Tuesday, September 21, 2021
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Political expediency will not take us far: putting Nehanda in her proper historical context


The controversial Mbuya Nehanda statue

Dr Takavafira Zhou

epistle must be understood as an accurate historical narrative, and nothing
more. The truth is that Nehanda was not a national figure but local figure as a
spirit medium whose influence was restricted to Mazoe area. Her advantage was
nearness to the locus of power and white misconception of 1896-97 risings. She
has been wrongly elevated to national status because of a totalising Zezuru
hegemonic power. To assume only Zezuru had National spirit mediums like
Nehanda, Kaguvi and Chaminuka is a dangerous historical misnomer.

Zimbabwe was more organised along clans with all clans having their own spirit
mediums. Many areas had their own spirit mediums with Mazarire spirit medium in
Masvingo, Muendamberi spirit medium in Chegutu, VaChipfedza spirit medium in
Chivi and Mazvihwa, with the Lemba resorting to Ngoma Lungundu and Gona
Magumbate that also had spirit mediums or special handlers. Various other areas
had their own spirit mediums and never knew of a Nehanda and Kaguvi.

(Prof Ranger, Prof Sabelo Gathseni, Prof Beach, Prof Cobbing, Dr Zhou etc) are
agreed of the absence of priesthood in the First Chimurenga. If Nehanda is to
be awarded heroine status it must never be for the First Chimurenga but her
mythical influence in the Second Chimurenga. Nehanda even denied to have had
sent people who killed a Native Commissioner, Pollard. She was merely an
innocent woman wrongly killed on false assumption that religious leaders were
crucial in 1896-97 Risings.

In fact
there was no Chimurenga in 1896-97 but Zvimurenga with individual chiefs
entering the war alone, fighting alone and being defeated alone. Local politics
was more important than feelings of nationality, with many local chiefs joining
the war against fellow African chiefs. The concept of a sudden and simultaneous
rising by Africans against whites instigated by spirit mediums in a manner reminiscent
of the night of long knives in Germany, did not exist. There was no extra
territorial planning but localised and parochial planning.

was not known beyond Mazoe. Kaguvi had hunting medicine and when people flocked
to him to get the medicine and anti-locust pesticide he was erroneously
considered as a centre of planning the rising. He was also a fugitive
womaniser, running away from men whose wives he had abused.

It is
surprising how our politics has continued to be divorced from academic reality
for political expediency. It is also interesting to note how Mugabeism has
continued beyond Mugabe’s reign. The Second Republic that initially adopted a
Zimbabwe is open for business mantra had by 2020 failed to make this a reality.
Worse still its attempt of an overdosage Karangification of Zimbabwe to dilute
Mugabe’s 37 years of zezurufication of Zimbabwe reached a brick wall. Deflated
by failure to turn around the economy of Zimbabwe, the so called new
dispensation turned 360 degrees to Mugabeism and liberation struggle rhetoric
with the current pre-occupation with Nehanda statue.

If we
need the real heroes of the First Chimurenga one wonders why we are silent of
Chief Makoni Chingaira who was the first victim of the First Chimurenga,
executed by a firing squad. It is undisputable that his head is in United
States, and not that of Nehanda as erroneous claimed by some people. R.G.
Mugabe would not have claimed the bottom of Great Zimbabwe birds and left the
heads of his Zezuru kith and kins in UK. Another great fighter was Mashayamombe
and his Gwindingwi that became the centre of the rising in Chegutu. Equally
important is Nyamanda among the Ndebele who continued the war for some time in
the Matopos area when others sued for peace.

Lobengula qualifies for hero status given his resolve not to surrender in the
1893-94 war of dispossession. The greatest guerrilla fighter of the initial
primary resistance was Mapondera who fought until 1902 using elusive and
evasive guerrilla warfare and retreating into Mozambique. Put simply, Zimbabwe
need to move from political rhetoric by leaving a legacy of accurate history
for future generations. We must celebrate our unity in diversity and desist
from imposing a diet of historical falsehoods for political expediency.

knowledge must be manufactured and processed and guide leaders against the
trenches of folly. We can’t celebrate the centrality of priesthood in 1896-97
when it had very minimal influence. It is also dangerous to elevate ethnic
spirit mediums to National status when history is pregnant with facts of their
local status. As much as it is important to remember the dead, Zimbabwe would
do better if leaders are pre-occupied with improvement of the livelihoods of
the generality of Zimbabwean people.

TellZim News is the leading news organization in the Southern region. It provides candid, balanced and timely news from the communities. Keeping it real. Committed to tell Zimbabwe.

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