Alexander 2006; Mamdani 1996), but also to a new streak of ‘traditionalism’ that has emerged in Zimbabwe recently, which has seen the functions and powers of chiefs and traditional leaders revived and expanded out of communal areas into resettlement schemes, farms, rural district councils and land committees (Fontein 2006b & 2007; Mubvumba 2005); a trend that has been mirrored by developments across the southern African region (Buur & Kyed 2006; Kyed & Buur 2006; Maloka 1996).
The different burial orders that were being handled and signed, and the subsequent court order, granted but ignored, barring police interference in the funeral arrangements, all indicate how complex struggles over sovereignty and regimes of rule can emerge in disputes over how to handle the remains of the dead.
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.
Reports about the controversy over the burial of Gift Tandare also suggested the existence of tensions among Gift’s close relatives and kin, as indeed can often emerge at funerals in Zimbabwe, particularly between paternal and affinal relatives over funeral arrangements, the inheritance of property, and responsibility for the care of dependents.Some reports stated that it was Gift’s paternal sister and uncle who left with the police and later signed, under duress, the burial order that ‘allowed’ the secret ‘mafia style’ burial, while his wife and her mother, both affines, hid.The MDC, for their part, firmly inscribed Gift Tandare on their counter–register of ‘National heroes’ amongst all the other ‘innocent Zimbabweans who have been murdered for merely asking for a better life in a free and democratic Zimbabwe’ (‘Abducted Zimbabwean journalist found dead’, 6/4/07) seems to highlight the current insecurity of the ruling regime in Harare, a longer view of commemoration in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 (Kriger 1995; Werbner 1998, Brickhill 1995, Alexander et al.2000) indicates that attempts to manipulate the representation of the recent past, and memories of violence, has been part of the ruling party’s strategic historical project since independence, far predating its recent turn to a new nationalist and very exclusionary, political rhetoric that Ranger (2004b) has called ‘patriotic history’.As Werbner (1998) and Kriger (1995) have described, the controversies engendered by the efforts of the 1980s and 1990s to appropriate the dead for political purposes often provoked tensions not only between the ruling party and any opposition parties (then ZAPU, now the MDC), but also between political elites and commoners, the ‘’, and between state and kin, and even within the fractious ruling party itself.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).
Although clearly related to ZANU PF’s rhetoric of ‘patriotic history’ (Ranger 2004b) that has emerged in the context of Zimbabwe’s continuing political crisis, this recent ‘liberation heritage’ project also sits awkwardly in the middle of the tension between these two related but somehow distinct nationalist projects of the past (heritage and commemoration).In early March of 2007, whilst the attention of the international media was focusing on the brutal beating by police of the leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) party, Morgan Tsvangirai, the dramatic events that surrounded the funeral of Gift Tandare – a little known MDC activist who was shot by police on the same day - was being reported in the local independent media. Soon after the fatal shooting during a peaceful prayer rally in the Highfield suburb of Harare on Sunday, 10th March, mourners began to congregate in large numbers at the deceased’s residence in the high-density suburb of Glen View (, 19/3/07).Apparently fearing any further disturbances or protests, armed police and soldiers were sent in to disperse the mourners, resulting in more injuries and people being shot.And it was the wife who later applied for and was granted the ineffectual court order ( 19/3/07).Without drawing too much out of scant information, these references do suggest the presence of a subtle subtext of family tensions intermeshing with the political manoeuvres of the ruling and opposition parties.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).