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Mbuya Nehanda's remains must be repatriated first then erection of the statue

13 Dec 2020 at 08:40hrs | Views
One of the greatest achievements of the President of Zimbabwe comrade Emerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa is to honour the heroes. The president has shown that he does not forget those deserving to be honoured. On that basis it is safe to trust the nation with him. On ascending to the throne the president renamed all army barracks in honour of the national heroes. This was a befitting honour which keeps the spirit of independence alive. President Abraham Lincoln once said

"A nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure." This is true today and to keep the nation united our heroes should be honoured.

National heroes usually represent the collective ideals of a country thus providing commonality among citizens. National heroes provide a constant guiding light to what a country's citizens should aspire to be. People need heroes because heroes save or improve lives and because heroes are inspiring. ... Heroes elevate us emotionally; they heal our psychological ills; they build connections between people; they encourage us to transform ourselves for the better; and they call us to become heroes and help others.

These fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors overcame a once-in-a-generation challenge and they deserve a memorial that will last for generations to come. So the honouring of Mbuya Nehanda by erecting a statue is a plausible action done. It does not matter whether the statue of Mbuya Nehanda looks well packed in the backside or facially gifted with beauty. The important thing is to honour her in her beauty and courage. The picture we have come to believe to be that of Mbuya Nehanda was a malnourished scared bony woman forced to stand by a wall. This has made an impression in our minds and hearts as Mbuya Nehanda. Nothing can stop the Mbuya Nehanda to be beautiful and well attractive. It is not a secret that the Vahera ladies known as ana Chihera a very beautiful looking and thus one should not be shocked to see a true beauty glimmering from Chihera Nehanda Charwe.

Now the beauty aside we must always remember that Nehanda's head is in England displayed in a museum. It is high time that the skull be repatriated home and the erection of the statue can give meaning to the true hero. Why is it taking so long to repatriate the remains of our heroes the remains of Mbuya Nehanda and her team. But who is Nehanda. Nehanda, was a female powerful and respected ancestral spirit. As one of the spiritual leaders of the Shona, she was one of the leaders of a revolt, the first Chimurenga, against the British South Africa Company's colonisation of Zimbabwe led by Cecil John Rhodes in 1889. She was a ChiHera of the Hwata Mufakose Dynasty.

She and her ally Sekuru Kaguvi and two other fighters were captured and hanged. Zimbabwe commemorated them through the building of statues in her name, street names, hospitals, songs, novels, and poems were made to immortalise the name of great Chihera. The legacy of the medium continued to be linked to the theme of resistance, particularly the guerrilla war that began in 1966. Her name became of increasing importance to the nationalist movements in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe always commemorate Heroes' Day as it remembers the suffering and sacrifices made by our heroes in the fight against the evil colonial system.

In the war against the colonisers not even one person could begin to understand what our heroes went through and the suffering they endured in order to free this country. It is saddening that the remains of these heroes is still displayed in a museum. Some countries have collected their heroes but why Zimbabwe why? Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana also known as Mbuya Nehanda born around 1840 and died in 1898. It is sad to know of the gruesome murders of Nehanda, Kaguvi and the Mwari high priest by the former colonial masters. The British colonised Zimbabwe in 1890, they immediately instituted a regime of rough justice which oppressed the blacks who were the owners of the land. Death sentence was declare on crimes which were very frivolous. The local peoples' land, mines and cattle were expropriated without compensation. Any challenge to this was a crime punishable by death.

On top of that, the local people were forced to work for the English Pioneer settlers on their newly acquired farms, mines and factories under very harsh conditions and without payment. Laziness was rewarded with death. In short, there was wide-spread misrule throughout the country. Blacks were stripped of their dignity and they were not taken as humans. Despite forcing them to work for free the white settlers imposed a tax regime which was so hard and their livestock was confiscated as payment for tax.

Because of this oppression It took less than six years of British colonial rule, for the local people to rise up in arms and declared a bitter war on the colonial settlers.

