THE burial of homosexual Cecil Rhodes in the Matobo Hills was a watershed in the history of Zimbabwe. 

The homosexual’s brother, Frank Rhodes, met the principal Matabele chiefs, by arrangement, three weeks after burial. 

The indaba was at the burial site, now renamed ‘World’s View.’ 

It is critical to note that if the indaba at the homosexual’s grave site took place three weeks after the burial, on April 7 1902, the date would have been Monday April 28 1902. 

In that regard, it coincided with the fourth anniversary of the execution of Nehanda’s medium by the Matabeleland High Court sitting in Salisbury on April 28 1898. 

Frank told the Ndebele chiefs that the homosexual had originally wanted to be buried at the Great Zimbabwe (incidentally another most sacred space in the land) from where he had already stolen a Zimbabwe bird sculpture.   

Frank also told the Ndebele chiefs that the homosexual had changed his mind after learning to love Matabeleland and its people. 

That, of course, had been after the 1893 war purportedly waged to protect the Shona from the Ndebele but, in reality, to plunder. 

Leander Jameson’s correspondence to Rutherford Harris, the BSAC Cape secretary at the time, refers:

“We have the excuse for a row over murdered women and children now, and getting Matabeleland open would give us a tremendous lift in shares and everything else.” (Palmer 1977: p. 29)

King Lobengula’s peace overtures and flight showed the Ndebele king had had no heart to fight but that had done nothing to dissuade the settler-blood hounds from his trail. 

The killers had shown no inclination to let go of their chance to be the first people in the world ever to use the maxim machine gun in a colonial war.    

At the August 21 1896 first indaba, in the Matobo Hills, the Ndebele spokesperson, Somabulana, had confirmed the effects of this weapon of mass destruction on the Zansi when he assured Rhodes that: 

“You came, you conquered. The strongest takes the land. We accepted your rule. We lived under you.” (Blake, 1977:138)  

Even Mtshana, the supremo of King Lobengula’s army and hero of the last stand at Pupu, where the Allan Wilson Patrol had been wiped out, had apparently been awed to the point of siding with the settler-forces in 1896.

Compared to Mashonaland, the First Chimurenga in Matabeleland had taken only a brief five months (March 20 to August 19 1896) and ended with talks and no hangings for the Zansi sons of Khumalo. 

In Mashonaland, Rhodes had instructed the settler-forces to ‘kill everything black’. 

And the Church had advocated genocide – the massacre of all Shona people above the age of 14. 

The fighting had dragged on for over two years and ended with trials, hangings and beheadings of the sons and daughters of Murenga.   

The apparent intention behind the pardons in Matabeleland and the executions in Mashonaland had been to wipe out the memory of protracted defiance presented by the Shona and preserve the memory of subservience presented by the Zansi. 

In yet another sense, the same pardons in Matabeleland and executions in Mashonaland had been a divisive contingency against future patriotic front formations.   

In Matabeleland, the Zansi sons of Khumalo had assured Rhodes: 

“You came, you conquered. The strongest takes the land. We accepted your rule. We lived under you.” (Blake, 1977:138)  

And at the indaba at the gravesite at World View, three weeks after the funeral, Frank Rhodes entrusted the homosexual’s grave into the Matabele chiefs’ care.

“And as a proof that I know the whiteman and the Matabele will be brothers and friends for ever, I leave my brother’s grave in your hands. 

I charge you to hand down this sacred trust to your sons that come after you from generation to generation, and I know if you do this my brother will be pleased.”

Is it not strange that Frank Rhodes would left his homosexual brother’s grave in the hands of the survivors of the genocide his kinsman and the Catholic Church had wished upon the Shona. 

His security concerns were, of course, very real given that this was only four (and very painful years) after the First Chimurenga. 

It is interesting to note that the now deceased homosexual’s own security concerns in Mashonaland had informed the burial of Charwe, the medium of Murenga’s daughter (Nehanda), in an unmarked secret grave to deny the descendants the rallying point which Frank was now providing the sons of Khumalo and their descendants in the form of the homosexual’s grave.

In her death vow: “Mapfupa angu achamuka,” the medium of Murenga’s daughter (Nehanda) had extended the battle line drawn by the young Shona/Amahole chief at the second indaba in the Matobo Hills when he challenged the homosexual: 

“You will have to talk to me with my rifle in my hand. I find if I talk with my rifle in my hand, the whiteman pays more attention to what I say. Once I put my rifle down, I am nothing; I am just a dog to be kicked.” (Ranger 1967: p.248)

At what now comes across as the very last indaba in the Matobo Hills, white supremacist history says: 

“The (Ndebele) chiefs appeared in state, and saluted the Colonel (Frank Rhodes) with profound respect.  

It was a remarkable sight and a strange contrast to all that had preceded.

The chiefs regarded the grave with reverential awe.  

There in his tomb lay their great ‘baba’ (father), and now the brother of the ‘baba’ had come to ask them to watch over the home of his spirit.

Then the leaders amongst the chiefs advanced, and in their own tongue spoke eloquently of their love for the great white chief and of the honour paid to them in asking them to keep watch over his remains. 

They were glad to know that his spirit was with them in the Matopos, and they and their children’s children would keep their sacred trust.”

They were the same chiefs who had assured Rhodes that:

“You came, you conquered. The strongest takes the land. We accepted your rule. We lived under you.” (Blake, 1977:138)  

They were the same chiefs who had accepted ‘salaried ceremonial’ positions in the BSAC administration. 

And their new worldview was that it was an honour to be asked to be the ‘black watchmen’ over the remains of their dispossessor.

“They were glad to know that his spirit was with them in the Matopos, and they and their children’s children would keep their sacred trust.” 

The outrageous arrangement was that the Zansi sons of Khumalo watched over the remains of the homosexual buried in Murenga’s shrine while the British public and beneficiaries of desecration watched over the head of Charwe, the medium of the daughter of Murenga, displayed as a trophy of colonial conquest in a British museum. 

And one outrageous outcome of that was that, in 1965, Harold Wilson refused to deploy British troops to stop Ian Smith’s post UDI genocide on the grounds that the same British public (watching over the head of Charwe, the medium of the daughter of Murenga, displayed as a trophy of colonial conquest in a British museum) would not accept a situation where the British forces would fight their own Rhodesian kith and kin. 

This is why, in this distant future, after the homosexual’s descendants have reneged on their own promise to fund the return of the stolen land to the black owners,  it is strange that the descendants of those commissioned to watch over the homosexual’s grave should continue to ‘keep their sacred trust’.

This is why it is strange that the sacred trust to watch over a homosexual’s remains should actually divide the nation and inhibit patriotic front initiatives to restore national dignity.

To be continued…

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