Dr Mavaza Corner

Zimbabwe has failed its First Chimurenga heroes

BY DR MASIMBA MAVAZA

Every human being on earth respects the dead. The Adventists believe that the dead know nothing and indeed this is biblical yet they bury their dead with honour. They buy expensive coffins and out tomb stones to create a shrine of the dead.

The Catholics bury them in the church yard and the Anglicans bury them inside church. The dead are respected in their deaths and are accorded a decent burial. This is what we are we are us and we respect our dead.

But our heroes have received none of that. Nehanda’s head still remains displayed in a museum in London. No one is doing nothing about it. Diaspora came up with a committee led by Eugine Majuru. In this committee there are lawyers pastors and business people. The Zimbabwean high Commission has distanced itself from this so did the government.

World wide people respect their heroes. Some even create a tomb if the unknown hero. The idea of such a burial seems first to have come to a chaplain at the Front, the Reverend David Railton (1884-1955), when he noticed in 1916 in a back garden at Armentières, a grave with a rough cross on which were pencilled the words “An Unknown British Soldier”.

In August 1920 he wrote to the Dean of Westminster, Herbert Ryle, through whose energies this memorial was carried into effect. The body was chosen from unknown British servicemen exhumed from four battle areas, the Aisne, the Somme, Arras and Ypres. (some sources say six bodies but confirmed accounts say four).

The remains were brought to the chapel at St. Pol on the night of 7th November 1920. The General Officer in charge of troops in France and Flanders, Brigadier General L.J. Wyatt, with Colonel Gell, went into the chapel alone, where the bodies on stretchers were covered by Union Flags. They had no idea from which area the bodies had come. Brigadier Wyatt selected one and the two officers placed it in a plain coffin and sealed it. The other three bodies were reburied. Wyatt said they were re-buried at the St Pol cemetery but Lt. (later Major General Sir) Cecil Smith says they were buried beside the Albert-Baupaume road to be discovered there by parties searching for bodies in the area.

In the morning Chaplains of the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and Non-Conformist churches held a service in the chapel before the body was escorted to Boulogne to rest overnight.

A British Warrior who fell in the Great War 1914-1918 for King and Country.
This ignited a fire in the hearts of the British they have continued burying their soldiers with respect and honour.

Those who have been declared to be villains are buried like dogs. But at least they are buried. Nehanda and her team the Zimbabwean heroes are displayed in the museum.

Let us see a list of villains who were never displayed in a museum but given some sort of burial albeit in an unmarked grave. This shows that there is power in a marked grave. Which means this is the power Zimbabwe is depriving itself by refusing to accord Nehanda a decent burial.

The list of the defeated fighters and their eternal humiliation.

SADDAM HUSEIN.
The former Iraqi leader, who was found hiding in a hole near Tikrit in 2003, was hanged three years later at a U.S. military base outside Baghdad after being convicted of crimes against humanity. As in the case of Qaddafi’s death, gruesome cell phone footage of Hussein’s corpse soon made its way online. Iraqi officials initially wanted to bury Hussein in a secret, unmarked grave. But the country’s new leaders ultimately permitted Hussein’s body to be buried in his hometown of Awja, after local politicians from nearby Tikrit and the head of Hussein’s tribe pleaded with them to do so. Hundreds of Iraqis attended a funeral for Hussein, who was buried 24 hours after his execution.

For a time, the burial place did become a shrine of sorts.

In 2007, the New York Times noted that the reception hall housing Hussein’s body, which was managed by the former leader’s family, had been renamed “Martyrs’ Hall” and featured inscriptions hailing Hussein as “the eagle of the Arabs.” Saddam-era Iraqi flags were draped over the former ruler’s grave and those of Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay, nearby.

UNLIKE Nehanda Saddam though defeated lies in a grave.

In 2006, Chile’s former military leader, who had avoided trial for thousands of cases of murder and torture because of his poor health, suffered a heart attack while under house arrest and died soon after. The Chilean government denied him a state funeral and an national day of mourning, but did accord him military honors at his funeral. Then-President Michelle Bachelet, whose father was tortured under Pinochet, refused to attend the ceremony.

After the funeral, Pinochet’s remains were flown by helicopter to a crematorium on the coast and his ashes were taken to his Los Boldos vacation home.
But Nehanda’s skull is on display as a defeated woman.

Again in 2006, the onetime communist leader and Serbian nationalist, who was facing trial at The Hague for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, died in his prison cell of a heart attack. Milosevic’s family accused the Serbian government of trying to block a burial in Serbia, but Belgrade did ultimately allow Milosevic to be buried in the yard of a family residence in his hometown, Pozarevac. Some 15,000 people attended. 

The former Ugandan leader, who fled to Saudi Arabia after he was toppled by Tanzania and America died of kidney failure in 2003 in the Saudi port city, Jeddah. One of Amin’s wives told Uganda’s Monitor that she had asked Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to allow Amin to return once her husband became gravely ill, only for Museveni to respond that Amin would be held accountable for his human rights abuses if he came back home. Ugandan government had decided to allow Amin’s body to be sent back to Uganda for burial if his family desired.

But Amin’s relatives appear to have chosen instead to bury the former ruler in Jeddah. Amin lies in a decent grave and Nehanda is in a museum as a sign if the conquest of the British over Zimbabwe.

