Thursday, 28 August 2008

A century of resistance: From Nehanda to Mugabe.

Declare April history month

By Caesar Zvayi

IF ever there is a month that deserves to be called Zimbabwe History Month, it is April as it is covered by numerous milestones stretching from the First, Second and Third Chimurenga wars.

Forty years ago, yesterday, April 27 1898 the architects of the First Chimurenga — Mbuya Chahwe, the medium of the Nehanda spirit, and Sekuru Gumboreshumba, the medium of the Kaguvi spirit also known as Murenga — were hanged by the settler regime for daring to challenge colonial dispossession. Interestingly, it was from the Kaguvi spirit, that was alternatively known as Murenga meaning "war spirit" that the name Chimurenga was derived. Sekuru Kaguvi, Mbuya Nehanda along with Zindoga, Hwata and Gutsa wrongly stood accused of murdering a brutal white native commissioner, Henry Hawkins Pollard of the British South Africa Company (BSAC) who lived near Mazowe and terrorised people in the district.

To show their contempt for these four heroes and heroine, Rhodesian legal documents classified Mbuya Nehanda modestly as a Mashona woman residing at Chitawa’s Kraal in the Mazowe District, Zindoga as a native kitchen boy residing at Nehanda’s Kraal and Hwata and Gutsa as native hunters residing at Hwata kraal. The four, along with Sekuru Kaguvi, were arraigned in the High Court of Matabeleland that sat in Salisbury on February 20 1898 and were subsequently convicted on March 2 1898 in a case entered as "The (British) Queen against Nehanda". They were sentenced to death by hanging and the execution was authorised by the (British) High Commissioner for South Africa, one A. Milner, and endorsed by the (British) Imperial Secretary on March 28 1898. The presiding judge was Judge Watermayer, with Herbert Hayton Castens Esquire as "'the acting Public Prosecutor Sovereign within the British South Africa Company territories, who prosecutes for and on behalf of her majesty". The warrant for Mbuya Nehanda’s death commanded that she be executed within the wall of the gaol of Salisbury between the hours of 6 and 10 in the forenoon. A Roman Catholic priest, one Father Richertz was assigned to convert Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, Gutsa, Hwata and Zindoga to Christianity. It is said the hapless Catholic priest failed to make headway with Mbuya Nehanda, but managed to convert Sekuru Gumboreshumba whom he contemptuously baptised as Dismas, meaning the "good" thief. Gutsa, Hwata and Zindoga were also converted but were similarly hanged nonetheless.

According to Father Richertz’s account, Mbuya Nehanda " . . . called for her people and wanted to go back to her own country Mazoe and die there… "When I saw that nothing could be done with her, the time of the execution having arrived, I left Nehanda and went to Kaguvi who received me in good dispositions. While I was conversing with him, Nehanda was taken to the scaffold. "Her cries and resistance, when she was taken up the ladder, the screaming and yelling disturbed my conversation with Kaguvi very much, till the noisy opening of the trap door upon which she stood, followed by the heavy thud of her body as it fell, made an end to the interruption", he wrote.

