Zimbabwe to adopt post conflict mass graves and human remains policy

By Kenias Chivuzhe

Zimbabwe targets to adopt the management of post-conflict mass graves and human remains policy to expedite the exhumation and reburial of freedom fighters who died during the liberation struggle.

The exhumation and reburial of the remains of freedom fighters who died during the liberation struggle has been facing a number of challenges and setbacks due to the absence of policy direction.

The consultations on the management of post conflict mass graves and human remains policy held in Mutare saw stakeholders giving input on the proposed policy.

“There are different believes on exhumation process. Others believe in a scientific approach while others believe in traditional processes citing the delay of DNA process to provide results,” a stakeholder who attended the meeting noted.

Another said: “There should be a sequence of events that should be followed after the identification of the deceased freedom fighter. The policy document should have time lines to reduce delays in conducting reburials.”

Noted another: “There scientific processes such as DNA testing require the inclusion of universities hence, they should be part of key stakeholders in the policy. The policy should recognize the need for the national memorialisation in honor of the deceased fighters.”

National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe Executive Director Dr Godfrey Mahachi gave an update on the consultations.

“This is a national process and is taking us to all the provinces and our expectation is to conclude the consultations by mid this year and there after we intent to develop a cabinet paper to be submitted to cabinet and if approved we hope that the policy will become operational within this year,” he said.

Dr Mahachi explained the contentious issue of spiritual identification versus the scientific approach.

“There are basically two approaches that have been used so far. One is the scientific approach, which looks at investigating the burials from the archeological perspective as well as the use of DNA technology in trying to identify the individuals that are represented in the mass graves. But at the same time, as Africans with our own traditions, there is a spiritual perspective to it where individuals can be identified spiritually. We are trying to see how the two can work together so that we get the best results possible. DNA technology is available in the country, but the capacity needs to be enhanced. We are dealing with the remains dating back to the time of the liberation struggle and the First Chimurenga era. So, we need DNA equipment that will be able to extract materials from ancient remains.”

The policy document is being crafted after complaints on delays to exhume and re-bury freedom fighters.