The brutal Romanian dictator and his wife were executed by firing squad in 1989, after Ceausescu’s government was overthrown. He was, apparently, buried in the Ghencea military cemetery in Bucharest. But Ceausescu’s children questioned whether their parents were really interred in Ghencea — Romanian authorities had hastily buried the couple at night under crosses bearing false names, out of fear that the tombs would be desecrated. Pathologists confirmed last year that the bodies did indeed belong to the former ruler and his wife after exhuming their remains and performing DNA tests.

“Since 1990,” AFP wrote at the time, “dozens of Romanians nostalgic after [Ceausescu’s] regime have been gathering on his tomb for his birth anniversary and for Christmas, the day of his execution.” Yet people pay to witness the humiliation Nehanda received after her defeat.
When Spanish dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975, he was buried in the Valley of the Fallen, a massive underground basilica designed to honor those who died for the Fascist victory in the Spanish Civil War.
Franco’s tomb still serves as a shrine for his nostalgic supporters, who often attend mass there in large numbers and lay wreaths at his grave.

JOSEPH STALIN
When the notorious Communist strongman died in 1953, he was initially buried in Lenin’s Mausoleum. But in 1961, Stalin’s remains were moved to a simpler grave near the Kremlin, shown above, as part of a de-Stalinization process. His grave remains a shrine, however. AFP reported in March that several hundred (mostly elderly) Russians gathered in Moscow’s Red Square to lay flowers on Stalin’s grave in honor of the 58th anniversary of his death.

Mussolini’s remains tell perhaps the most bizarre story. The Italian Fascist dictator was executed by firing squad along with his mistress, Claretta Petacci, as they tried to escape to Spain at the end of World War II. According to History Today, Italian partisans then dumped the bodies of Mussolini and Petacci in a plaza in Milan where they were hung upside down, spat upon, and shot some more. Mussolini’s remains were then buried in an unmarked grave near Milan, only to be stolen in 1946 by an admirer, who left a note on the grave: “Finally, O Duce, you are with us.” When Mussolini’s body was finally recovered four months later in a trunk held by two Franciscan monks near Milan, the Italian authorities hid the corpse in a villa, a monastery, and a convent before finally burying the former Italian ruler in his hometown, Predappio.

“The long wait for interment did not prevent Mussolini’s grave from becoming a shrine for his followers and a key part of the continuing Mussolini cult,” History Today wrote back in 1999. And the debate over Mussolini’s remains hasn’t yet ended. In 2005, Mussolini’s family began debating whether the body should be moved to a grander location in Rome. For now, Mussolini is at rest in his birthplace.
One should ask where is Nehanda?

Hitler’s burial story is almost as wild and mysterious as Mussolini’s. When Hitler shot himself in his bunker in 1945 as the Russians seized Berlin, the BBC explains, his staff doused the Nazi leader’s body in petrol, set it ablaze, and buried it in a grave. But there were reports that Soviet troops secretly reburied the retmains in East Germany in 1945, and that the KGB discovered additional skull fragments near the bunker a year later and dug up Hitler’s remains again in 1970 to cremate them and scatter the ashes in a river, lest his grave in East Germany become a Nazi shrine. In recent years, Russian officials have claimed to possess a jaw bone and bullet-pierced skull fragment belonging to Hitler — items they say prove that Hitler committed suicide. But in 2009, American researchers concluded that the skull fragment belonged to a woman, though Russia disputed the finding.

EVER PERON
Argentina’s beloved first lady — whose life was celebrated in the Broadway musical “Evita” — may not qualify as a dictator, but her story is still worth telling. According to an account published in 1995, an embalmer masterfully preserved Eva’s body with all its internal organs when she died of cancer in 1952, and even made a number of wax and vinyl replicas of her corpse. Eva’s body was initially put on public display in Buenos Aires, as her husband Juan prepared a grand monument to house the remains. But when Juan was overthrown in a military coup in 1955, Argentina’s new leaders, seeking to rid the country of all things Peron, stashed the body first in an army major’s attic and then secretly buried the corpse in Italy under the name Maria Maggi de Magistris. “Wherever the military hid the body, even in the most secure military buildings, admirers would find it and repeatedly place flowers and candles nearby,” After another military coup in 1971, Argentina’s new leader, Gen. Alejandro Lanusse, had Eva’s body exhumed and sent to Juan, who was living in exile in Madrid at the time, in return for the former ruler’s support. Juan reportedly kept the body first in an open casket on his dining room table and then in a shrine in his attic. (There are creepy stories of Juan’s third wife, Isabel, combing the corpse’s hair and lying on top of, or in, the coffin.) Eva’s body was finally brought back to Argentina in 1974, when Isabel assumed control of the country after Juan, who had returned to Argentina the year before to serve a third term as president, died. Eva’s remains are now buried in a Buenos Aires tomb, located beneath two trap doors for security reasons. In the words of the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson, Eva’s tomb has become a “shrine, an object of pilgrimage, a place where men and women — increasingly, old men and old women — come to lay flowers and pray.” If you think giving your heroes a decent burial is satanic think again.

Zimbabwe’s heroes still remain as symbols of humiliation and defeat.
When shall we wake up and bury our heroes. Bring Nehanda Home.
Vazet2000@yahoo.co.uk

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