The Sunday Mail
A UK museum has examined 13 human remains of heroes and heroines of the First Chimurenga as part of preparations to repatriate them back home.
The remains include those of iconic 19th century leaders such as Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, Chingaira Makoni, Mapondera, Mashayamombe Chinengundu, Mashonganyika and Chiwashuro, who put up spirited resistance against the invading white settlers in the late 1890s.
Most of the leaders were captured, killed and beheaded. Their remains were shipped to Europe, particularly the UK.
Zimbabwe’s embassy in the UK told The Sunday Mail that talks with the London-based Natural History Museum are currently ongoing.
“Zimbabwe has requested the repatriation of the human remains of Zimbabwe’s First Chimurenga heroes and heroines to Zimbabwe.
“The category includes the return of the head of Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, Chingaira Makoni, Mapondera, Mashayamombe Chinengundu, Mashonganyika and Chiwashura from the Natural (History) Museum,” said the embassy in written responses.
“The United Kingdom acknowledged that it had 13 sets of remains originated from Zimbabwe. The Natural History Museum also conducted physical examination of the 13 sets of remains to assist the process of establishing cultural affiliation.
“The department of National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe was to carry out research to include Scotland and Manchester,” it added.
Government is also working with the Diaspora in London to expedite the repatriations.
“The Diaspora community has been actively undertaking consultations and engaged in advocacy initiatives to support Government.
“On 27 July 2019, the Diaspora convened the Repatriation Conference of Zimbabwe’s First Chimurenga war heroes, during which they exchanged views on how the repatriation process could be accelerated.”
Researchers believe that Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi were hanged by the BSAC in the then Salisbury (now Harare) in 1898, on charges of banditry and rebellion.
Sekuru Kaguvi was an influential political and religious leader, who mainly operated in the Goromonzi area.
Their remains were reportedly shipped to London at the time the First Chimurenga was coming to an end in 1898.
On September 13, 1890, the Pioneer Column — a force assembled by British businessman Cecil John Rhodes and his BSAC — hoisted the Union Jack flag in Salisbury.
This marked the colonisation of Zimbabwe.
In 1896/97, the indigenous people in Matabeleland and Mashonaland staged an uprising against the BSAC administration in order to take back their land and restore their rights.
British invasion forces, who boasted superior weaponry, publicly beheaded resistance movement leaders, partly, to intimidate fellow blacks.
The decapitated bodies were then showcased as trophies, with the forces collecting hefty sums from colonial authorities who, in turn, displayed them in museums.
Chief Mashayamombe was one of the leading figures of the war.
His resistance was centred in the Mhondoro, Norton and Chegutu areas.
After several setbacks at the hands of fighters led by the chief, the settlers dispatched a reinforcement team, which used dynamite to blow him and his people out of their hideouts.
Using early craftsmanship, Chief Mashayamombe had constructed an intricate network of tunnels in caves. Together with his people, they would hide there and keep supplies during raids by the colonialists.
Historians say he was subsequently beheaded and a ransom was paid for his head.
Chief Makoni Chingaira was also among the First Chimurenga heroes. He led resistance in the Rusape area, where he ultimately met his death.
In 2003, a German museum handed back a soapstone-carved bird after 100 years.
The bird is the country’s emblem.
Namibia recently repatriated 27 remains of its heroes from Germany.
The remains belong to Herero and Nama people, who were massacred between 1904 and 1908.