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THE National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) has expressed concern over the vandalism of the graves belonging to National Heroes buried at the Bulawayo City Council owned cemeteries.

The country’s recognised National Heroes are usually buried at state owned cemeteries, namely the National Heroes Acre in Harare and the provincial heroes acres.

But some heroes were, for varying reasons, buried in council owned cemeteries.

In a report contained in the latest council minutes, NMMZ said graves of luminaries buried at Lady Stanley and Pelandaba were being vandalised.

“The Director of the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe had approached Council concerned about vandalism of graves of National Heroes. Two of them had tombstones stolen. The National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe was exploring ways of securing the graves and they were of the view that this would be easier if they were clustered together,” read the report in part.

In response, the local authority said it only provided security to its properties at the cemeteries.

“It was explained that Bulawayo City Council provided security only for its property at the cemeteries. We observed that the graves were scattered and that even if the heroes at Hyde Park cemetery were exhumed for reburial at West ParkLady Stanley, the issue of security of the graves would not be addressed,” read the report.

Council resolved that it would demarcate space for national heroes who want to be buried at council owned cemeteries.

“The Health Services Department suggested demarcating an area at the Lady Stanley and at future cemeteries to cater for the burial of 10-15 national heroes who may need to be buried at Council cemeteries. In our view, National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe would be able to fence such an area and provide security as necessary,” read the report.

The burial of national heroes has been a thorny one for years, with the ruling Zanu PF party being on record for stating that only its members will interred at the National Heroes Acre.

While it could not be independently verified whose graves were vandalised, some of country’s liberators, especially those from ZAPU are buried at the council owned cemeteries.

ZAPU leader Dumiso Dabengwa, who fell out with Zanu PF, once said Lady Stanley cemetery had become the defacto heroes’ cemetery for former Zapu and Zipra cadres.

Speaking at the burial of retired colonel Richard “Gedi Ndlovu” Dube at Lady Stanley cemetery in 2013, Dabengwa said: “this is where we have resigned ourselves to. We will not ask for anything from them (Zanu PF)”.

Some of the ZAPU cadres buried at the same cemetery are former Zipra commander General Lookout Masuku, former PF Zapu secretary general and Matabeleland North governor Welshman Mabhena and former diplomat Isaac Nyathi, among others.

Masuku died in 1986 shortly after his release from illegal detention and as it was during the height of the Gukurahundi genocide he was not buried at the National Heroes Acre for being a PF Zapu member. During his funeral the late vice president Joshua Nkomo (then PF Zapu leader) expressed his disgust at the mistreatment of Masuku and the rest of PF Zapu members by President Robert Mugabe’s government.

Masuku was to be recognised as a national hero in the 1990’s.

Source : New Zimbabwe

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