Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has called for the remains of colonialist Cecil John Rhodes to be exhumed and repatriated to Britain.
Rhodes died in 1902. His self-chosen burial place is at Matobo Hills National Park, south of Bulawayo.
Mnangagwa told traditional leaders on Friday in Harare that 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.
Calls for Rhodes’ exhumation date back to 2012. The late former president Robert Mugabe blocked war veterans and Zanu-PF politicians from exhuming his remains, saying his legacy was part of the country’s history. The veterans had blamed his grave for the lack of rain in the Matobo area.
The gravesite is a tourist attraction, 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.
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.