Gruesome mass grave in Zimbabwe

2011-04-07 12:45

Harare - Hundreds of bodies exhumed from a disused mine in Zimbabwe have turned into fodder for President Robert Mugabe's propaganda, despite the mystery over the skeletons that may have lain for decades.

Since early March, state television has shown Mugabe supporters pulling bones from the mine and hauling them off in plastic bags and old sacks.

The pictures also show the site being used to encourage people to sign a petition against the travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe and his inner circle.

Mugabe's Zanu-PF party claims the remains are of victims of the 1970s liberation war against the white-minority Rhodesian regime led by Ian Smith, when an estimated 30 000 people died.

Others have cast doubt on that claim, saying the victims may have been killed by Zanu-PF forces during one of the many waves of repression that have swept Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.

The Fallen Heroes Trust, a previously obscure group aligned with Zanu-PF, says 640 bodies have been pulled out and thousands more could still lie in the mine near the northern town of Mount Darwin.

George Rutanhire, who heads the group, says the mass grave was known since the 1980s, but the remains were never exhumed.

Cheap political gain

"There were no resources, people had also not organised themselves to carry out the exhumations," he said in state media.

"The reason why we are exhuming them now is because gold panners were now vandalising the mine shafts in search of gold so we had to take action."

But others in Zanu-PF say the grave was found only in 2001.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe's partner in a shaky unity government, said on Wednesday that the grave could include victims of a 1980s army campaign that left 20 000 minority Ndebeles dead in a purge of Zanu-PF rivals, mainly in southern Matabeleland.

"We have recently witnessed the exhumation of dead bodies in one corner of the country for cheap political gain," Tsvangirai said at a memorial service for his party's activists killed during the bloody 2008 presidential election.

"There are graves in Matabeleland [and] the Midlands provinces," Tsvangirai said. "Innocent victims of a senseless and systematic genocide and we all wonder whether the current exhumations will spread to that corner of the country as well."

The Zimbabwe African Patriotic Union (Zapu), a small mainly Ndebele party, accuse Mugabe of using the grave as a ploy to remind people of his past as a liberation hero in the run-up to elections expected later this year.


"Zapu believes the exhumations have been engineered by Zanu-PF to stir emotions among the people for its own political mileage as we go towards elections," Zapu spokesperson Methuseli Moyo said.

"We are in the process of organising a parallel process of exhuming the remains of our members to counter Zanu-PF's attempts to distort history."

Experts say it might now be impossible to correctly identify the bodies because professional forensics experts have not had access to the site.

"This is a crime scene and exhumations require professional forensic expertise to enable adequate identification, determination of cause of death and criminal investigations," said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International's deputy director for Africa.

"If the Zimbabwe government does not have the capacity to undertake these exhumations properly it must ask for international co-operation and assistance to ensure that forensic experts can undertake the exhumations."

  • maseratifitt - 2011-04-07 13:25

    I have read the same report about a week ago, where it was stated that many of the bodies were still fresh; still containing body fluids. Clothing was also identified as "contemporary". mugabe recently started a crackdown on his opponents, and these victims were possibly thrown down the same mine shaft mugabe used when he slaughtered his opponents shortly after he came into "power".

  • allie - 2011-04-07 15:21


  • CharlSkeptic - 2011-04-07 16:05

    Bob won't allow international forensic experts within 500 miles of that site. Local show and tell only.

  • Ken - 2011-04-07 16:22

    Idi Amin style of African rule.Typical African rulers.

  • Monica - 2011-04-07 16:54

    This man is another Hitler! He should be locked up in jail.

      saliem - 2011-04-09 19:14

      Just one well directed bullet bro... Africa can ill afford another incarcerated "hero" from the "struggle" :P

  • wendy pala - 2011-04-07 19:59

    Dear Zimbabwe, Libya has dont. we cant help you. love the UN and the rest of the world.

      makgala - 2011-04-08 10:21

      there is lots of diamonds, platinum and uranium in zimbabwe. there could be oil up along the zambesi escarpment. we must just annex this country and make it province no 10.

  • IanJ - 2011-04-07 21:03

    It is amazing how the BIG countries can invade any country they feel like when THEY feel it is justified to protect the citizens of that country. How much more must Zim go through before it gets help.

  • Turdy - 2011-04-07 23:36

    Yes they don't have anything of value that's why their corrupt government is so eager to make deals with the Chinese.Soon our friendly neighbors won't have a piece of land left to bury their dead in mass graves.Or their whole population will be here in SA anyway.harro prease ;)

      John Wilderness - 2011-04-11 04:57

      You seem to be steering this conversation in the right direction. Shell making deals with Nigeria, Various American oil companies making deals with Equitorial guinea. BP and Shell making deals with Angola and so the colonisation of Africa continues.

  • Nesomaniac - 2011-04-08 07:37

    Anyone who has done some objective historical research will know that Mugabe tossed some 6000 to 8000 of his own countrymen down mine shafts simply because they would not support his regime. Perhaps he has re-started his "dispose of the enemy" tactics again?

  • ChiJuicy - 2011-04-08 08:25

    Unfortunately its getting to a point where noone really cares about Zim...Most Zimbos have started their lives elsewhere....Very few of them will even follow this story....Bob will get away with this one too.

      WALOK - 2011-04-08 13:56

      You got that right, met a couple at my sons school recently(black couple), them and most of their circle of friends left Zim for countries all over the world. I asked if they will return when Zim is stable again and it was an absolute "NO". They don't want to go back, lives are back on track elsewhere.

  • Ismael - 2011-04-08 09:06

    SADC presidents more especial Namibia, South Africa and Angola are to blame for 50% of what is happening in Zimbabwe.

  • coolwaynie - 2011-04-11 06:43

    These bodies were the legacy of a Mugabe regime sent out to rid their country of all people that were in some way connected to the Rhodesian government. This was genocide, plain and simple.

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