By Cletus Mushanawani
THE Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage has come up with a Liberation War Mass Graves and Human Remains Management Policy to help address some of the challenges being faced in maintaining some of the shrines both at home and in neighbouring countries.
Most of the liberation war shrines are in a bad state, while challenges are being experienced during exhumations and reburial of fallen heroes due to lack of a proper policy framework.
The new policy seeks to improve the management, preservation and protection of mass graves, enhance the documentation, exhumation and protection of mass graves and accord recognition, decent burial/reburial and closure on certain persons killed during the liberation struggle. Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe said the policy framework would be shared with all stakeholders for their comments.
In a speech read on his behalf at the reburial of the remains of 300 people who were massacred by the Rhodesian Forces during the liberation struggle at Matumba Six Shrine near Old Mutare yesterday by his deputy, Cde Mike Madiro, Minister Kazembe said: “The reburials we are conducting today will not be the last.
We know that there are other places across the country with liberation war burials that require our attention so that they become respectable final resting places for the war dead.
To successfully deal with future cases, it is Government’s observation that a policy framework to guide this work must be put in place.”
The remains were exhumed in a shaft at Ardwell Mine in Chiware area of Rusape and this brings the number of people buried at Matumba Six Shrine since 2014 to 397 people.
Apart from throwing victims in disused mine shafts, the Rhodesians also had an even more horrendous system of disposing the remains of those they killed or executed in prisons.
“The system was just inhuman as evidenced by what we witnessed at Chibondo (Mt Darwin), the Butcher Site in Rusape, Ardwell and other places.
The purchase of a macro-burn, an incinerator to burn executed prisoners to ashes, within hours, was one of the methods Rhodesians employed at the Chikurubi Prison from 1977.
“We will never know how many of our people were disposed of in this manner. What is, however, beyond debate is that the macro-burn was in constant use, hence the estimation that hundreds of our people whose burial locations have not been identified were disposed of in this manner,” said Minister Kazembe.
He said Government was also working at harnessing advances made in genomic sciences so that DNA analysis could also be used in identification of victims. Reburial, whilst very important, should, where possible, be accompanied by identification of victims. Identification of victims helps the relatives who since the end of the war have questions as to what happened to their loved ones who did not return home when the war ended,” said Minister Kazembe.
Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba said there was need to accord the shrine the national status as part of preserving the liberation struggle history which is fast dying with those who participated in the struggle.
“What legacy are we leaving for our children when we do not have documented history of the liberation struggle? We are still expecting more reburials here and we call upon the responsible authorities to accord this shrine national status.