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Zimbabwe tells UK: Return the skulls of our freedom fighters

DEMAND: Return our the remains of our ancestors, orders Robert Mugabe

ROBERT MUGABE is sending experts to London to find the skulls of freedom fighters beheaded by imperialist Cecil Rhodes and bring them back to Zimbabwe for burial.

Tribal chiefs in the former British colony are also demanding the return of their ancestors’ remains, which were on public display in the Natural History Museum until late last year.

In a speech, the Zimbabwean president described the public display of the skulls as being “among the highest forms of racist moral decadence, sadism and human insensitivity.”

The missing skulls, taken as war trophies, include Chief Chingaira Makoni – leader of a Matabele resistance.

The chief killed one tenth of Cecil Rhodes’ army before being captured, shot and decapitated 119 years ago on September 4, 1896.

He was dynamited out of one of a network of tunnels in the hills of
eastern Zimbabwe that were created by resistance fighters.

Accounts say the chief’s head was thrown in a sack by the executor, a mannamed Watts, and shipped to London as a trophy, while some believe Rhodes later gave the skull to Queen Victoria as a gift.

The reigning Chief Makoni, the former freedom fighter Colgan Gwasira Zendera, demanded the return of his ancestor’s skull.

He said: "It belongs to the people of Makoni and Zimbabwe. It is part of our heritage and should be returned without any further delay."

Talks between the British and Zimbabwean governments have been ongoing since last December.

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Harare said: “It is not yet clear whether these remains are related to the events, places or people referred to in the President’s speech [last] week.”

Mugabe has in the past threatened to dig up Rhodes remains, which are buried in a shrine on the highest point of Matopos National Park near the second city Bulawayo.

There have also been called to rename Victoria Falls as Mosi-oa-Tunya.

Zimbabwe’s home affairs minister Dr Ignatius Chombo is pulling together a team of experts to visit the Natural History Museum and carry out DNA tests on the skulls.

Esther Stanford-Xosei, who was part of a reparations delegation that visited Zimbabwe, said: “It is very macabre that human remains of freedom fighters are sitting in a cold dark museum in Britain.

“According to many cultural traditions souls cannot rest in peace if there are not proper funeral rites.”

Stanford-Xosei, co-chair of the Pan Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe, called for Rhodes remains to be sent back to Britain while the freedom fighters remains are repatriated back to Zimbabwe.

“As long as he is there that colonial mind-set will remain and that spirit must be banished from Zimbabwe for ever,” she added.

Rhodes imposed oppressive white rule on Zimbabwe and Zambia – named Northern and Southern Rhodesia, helped found Apartheid South Africa and started the De Beers diamond company.

Talks between the British and Zimbabwean authorities on the repatriation of Zimbabwean the human remains of resistance leaders such as Chief Chingaira Makoni and Chinengundu Mashayamombe began last December, years after Mugabe’s government first raised the issue.

Mugabe wants to bury them in sacred shrines such as the National Heroes Acre outside the capital Harare.

Tichadii Ziwengwa Chishawira, the great-grandson of Chitekedza Chishawira, who was killed by the British during the first Chimurenga, which means 'revolutionary struggle' in the Shona language, told The Herald newspaper in Zimbabwe: “It is painful
for us. My great-grandfather died after he was tied to the leg of a horse. The decapitation of our forefather is an indictment of how insensitive imperialists were.”

The Natural History Museum claimed it could not verify if any of the skulls in their possession were from Zimbabwe but many of the skulls on display are labelled by country of origin and some have even been given names such as ‘Twiggy’ from Tanzania and ‘Mrs Pies’ from South Africa.

The museum has around 20,000 items in its human remains section.

Germany has already repatriated 20 skulls back to Namibia, a former colony where 80,000 Herero and Nama people were killed between 1904 and 1908.

The European superpower is currently facing a reparations claim for the atrocities.

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