Father Richertz, however, conveniently forgot to mention the other words Mbuya Chahwe said to him, as she told him that her bones would surely rise. The Catholic priest may have considered it heresy, especially from a woman who had refused to be converted to "Christianity", but he did not know that the settler regime had just killed the mediums of the Nehanda and Kaguvi spirits but the spirits proper remained to influence the war effort. Sixty-eight years later, today, Nehanda’s prophesy came true when seven of her bones rose up on April 28 1966 to fire the first shots of the Second Chimurenga. They struck just five months after Smith announced his Universal Declaration of Independence and 20 months after the Rhodesian regime banned the nationalist movements — Zapu and Zanu — in August 1964. It is not clear whether it was by design or providence that the seven cadres intended to hit on the exact date Nehanda was executed but were somehow delayed by logistical problems and did so a day later. The seven cadres — Simon Chingosha Nyandoro, Godwin Manyerenyere, Christopher Chatambudza, Arthur Maramba, Chubby Savanhu, Godfrey Dube and David Guzuzu — who entered the country from Zambia, struck near Manyame River in Chinhoyi. Their aim was to destroy electricity pylons to cut off power coming from Kariba Dam and plunge Rhodesia into darkness. This was the signal other groups of cadres that were strategically deployed in towns like Mutare, Rusape, Chegutu and Mvuma were waiting for to indicate that the war against the Smith regime had begun. Lack of proper equipment and explosives saw the cadres fail to bring down the pylons near Lions Den, the Rhodesians got wind of the operation and descended on the people who were harbouring them. But the gallant fighters, who had retreated to Golden Kopje, invited the Rhodesians to come out and fight, and the cowardly Rhodies came complete with fighter jets, helicopter gunships and all sorts of weapons to face seven men armed only with AK 47 rifles. The seven commandos gave as much as they took as the battle lasted from about 9am to around 4pm. Eyewitness accounts say four jet fighters, several helicopters and scores of Rhodesian soldiers were gunned down and littered the battlefield when the seven cadres were killed. It is important to note that the seven guerrillas were only overcome because they had inferior weapons and ran out of ammunition, whilst the enemy was armed to the teeth and had the advantage of going back to base to replenish both ammunition and manpower. The bodies of the seven cadres were never seen again after the Rhodesians took them to an unknown place. The nationalist leaders learnt a lot from the battle of Chinhoyi which they used as a blue print, and future incursions inflicted heavy losses on the Rhodesian regime that was finally brought to its knees in 1979. In the intervening period another milestone again occurred in April. On April 4 1975, Cde Robert Mugabe, who had just been released from an 11-year incarceration at the hands of the Smith regime, crossed into Mozambique in the company of Cde Edgar Tekere. Cde Mugabe had been arrested along with the late Father Zimbabwe, Dr Joshua Nkomo, and Cde Edison Zvobgo after Zapu and Zanu were banned by the Smith regime in 1964. The following is the verbatim account of the crossing that President Mugabe gave during an interview with Power FM ahead of his 82nd birthday this year. "It was on Saturday morning and we decided to leave in the afternoon of that day. Old Tangwena, late now, Chief (Rekayi) Tangwena at whose home we had slept was instructed by his wife to lead us, Mai Tangwena vaisvikirwa vakati zvanzi izvo iwe Tangwena pachako tungamirira vana ava. So he accompanied us. There we were, we had two young men carrying our bags and I think there were five of us and we decided to cross the border. "There was this big boundary road they called Bhinya. It was also called after the name of the person who was chief native commissioner . . . will think of it. "We had to cross the broad road, not tarred, but just a dirt road, gravel, not tarred because it was meant to facilitate the vigilance that the Rhodesians kept on the people. "So we crossed that, after looking at both sides of the road, we moved on and at night we had to cross rivers. There was a small river that we crossed and upon putting our shoes back, I could not distinguish the right from the left. "Ndakaita saMbuya vangu vaimbouya kuChurch vakapfeka matennis vachiti yekurudyi yoenda uku (laughs). ‘‘Ndakatozoona zuva ratobuda kuti that was the disaster that had attended my feet. "You know the Tangwena’s had been fighting for Gaerezi ranch. It was that resistance, vaivingwa from time to time vachipfurwa, ndiro chaidzo dzaiboorwa nemabullets kuti vabve. Their children were all taken away to a school somewhere but they resisted. "We got to a village where two headmen vekwaTangwena decided to get away from this problem and settled on the Mozambican side, and two headmen had remained so they were four. "We were drenched, very wet and we needed fire, so early in the morning fire was lit for us outside. I noticed that my shoes had done harm to my toes and we were prepared to continue. So we remained there for quite some time. Kwakangakusina masoja eFrelimo akawanda, so we had to relay our presence to them, and from that place word was sent ahead that we were there and we then got to a base that was close to Tete, this place was called Vam-Vam. "We were at Vam-Vam for quite some time that’s where we met vana Mao and others who had been recruited in Highfield. From there we were taken along a road in the direction of a town yaimbonzi Villaguveya, now Katandika. It was while we were at Vam-Vam that Mozambique celebrated its Independence. "We stayed at Katandika for a month or two. From Katandika we were taken to Chimoio, and there we met many more and now we were moving with other Comrades that we had met along the way. "That is where we met vanaChamu (Oppah Muchinguri) vachiri vadiki and many others. We had some students from university, vana (Zororo) Duri, vana (Christopher) Mutsvangwa, vana Gula Ndebele, vana Mayowe, who had left university; we met them there. "There were about 5 000 to 6 000 of us kuChimoio, it was a little outside the town, and then the Governor decided that some of our cadres who had been trained who were in Tete should be informed about our presence. There were about three ladies and mukuru wavo akavatora ndiMai (Joice) Mujuru, and there were about four or five male cadres. So they came and saw us and we asked them to take control because they were trained cadres. "So that was the journey, and all the while we were with Chief Tangwena, right up to the end taive naChief Tangwena, and when we came back, we came back with him also. He was quite a gallant cadre, very strong," President Mugabe said. The President was to gallantly lead the war effort from Mozambique for the next five years. He participated in all the peace initiatives up to the Lancaster House Constitutional Conference of September 10 to December 15 1979 that paved way for the first democratic elections in March 1980. It was a month later, again in April, that the new Zimbabwe was born on the 18th. This was the day that the British flag, the Union Jack, was pulled down and the Zimbabwean flag rose majestically in its place as the heir to the British throne Prince Charles and Governor Lord Soames saluted the new nation and its people. This was the day Prince Charles handed over the Constitutional instruments of Government to Cde Mugabe that defined us as a people. That was the day Prime Minister-elect, Cde Mugabe, laid out the policy of reconciliation in his maiden address much to the amazement of terrified Rhodies who thought they would be made to account for their war crimes. Many other milestones occurred in April, but can not all be highlighted here, but these four alone make this month so special as to deserve recognition on our national calendar. If not for purposes of history, then for posterity as future generations have to know where the nation came from. l Material on Mbuya Nehanda derived from the book Inside The Third Chimurenga by Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

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