That declaration of war on the settlers by the people took the British completely by surprise. They did not understand a bigger reason for the people to rise up in arms – the revolutionary influence' of the mhondoros or masvikiros – local spirit mediums which they referred to as ‘witchdoctors'. docile and cowardly suddenly declare war.

It was clear that the ‘mhondoros' did not want whites in Zimbabwe hence spirit mediums were urging people to chase every British settler out. This made the mediums to be targeted by the colonisers. The high priest of Mwari at Matopo hills in Matabeleland, was credited for the first chimurenga in his area. For that service he was the first spirit medium to be assassinated by the settlers. Russel Burnham who was an American was paid to take him out and that was done. So the Americans hand in destabilising Zimbabwe started long back. The second spirit medium on the hit list was one Charwe Mbuya Nehanda who was the spirit medium of a famous guardian spirit called Nehanda.

Charwe Nehanda stayed in the Mazowe administrative district near Harare. Nehanda was falsely accused of murdering the native commissioner of her district, Henry Howlin Polland, who in fact had been killed in battle. They then went on, in one of the shortest murder trials in history, to find her guilty and sentenced her to death.

The British High Commissioner based in South Africa at the time once got to know about the death sentence passed on Nehanda, he quickly dispatched a letter to the judge to have her executed immediately. The letter read in part as "The Queen against Nehanda in custody under sentence of death for murder. I do hereby certify that a report of all the proceedings upon the trial of the said Nehanda for murder in and before the High Court held at Salisbury on March 1898, hath been transmitted to and laid before me as High Commissioner for South Africa by His Honourable the judge Watermeyer when sentence of death was there and then pronounced upon the said prisoner. I hereby duly authorise and approve of the execution of the said sentence of death upon the said Nehanda." Firstly the authority to murder Mbuya Nehanda was un procedural. The British Roman Dutch Law which applied then demanded automatic appeal in all murder convictions. In Nehanda's case this was not done and as a result tainted the whole process with illegality.

Once, judge Watermeyer had received the above authority, he immediately wrote an instruction to the sheriff authorising him to kill Nehanda. The instruction of Judge Watermeyer was "To the sheriff of the territory of Rhodesia. The Queen against Nehanda in custody. His Excellency the High Commissioner has duly authorised and approved of the execution of the said sentence of death upon the said Nehanda on Wednesday April 27 one thousand eight hundred and ninety eight within the walls of the Gaol of Salisbury between hours of six and ten in the afternoon. She shall be hanged by the neck until she be dead at such place of execution. This instruction is therefore to command you that cause execution of the said sentence to be had and done upon the said prisoner accordingly and that you keep and detain her in your custody until she shall have undergone the said sentence."

And so Nehanda was taken to the gallows. It is interesting to note that although judge Watermeyer instructed that Charwe Nehanada was to be ‘hanged by the neck until she be dead at such place of execution', respectable written and oral accounts say Nehanda did not die by hanging.

For example, one Geoffrey Bond in his book Remember Mazoe which is based on eye-witness accounts of the First Chimurenga in the Mazowe area says categorically that: "Nyanda (Charwe Nehanda) and the condemned prisoners (such as Kaguvi) were blind-folded and shot dead by a squad of majonis (white officers)."

The above version of how Nehanda was killed tallies well with the popular version given by oral historians throughout Mazowe district who say, "Mbuya Nehanda vakachekwa." Then her body and that of others were then hanged on a tree to serve as warning to whoever would want to rebel. The death of Nehanda was a big blow to the Chimurenga and indeed the battle was won by the coloniser but the was to raise its head in 1966as second Chimurenga.

After displaying the body of Nehanda on a tree they skin her and decapitate her body. The head was placed in a sack and taken to England as a trophy as the one who carries the head of a lion as a hunting trophy.

