Last Sunday, Green Resources exhumed six graves in Goromonzi district at a site that used to be a farm and has been earmarked for industrial development.
The human remains, estimated by district medical officer Dr Karimu, to have been buried between 1960 and 1980, were re-buried at Ruwa Cemetery. If the company gets clearance from Chief Chikwaka, the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the Police, the Registrar General and the svikiro of the area, they intend to exhume four more graves before commencement of their project early next year. Our Assistant Editor Wendy Nyakurerwa tells us the story…
Under normal circumstances, scenes at gravesides are characterised by wailing women and children, with men occasionally stepping aside to discreetly wipe away tears.
No matter how many times we go through it, the pain of losing a loved one is always be a bitter pill to swallow.
But as much as the departed are cherished, when their time on Mother Earth lapses, they have to be buried deep inside her belly, never to be seen physically again.
Now picture this: you lose your one-year-old first born son to a short illness just as he is starting to crawl and learning to say “mummy”.
Years after that, your husband follows suit and they are buried side-by-side. Then your nephew joins them on the other side of life.
There is indescribable grief. But time is the ultimate healer.
In a couple of years, you manage to move on and find solace in a new husband and build a new family far away from the graves of your dear departed.
Another four protracted decades later, you wake up one brilliant morning to the boisterous sound of a truck arriving at your homestead.
A relative and some strangers disembark and get straight to the point: your presence is urgently required that very morning at the exhumation and reburial of your late husband and son to pave way for industrial development.
As you struggle to comprehend the implications of this, the strangers wait to ferry you to bear witness.
Thus Gogo Jennifer Kapalamula (82) found herself at the grave sites of her loved ones to re-live the agony and torture of seeing their remains exhumed so as to be lowered six feet under again more than 40 years after the initial experience.
This time around, dejection overrides the pain and a mixture of emotions distorts her weary visage.
“Vari kutirangaridza zvinhu zvakapfuura kare kare,” she tells this publication, hinting she might not go through with the reburial.
Motherly love sees her go through with it, though.
Munyaradzi Marambire, Green Resources’ socio-economist, has an explanation for the exhumations.
“We understand that culturally people have got an attachment with their loved ones’ graves.
“However, it is very unfortunate that at times we have to pave way for development,” he laments.
The Sunday Mail Extra has gathered that back in the 1960s, Gogo Kapalamula and her husband worked at a farm in Goromonzi, close to present-day Ruwa.
Being of Malawian origin, when her loved ones passed on she laid them to rest at the farm.
When she re-married, she relocated to rural Goromonzi, unwillingly leaving behind the graves.
Decades later, after the farm ceased operations, again she had to come back in the company of her brother Elias Damaros and nephews Gift Mairosi and Mairosi Kapalamula, this time to witness the exhumation and reburial.
Marambire says having acquired the land from the Department of Physical Planning in the Local Government Ministry, Green Resources carried out an environmental impact assessment in consultation with the community.
“In doing so, that is when we discovered the graves and the society highlighted that having the graves on this site would affect them socially,” he explains.
Exhuming and reburying remains is no easy task.
Green Resources needed approval from the local traditional leader, Chief Chikwaka.
The chief gave the green light when none of the six people’s relatives came forward after flighting of two Press adverts about Green Resources’ intensions.The chief only got to know Gogo Kapamula’s whereabouts a day before the exhumation, hence the mad dash to have the old lady present.
Then there was the clearance from the Health Ministry through Goromonzi district medical officer Dr Karimu, who had to monitor the entire process so as to identify the human remains and ensure people conducting the exhumation were not exposed to any infections.
Police clearance also had to be sort, and then the Registrar-General issued burial orders.
One would think that with all those authorities involved it would end there. But no. They also had to contend with Benhura, the area’s svikiro.
Benhura is the only one with “nzeve dzepasi” with regards to the area’s issues and had to “talk to the dead” to get final clearance from them.
That was probably the longest of the processes. From 6am to around 9am on Sunday, the svikiro communicated with the dead until he was told to go ahead.
Dr Karimu says of the six graves exhumed, human remains were recovered from only four. Two once held children, and “since these people were buried around 40 years ago, all organic remains had been absorbed by the environment. Only non-human remains such as blankets were exhumed and reburied”.
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