines of the First Chimurenga that are still displayed in British museums as symbols of colonial conquest.
Addressing journalists in Harare yesterday, Home Affairs Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo said the team would use the opportunity to discuss the future of several Zimbabwean cultural artefacts confirmed to be in the United Kingdom’s museums.
This comes as a British paper, the Telegraph, identified the Natural History Museum in London as the museum where the skulls are displayed.
Quoting a spokesperson of the museum, the paper said: “The Natural History Museum has a policy of considering requests for return of human remains to their places of origin, under the provisions of Section 47 of the Human Tissue Act 2004,” he said.
“The museum actively engages in discussions with governments and communities with an interest in or who wish to make a claim for return of remains.”
In his address to journalists yesterday, Minister Chombo said plans were afoot to repatriate the skulls.
“The British government has acknowledged holding the remains (of the heroes and heroines of the First Chimurenga) and is now eager to have the remains identified for subsequent repatriation to Zimbabwe,” he said.
“As announced by His Excellency the President on Heroes Day, First Chimurenga resistance leaders such as Chingaira Makoni and Chinengundu Mashayamombe, among several others, had their heads cut off by colonial military, and the decapitated heads were shipped to Britain where they have remained as museum objects to this day.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs through the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, is now frantically working for the return of the remains.
“A team of experts to engage the British on the repatriation process is being constituted and will shortly leave for London to start the ball rolling.
“The team will also use its presence in the United Kingdom and engagement with British museums to discuss the future of other thousands of Zimbabwe cultural objects that are confirmed as forming part of the museums collection in the country.”
President Mugabe and relatives of the slain heroes and heroines have since castigated Britain for its inhuman conduct and insensitivity.
Speaking on the issue of land barons selling state land to unsuspecting people, Minister Chombo said the police would holistically investigate those cases with a view to arrest the culprits.
“Let me categorically state that the police will swiftly investigate illegal land sales with a view of not only instituting criminal charges against those found operating outside the dictates of the law, but also with the aim of recovering the money paid to them by unsuspecting home seekers,” he said.
“When need be, charges of money laundering will be preferred against these unscrupulous land dealers on order to recover the proceeds.”
Minister Chombo said corruption was also another problem that was scuttling development in the country.
He said Government was losing revenue through underhand dealings and kick backs in business transactions.
“We will also not hesitate to recover and confiscate assets and proceeds realised through corrupt means subsequent to prosecution of offenders,” he said.
Minister Chombo commended the police for doing everything in its capacity to de congest traffic in major cities and the role being played by the office of the Registrar-General in processing travel documents.