Hiding the dead... a Zimbabwean mystery
A disused mineshaft. A mass grave. Hurried exhumations. A mood of dread, suspicion, and blistering political rhetoric.
This has the makings of a very Zimbabwean murder mystery.
For many days the state-controlled media, loyal to President Robert Mugabe, has been giving saturation coverage to the exhumation of hundreds of bodies from an abandoned mine.
Zanu-PF ministers have been on hand to declare that the corpses were victims of the liberation struggle, murdered by forces of the white Rhodesian leader, Ian Smith, during the 1970s. Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and others have been quick to build political capital out of the gruesome site - explicitly linking the past atrocities to the alleged "pro-white" tendencies of their current rivals in the MDC.
There seems to be no doubt that the graves, and the corpses, are genuine. But the timing and handling of the "discovery" have raised suspicions in some quarters. Perhaps even more significantly, some people are starting to question the age and identity of the dead.
Are all the bodies really victims of the liberation war, or could some have been killed during the Gukurahundi massacres of the early 1980s?
Some people who have visited the site, and seen the condition of the bodies, have even suggested that some of them could be MDC activists, killed by pro-Zanu-PF gangs during the violent election campaign of 2008.
Perhaps significantly, Zanu-PF ministers now appear to be distancing themselves from the exhumations, which were carried out by an organization called the Fallen Heroes Trust - linked in numerous reports to President Mugabe's party.
A professional, independent forensic examination is presumably the only way to settle this matter.