It is well documented that the funerals of people killed in political violence can often become sites of protest and further violence (cf.
Allen 2006; Feldman 1991 & 2003), hence it is no surprise that the ZANU PF government and the police were concerned to avoid a high profile, public funeral in Harare.
But the controversies surrounding the burial of Gift Tandare also point to a deeper complexity of meanings and contests that can be involved in ‘the politics of the dead’ (cf Odhiambo & Cohen 1992; Verdery 1999).
Then, a few days later, it emerged that Chief Kandeya, the ‘traditional authority’ in charge of Mashanga village in Mt Darwin where the Tandare family’s (rural home) lies, and where his family had sought to bury him, was refusing to allow the funeral to take place on the grounds that Gift Tandare was an MDC activist and ‘burial in his area is reserved for ZANU PF [Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front] supporters only’ (, 19/3/07).
Later, when the chief demanded payment of four cows for the burial to go ahead, Tandare’s family, being unwilling or unable to pay this, decided Gift would instead be buried in Harare at Granville cemetery (, 17/3/07).
This decision, as Gift’s elder brother was quoted as saying, ‘has been welcomed with joy as everyone wanted to attend his burial’ (ibid.). On the Saturday night (18/3/07) before the funeral, a heavily armed police convoy turned up at the Tandare house to take only close relatives for a hastily prepared private burial.
While mourners fled, the family were told that ‘the chief had been talked to’ ( 19/3/07), and that the police wanted Gift’s wife to sign another burial order granting them permission to bury Gift as originally planned in Mt Darwin.
The following morning reports from the funeral parlour explained that ‘men in suits’ (i.e.
Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) agents) had come in the early hours and ‘forcibly removed the body…for burial’, coercing ‘Gift’s sister in the presence of her fearful uncle to sign the burial order’ (, 19/3/07).While this was going on, Gift’s wife had gone to get a court order against the police barring them from interfering with the funeral arrangements, an order that was granted but also promptly ignored by officials ( (18/3/07), orders to remove the body and carry out the burial, ‘as quickly as possible’, had come from the President’s office, because authorities were worried that ‘the activist’s burial could be turned into a platform for an anti-Mugabe tirade by opposition supporters, already angered after the brutal attack on MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai’.These recent events illustrate how intense the politics of the dead, and what to do with their remains, can be in the context of Zimbabwe’s ongoing political turmoil.Access key 1: Go straight to homepage | Access key 2: Go straight to the main content of each page | Access key 3: Go straight to the Login page | Access key 4: Go straight to the Search box | Access key 5: Go straight to the directory | Access key 6: Go straight to the contact page | Access key 7: Go straight to publications | Access key 9: Go straight to the networks page | Access key 0: Go straight to the accessibility page | Author: Joost Fontein, Social Anthropology & Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh Date: 10/08/2009 html / PDF ISSN 2073-4158 Lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, editor of the .The burial of Gift Tandare Heritage and commemoration Heritage and commemoration in Zimbabwe Liberation heritage Unsettling Bones The purpose of this paper is to explore the ambivalent agency of bones as both ‘persons’ and ‘objects’ in the politics of heritage and commemoration in Zimbabwe.It discusses a recent ‘commemorative’ project which has focused on the identification, reburial, ritual cleansing and memorialisation of the human remains of the liberation war dead, within Zimbabwe and across its borders (Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana, Angola and Tanzania).