As many as 2000 bodies have been dug up from popular diamond fields in a Zimbabwean community, causing quite a stir in the area.
File photo used only for illustrative purpose
Mathew Mundondo, the Zimbabwean man involved in the exhumation of human remains from diamond mining sites in Chiadzwa and Marange since 2009, has aptly described his job as “not ordinary”.
According to Newsday, the 34-year-old Mundondo, who has to-date exhumed over 2 000 graves said had it not been for his passion for the job he would have quit it long a time ago because of the psychological, physical and emotional trauma he sometimes experiences in carrying out his chores.
The exhumation is mostly done by elderly people with deep-rooted traditional practices given the taboos and traditional African beliefs about the mysterious world of the departed that most people fear.
Mundondo has worked with many mining companies to exhume bodies from various Chiadzwa concessions to reburial sites dotted around Marange to pave way for mining operations.
In a wide ranging interview last week, Mundondo said there are procedures which need to be followed in exhuming bodies, which include a cleansing ceremony.
He accused some “greedy villagers” of squandering the compensation money they received from diamond firms without consulting other family members, causing him to encounter some mythical experiences during exhumation process.
“At one point, when my team was digging a grave in Tonhorai, a cobra emerged from the blues. They immediately called me and we had to stop all the work there and this took two days as we had to consult traditional leaders in the area who cautioned us that it was a sign that the deceased was not happy,” Mundondo said.
“It later emerged that one of the elderly family members had squandered the money he got from Mbada Diamonds as compensation without consulting other family members,” he said.
Mbada Diamond paid $1 500 per grave as compensation for the relocation of graves for reburial at new sites outside the mining zone.
Chinese diamond mining company, Jinan, between 2013 and 2015, paid $700 as compensation for each grave and later slashed the amount to $300 before the company was kicked out of the area by the government in February 2016.
“Some family members were greedy and they would spend the money without informing other relatives. Yes, close members were supposed to benefit, but some misspent the money,” he said.
“At another graveyard, I was stung by a swarm of bees from nowhere. Up to now I don’t know how I survived. In our African culture, being attacked by a swarm of bees is a sign from the departed that they would not be happy about something,” he added.
Mundondo said they used to receive complaints from some villagers, who said they were failing to sleep hearing mysterious whispering voices during the night.
“When we are carrying out these exhumations, it’s good that we cleanse the area. Cleansing is very important otherwise it would be a disaster,” he said.
“There is one incident we did our exhumations at Gudo shopping centre, we exhumed seven bodies. This is where Chinese diamond company (Jinan) mined through the help of the traditional leaders, they were excited because the area produced many carats they never anticipated and I thought those diamonds where benefiting the country,” he said.
Mundondo said he was trained on the exhumation of bodies by ex-military personnel before they empowered him to do his own job in 2010.
“We managed to register an empowerment association with Zimbabwe Youth Council. We participated in many empowerment programmes, we trained with Magamba Vocational Training Centre in Mutare on how to manage our various projects,” he said.
Despite all these horrific experiences, Mundondo has signed another contract with the Zimbabwe Diamond Consolidated Company (ZCDC) to erect tombstones to at least 150 graves at Chitangazuva reburial site.
Some of the graves were destroyed by this year’s incessant rains and families are struggling to identify their loved ones’ graves.
A ritual ceremony to open the reburial site has been set for today where traditional leaders from Marange and surrounding areas, villagers, officials from ZCDC are set to grace the event.
The Chitangazuva reburial site was established by former diamond mining companies through local traditional leaders, but the companies seized operations last year after the government stopped them.
The site is meant for the reburial of exhumed bodies in various Chiadzwa concessions to pave way for mining activities.
Mundondo is also set to exhume almost 120 bodies around Chiadzwa in the next coming few weeks and ZCDC chief executive officer, Morris Mpofu said it was important to respect cultural and tradition beliefs of the area they are mining.
“It is important to respect traditional and cultural beliefs of the area we are working, it doesn’t make sense to work here (Chiadzwa) when people are not happy. We might not have started mining, but the issue of graves its top on our agenda,” he said.
Chiadzwa assistant headman, Shadreck Chipise hailed Mundondo for striving to understand traditional and cultural beliefs of people in Chiadzwa.
“It’s frightening that a man of his age understands traditional beliefs. When he started this he was very young. It’s good that we have young people who now understands such beliefs,” he said.