Zanu PF says the bodies were of women, children and liberation war fighters killed by Rhodesian forces 32 years ago and thrown into the Monkey William mine in Bembera village.
The exhumations have become yet another grand Zanu PF campaign strategy with the state media being used to whip up emotions ahead of elections expected later this year.
But journalists who witnessed the exericise on Friday were shocked to see bodies that were still intact.
One of the bodies still had visible hair while others had their clothes intact. A member of the team said one of the bodies had fluids dripping from it.
A strong stench still permeates the 15-metre deep mine shaft where journalists were taken down the tunnel to see the bodies that were still underground.
A pathologist who spoke on condition of anonymity said there was no way there could still be such a stench at the mine, three decades after the bodies were allegedly dumped.
“Ordinarily by this time there should only be bone-remains,” the pathologist said.
“Although chemicals poured on the bodies could have slowed down decomposition, 33 years is a long a time.
“Certainly there should not be any smell at all from the remains over 30 years after those people died.”
This has led to some people speculating that although the mine shafts might have some remains of freedom fighters, there could also be corpses of MDC activists killed during the past violent elections. They also suspected victims of Gukurahundi atrocities were among the corpses.
The Fallen Heroes Trust, which is overseeing the exercise, on Friday said it had so far retrieved 640 bodies.
There are four other open shafts where exhumations would also be done.
George Rutanhire, a member of Zanu PF politburo and coordinator of the Fallen Heroes Trust said the mass graves were first identified in the 80s.
Asked why it had taken so long to exhume the bodies and give the victims a decent burial, Rutanhire said they did not have the resources to carry out the mammoth task.
“There were no resources, people had also not organised themselves to carry out the exhumations,” he said.
“The reason why we are exhuming them now is because panners were now vandalising the mine shafts in search of gold so we had to take action.”
However, two other war veterans said the mass graves were discovered in 2001 and 2008.
Zanu PF Senator for Mutate-Mutasa, Mandy Chimene said the graves were first discovered in 2001.
The war veterans also wanted journalists to interview people they had selected themselves so that they wouldn’t “give out wrong information.”
School children, teachers and villagers were forced to go underground and view the bodies so that they would appreciate the extent of the brutalities of the Rhodesian army.
Zanu PF slogans and songs were the order of the day during the exhumation while the cash-strapped ZBC donated protective clothing and food to the Fallen Heroes Trust.