A historian by the name Keith Martin stated that the British South Africa Company created a cemetery in Harare christened Pioneer Cemetery.It is that cemetery west of Mupedzanhamo Flea Market, near the hostels and Rufaro stadium. It was opened on January 2 1893. The cemetery was divided according to race and religion as well as military background. Blacks had their own section to the west called the native section. Racism was practice even unto death. So the headless body of Mbuya Nehanda was buried in an unmarked grave in Mbare. Martin says: "Two of the Africans buried in that unmarked section with their graves unrecorded are Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi of the First Chimurenga."

It is interesting to note that not only are Sekuru Kaguvi and Mbuya Nehanda buried in the old Pioneer Cemetery which is now closed, Judge Watermeyer who sentenced Mbuya Nehanda to death is also buried there. The only difference is that Watermeyer was buried with his body intact while Nehanda lies headless in a country she died for. Her head is displayed in the museum and the colonisers are collecting revenue from the head of our hero. Furthermore the gaoler of Nehanda, one Patrick Hayden, who should in fact have hung her by the neck is also buried there. On top of this, in that cemetery, there is a mass grave of Rhodesian soldiers who were killed in the First Chimurenga.

When one looks at the trials of Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi who were tried for being the spirits behind Chimurenga, one is left without doubt these so called trials were fake.

One is tried for murder and within a week, found guilty and killed. Was this justice? It is important though to revisit the murder of Charwe Nehanda NyakSikana Vachihera. On April 27 1898, the brains and power of the First Chimurenga War, 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.

Kaguvi was credited for being the spirit of the war. This was called the Murenga Spirit. It is from this spirit, that was alternatively known as Murenga, meaning "war spirit", that the name Chimurenga was derived.

Mbuya Nehanda along with Zindoga, Hwata and Gutsa were arraigned before the courts charged of murder. It is worth mentioning that the murdered person was a brutal white native commissioner, one Henry Hawkins Pollard of the British South Africa Company who lived near Mazowe and terrorised people in that district. Rhodesian legal documents classified Mbuya Nehanda as a modestly 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.The execution was authorised by the (British) High Commissioner for South Africa, one Alfred 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 afternoon. A Roman Catholic priest, one Fr Richertz, was assigned to convert Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, Hwata and Zindoga. It is said the hapless Catholic priest failed to make headway with Mbuya Nehanda but managed to convert Sekuru Gumboreshumba, whom he baptised as Dismas, the ‘‘good'' thief.Gutsa, Hwata and Zindoga were also converted and similarly showed that Mbuya Nehanda refused to compromise on her belief. It is her resolve which made her the pillar of future and present rebellion.

According to Fr Richertz's account, Mbuya Nehanda " . . . called for her people and wanted to go back to her own country Mazoe and die there . She was not afraid of death. . Sekuru Kaguvi and all other men were baptised. Nehanda was taken to the scaffold. Her cries and resistance, when she was taken up the ladder, the screaming and yelling were that she wanted to be taken and be buried among her people. Nehanda had always wanted her bones to be buried in her land which is now called Mazowe. the other words which Mbuya Charwe said were that "Mapfupa angu achamuka (my bones will surely rise)". This phrase became the back bone , the slogan the igniting force in Chimurengas. Those who picked up arms would take comfort that they were the prophetic bones of Mbuya Nehanda.

The settlers the decapitated Nehanda's head and transported it to the United Kingdom as a trophy. The displayed her head as they would do the head of a slaughtered animal. They walked tall as they have made a serious achievement. Finally Nehanda's head was displayed at a museum in the UK. SHE hangs in a British museum as a defeated vagabond. The woman who was such an influence in the Chimurenga war now stays displayed as a tool.

As Zimbabwe has finally decided to erect a statue of Mbuya Nehanda would it not be wonderful to have her remains back home. We are a sovereign state our heroes must be respected. Nehanda's blood cries from a museum she is saying take my bones home.

Please Zimbabwe may the bones of Nehanda be repatriated back to Zimbabwe. For how long shall Nehanda grace the museums of those who murdered her. What sign do we need to bring Nehanda back home. One day her bones will be home and can it be now?

Source - Dr Masimba Mavaza
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