Celebrating Mbuya Nehanda


MBUYA NEHANDA was ‘crucified’ on April 27 1898, 121 years ago. 

She died without repudiating the correctness of her war on the whiteman. 

Just moments before her murder, she told Fr Richartz, who dared charge that she ask God’s forgiveness for having fought the whiteman, that “…it was the whiteman who robbed her of her land who needed forgiveness from God, not she who was defending her God-given gift,” her land.

The tragedy of being colonised is that you are not in control of your own story; the coloniser assumes ownership of everything — your person, your consciousness and your natural resources.

We were brutally colonised, but we waged a war on the imperialists in which our people went through hell with the British and their European relatives providing the Rhodesian regime with a genocidal war arsenal. 

We fought and triumphed despite. We thus requited Mbuya Nehanda and her compatriots of the First Chimurenga; we also requited Musikavanhu who gave us this gracious land.

Having thus triumphed, a looming tragedy accosts us; that of agreeing that the imperialists were right in the first place, and we hand them the script of our history so that they change it to suit their designs on this our rich beautiful land which they have always coveted.

We become accomplices in the institutionalised violence against ourselves while chorussing the West’s villificatory mantra whose storyline is : “The Zimbabwean male can never do anything right with regard to the females of the land.” 

This mantra is a sentence on the Zimbabwe male while everything that follows are details to support this storyline so that the condemnation holds. 

‘The Zimbabwe male is so sexually abusive no female is safe anywhere in this land, even children,’ the mantra goes. 

“African marriages are invalid because the women are actually bought,” the mantra insists, “…it is not lobola, it is selling women….” 

This mantra has been originated and fuelled by Western-sponsored NGOs. 

The chorus and dance which goes with it is endless; workshop after workshop, such organisations continue to mushroom and the mantra reaches a shrill crescendo because our social structures are not collapsing fast enough. Zimbabwe’s  males must continue to be battered while patriarchy is vilified to no end as the source of all evil. 

Males and ‘their’ patriarchy are accused of blocking every pathway to women’s success and progress. And we find ourselves supporting this colonial pathos; perpetrating insults designed by the West against ourselves.

We are conveniently blinded to the real source of our problems; the trail of destruction left by the imperialists; the continued siphoning of our wealth; the machinations of the West in our economic,  political and cultural life. 

Instead of spending our energies correcting this evil, rebuilding the Zimbabwean edifice, designing the best society we want, consulting among ourselves, our elders and spiritual leaders, we constantly are at each other’s throats. 

The Zimbabwe female is intimidated: “Unless you are on a war path with this forsaken male, you will never be anything of worth. 

She is told to convert the male or dump him.

After pounding our culture so heavily that it never resurrects, we then serve the sentence they have pronounced on our society.

Forsaken, forgotten and buried is our illustrious history. 

If our patriarchal society is bereft and devoid of any respect for women, then Mbuya Nehanda must have been a fluke. 

How can such a moribund society produce a female who commanded so much respect in society and was able to command a war which was critical to the survival of that society? 

So critical was her role in the First Chimurenga that the moment they captured her, the British armed robbers sent telegrammes to Britain that the war was over. 

Where was such a great woman nurtured except in our own society? Why do we not acknowledge that, for us to produce someone so special, there is something special in our society and then we search for that specialness, celebrate and propagate it, kuzvipembedza nokuzvipa tsvakurudzo yakakwana? 

What about the thousands of ZANLA and ZIPRA female cadres who thronged the forests of Mozambique and Zambia to join the armed struggle? How is it possible that females who are so downtrodden, oppressed and exploited can rise up? 

We were free spirits who knew what freedom meant and we rose in our thousands to defend it. 

If we were coming from a society in which women were nothing and males were our slave masters, why would we join these slave masters in a war in which they were in control? 

There were no NGOs telling us what to do then but we made the right choice. 

We consciously analysed what was happening and freely chose to join hands with our male counterparts to destroy the monsters from the West. 

We were not blind, we were not lashed by the men in our society to fight this war.

We fought an illustrious war, we the females of Zimbabwe. 

We went in our thousands, even little girls chose to fight the British monstrosity and they did so gladly.

Some of us came to the front; others carried arms and ammunition to the front; we worked as medics taking care of the comrades, in the department of social welfare, in the commissariat, in the education department where I too worked with thousands others. 

As we worked hand-in-hand with our male counterparts moto weChimurenga burst into excruciating brilliance which blinded and routed our enemy. 

This is how we won the war of liberation — together, hand-in-hand. 

We were not at each other’s throats as the West suggests.

The Zimbabwe male is not the predator of the Zimbabwe female, we know who our enemy is. 

During the struggle, as now, the Zimbabwe male was our friend, our comrade, our compatriot; he was not the tormentor of the female. What tormented us were the regime’s cluster bombs, fletchette bombs, the napalm bombs, the M16 guns, the chemicals they injected into our food, our medicines, our water. There was a host of weapons of mass destructions the British and apartheid South Africans provided the Rhodesians for a genocidal war against us because we would not accept to be robbed of our land. 

The stories of sexual abuse of women in the liberation struggle, as some would like to rewrite our history are an attempt to vilify a deeply spiritual war. Misconduct was not permitted, for the penalties were too severe. 

It was not a war of vagabonds. 

The very Mbuya Nehanda we celebrate today and the spirituality she represents as a chief medium of Mwari would not have been involved in such a war, we would never have succeeded.

ZANLA girls take after Mbuya Nehanda; we embroidered sack cloths that decorated our postos in Mozambique.

Zimbabwean girls, let us take after Mbuya Nehanda who refused to be defined by the whiteman; let us define ourselves on our own terms, for our own purposes, not those of the whiteman!


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