President Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe has called for the remains of Cecil Rhodes to be returned to Britain in exchange for skulls and other war trophies held in London.
The skull of the last known spirit medium of Mbuya Nehanda is believed to be in the hands of the British.
Speaking to traditional leaders on Friday in Harare, president Mnangagwa said Rhodes’ remains should be returned in exchange for Zimbabweans’ ancestors’ remains in the UK.
“We still have Rhodes’ remains in Matobo. What do you think about it? If you go to the shrine, you don’t know whether you are talking to Rhodes or our ancestors. His remains must be returned to where he hailed from and we can also have our ancestral remains which are being kept in Europe,” said Mnangagwa.
Rhodes was a colonialist and politician who played a dominant role in Southern Africa in the late 19th century. A businessman who made his fortune in SA’s diamond fields, he founded the De Beers diamond firm.He died in 1902.
Rhodes’ self-chosen burial place is at Matobo Hills National Park, south of Bulawayo.His tomb has been left untouched since his death despite the uprising against the white-rule minority government and growing anti-British sentiment. Mnangagwa’s plan marks a break with his predecessor, Robert Mugabe, who protected the rock-hewn grave even as the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign brought down statues and busts in South Africa and Britain.
For the past couple of years politicians in Zimbabwe have threatened to exhume the remains of the colonialists Rhodes. Nonetheless, there has never been a more concerted effort to action the rhetoric.
The gravesite is a tourist cash-cow, visited by thousands of tourists both local and foreign. It lies at the summit of a hill known as the “Worlds View.” Locals call the hill where Rhodes lies “Malindadzimu”, a word meaning “burial place of the defied ancestors”.
Zimbabweans are charged ZWL$40 entry to the national park and an additional ZWL$25 to see Rhodes’ grave. Foreigners pay US$15 (R237) for admittance and an extra US$10 (R158) to view the site.
In 2003, the sacred Matobo Hills was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site and the gravesite is under the custodianship of the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe.