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British colonialist Cecil Rhodes's grave haunts Zimbabweans

A general view of Cecil John Rhodes' grave in Matobo National park outside Bulawayo, Zimbabwe on February 17, 2023   -  
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It's a sacred hill where for centuries Zimbabweans would go to consult their ancestors.

Located atop a steep hill immersed in lush vegetation, a short climb is necessary to reach the grave, which is surrounded by imposing rocks rounded by erosion.

The stones are covered in light green aniseed and orange lichens that brighten at the slightest touch of the sun.

It's also where the notorious British coloniser Cecil John Rhodes chose to be his final resting place.

Often described as a philanthropist , Rhodes dreamt of a British Africa from Cape Town to Cairo, with the blessings of Queen Victoria.

"I don't think history should be tampered with, it's history, and he requested to be here so I think that's where he should stay. " saidNicky Johnson, a visitor.

The white supremacist died more than 120 years ago in South Africa aged 48 after carving out swathes of territory for the British empire.

Part of the land grab, later named Rhodesia in his honour, included modern Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Part of the younger generation wants his remains removed to rid the country of the last vestiges of colonialism.

Cynthia Marangwanda, 37, from Harare, is enraged by the presence of Rhodes grave.

She believes he chose that site because he knew its spiritual significance to the local people

"First and foremost Matobo in itself is such a beautiful landscape it doesn't need this colonial grave, honestly." she said.

"He chooses to go where we talk to our creator and bury himself there. You know... It was more like a spiritual colonisation which is a great insult to any sane Zimbabwean. " added Tafadzwa Gwini, co-founder of Rhodes-Must-Fall campaign in Zimbabwe.

But the grave attracts tourists who bring much-needed income for surrounding villages -- and many local people oppose any exhumation.

Nestled in the Matobo National Park, his grave is simple, with "Here lie the remains of Cecil John Rhodes" engraved on it.

"For us the Rhodes grave is very important to us, in that it brings the visitors who will see our arts and crafts, that they buy from us and we get some money to send our kids to school and to also get food and clothing. "

"This grave is not a problem for us. We have other sacred places in the vicinity that allow us to exchange with our ancestors. And basically, these visitors, who have come from far away, also come to talk to their ancestor." explained  Micah Sibanda , resident outside of the Matobo National Park

In neighbouring South Africa, students at the University of Cape Town launched a "Rhodes-Must-Fall" protest in 2015, initially to pull down Rhodes's statue at the campus.

It later morphed into a global campaign, which saw Oxford University resisting calls to remove a statue of the politician -- placing an explanatory panel next to it instead.

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