Zimbabwe to repatriate anti-colonial heroes’ remains from Britain

Zimbabwe on Thursday announced the imminent repatriation of the human remains of 27 people considered heroes of the country’s anti-colonial war after they were taken to Britain in the 1890s and kept in various museums.

The country’s museums and monuments department had been talking to museums in Britain which “have said we can come and collect the heads of the beheaded heroes,” said Gwasira Makoni, who is leading a special committee preparing for the repatriations.

“We expect that in the next two months some of the heads would have been brought home to be properly mourned and given decent burials”.

Among the heads to the brought back home are those of spirit mediums and cult heroes Mbuya Charwe Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi who were some of the early anti-colonial activists in the fight to drive back British colonialists.

“When the white colonialists came, they faced resistance from the locals,” said Makoni.

When they conquered the locals, “they beheaded the chiefs, the warriors who had shown bravery and spirit mediums who gave spiritual guidance and took their heads to Britain as a symbol of subjugation,” he said.

Chief Makoni bemoaned the delay in repatriating the remains, coming 40 years after independence from Britain.

Historian Ottoman Magaya formed the Handa Trust named after Nehanda to press for the repatriation of the heads and lobbied the government to approach British authorities.

Colonialists under the aegis of the British South Africa Company entered Zimbabwe from neighbouring South Africa in 1890 in search of gold and other precious minerals.

They faced resistance from locals whom they later defeated and named the country Rhodesia.

Colonial rule ended after a guerrilla war achieved black-majority rule in 1980 and the country was renamed Zimbabwe under the leadership of Robert Mugabe who died in September 2019.

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