Exorcising Rhodes’ ghost

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“PAKAVIGWA Cecil John Rhodes ndopane chikoro chinezita rake futi.
Asi tanzwa vachiti aiwa vaakuzochinja zita rechikoro ichi kuita Matopo Junior School.
Ah, iye anga achamuka here?
Achimuka achienda kupi?
Ini ndaiti dai aikwanisa kungomuka kana uri mudzimu wake, kungomuka chete kuti, ‘Ndini Rhodes. Musoro wangu uyu ndabuditsa muguva’.
Ah!
Ndingati vakomana it’s not just an AK rifle, but machine gun kupwanya musoro wacho.”
The above sentiments by President Robert Mugabe, as he marked his 93rd birthday celebrations at Matopo Junior School (formerly Rhodes Estate Preparatory School) last week Saturday, are not only revealing, but show the country’s commitment to replace colonial names of various institutions and places with indigenous ones.
And there are still numerous schools and places countrywide named after colonialists; Gifford, David Livingstone, Hamilton, Barham Green, Allan Wilson, Fletcher, Cecil John Rhodes (CJR), Queen Elizabeth, Haartman House, Alfreid Beit, Jameson and many others.
But Rhodes in particular, who died on March 26 1902 in Cape Town, has numerous schools named after him.
This first man in the world to sign a one-million pound cheque, money amassed from looting African resources, was the mastermind behind the colonisation of this country.
He is the same man Rhodesia was named after and he has been lying at the sacred Malindidzimu/Marinda evadzimu in Matobo District since April 10 1902.
Also buried there is Rhodes’ homosexual partner, Dr Leander Starr Jameson, the first Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, Charles Coghlan and a memorial to the Allan Wilson Patrol who, in pursuit of King Lobengula, were wiped out by a Matabele impi led by the induna Gazimbi on December 4 1893 in the famous Shangani Battle.
On the other hand, as documented at the Natural History Museum in Bulawayo, ‘the first Matabele King, Mzilikazi, who died in 1868, was interred in a cave at Entumbane, a low kopje on the northern edges of the Matopo Hills’.
His grandsons, the children of Lobengula; Sidojiwe and Nguboyenja, are also buried there, but Rhodes’ ghost seems to overshadow them.
It is therefore disheartening to note that many people who go to Matobo visit Rhodes’ grave and do not even know King Mzilikazi’s resting place is some three kilometres away.
Unlike the former, the latter is apparently a ‘venerated’ tourist attraction as witnessed by international, regional and domestic tourists who throng the place every year.
This writer remembers tourists from Canada and Australia who came to Matobo to pay their respects to Rhodes in 2011.
“He is our hero,” said one of them, oblivious their ‘hero’ defiled the heart of the Mwari shrine in the country.
Because according to Reports on the Native Disturbances in Rhodesia (1896-97), commenting on the ‘Mlimo superstition’, one native commissioner W.E. Thomas says:
“As far as I can recollect I have, from the days of my boyhood, heard the Matabele talk of the Ngwali as the Makalanga ‘Mlimo’ or God, whom they found the Mlan Makalanga worshipping when they (the Matabele) first entered the country under Umzilikazi (sic).
This Ngwali (or Mlimo) was supposed to be a spirit invisible to the human eye, who sometimes elected to speak from trees, stones, caves and having the place of his high priest’s chief abode in the Matoppo Hills (sic).
He was more, especially the god of the seasons and crops.
Ngwali was a god of peace and plenty.”
And this desecration of Njelele by Rhodes has been a topical issue over the years, with calls being made to exhume Rhodes and company and send their remains back to England.
Whether this is feasible or not, only time will tell.
But in Matobo District, last week, besides the 21st February Movement celebrations, characterised by pomp and fanfare, one could see a story of a people conscious of their history; a people determined to turn back the hands of time and reclaim what was theirs in the first place.
And perhaps there is something unique about Matabeleland South.
The numerous ethnic groups including Ndebeles, Shonas, Kalangas, Sothos and Vendas, living together in peace says a lot about this beautiful place.
The unity among these groups shows that Zimbabweans may be diverse, but are one.
This is the unity President Mugabe advocates; the unity he reiterated last Saturday.
These Zimbabweans in Matobo seemed to be in agreement that: ‘Rhodes, his crew and their think-alike had, and have, no place in Matobo, Nyanga, Lupane, Masvingo, Chinhoyi, Mvurwi, Kwekwe or any other part of Zimbabwe’.
These (colonialists) were merely ‘visitors’ who in their greed found the country irresistible, colonised it and enslaved blacks, the rightful owners of the land.
That also contributed to the First Umvukela/Chimurenga in 1896 and Matobo District was another critical centre of resistance.
The hills, caves, precipitous kopjes, thick vegetation and general rocky terrain certainly made it ideal for the Matabele to wage a war of resistance against white settlers; in the process recording numerous victories.
It was also in Matobo District where Rhodes, in a so-called ‘act of bravery’, accompanied by John Grootboom, Hans Sauer, James Makunga, Vere Stent and Johan Colenbrander, held his so-called ‘great indaba’ (first indaba) with Matabele indunas and chief men on August 21 1896 ‘to make peace’.
But that notorious image of Rhodes sitting on top of a large ant-hill or termite hill, while Matabele indunas sat on the ground smacks of that superiority complex on the part of whites as Rhodes (the so-called ‘big white chief’) praised his race as ‘the finest flower of civilisation’.
It is one despicable image that reflects the thinking of whites even today.
That is why, across the Limpopo in 1985 while addressing his cabinet, apartheid South Africa president Pieter Willem Botha said:
“We do not pretend like other whites that we like blacks.
The fact that blacks look like human beings and act like human beings do not necessarily make them sensible human beings.
Hedgehogs are not porcupines and lizards are not crocodiles simply because they look alike.
If God wanted us to be equal to the blacks, he would have created us all of a uniform colour and intellect.”
This explains why, even prior Zimbabwe’s independence on April 18 1980, blacks in the then Southern Rhodesia were segregated by the Ian Smith regime and Rhodesians in general, such that some couldn’t imagine being led by a black leader.
They (Rhodies) left the country and are now scattered all over the world, especially in places like Australia, South Africa, Britain and the US, pining for Rhodesia while sponsoring agents of regime change in Zimbabwe.
And although it took a protracted liberation struggle to attain independence, that ‘horse and rider’ mentality never went away and that’s why today the likes of Ben Freeth, Roy Bennett, Iain Kay and their ilk look down upon blacks.
That is why it was ‘simple’ for that racist American, Pamela Ramsay Taylor, in December last year, to call former US First Lady Michelle Obama ‘an ape in heels’.
That is why in Melbourne at the Australian Open in January this year, another American racist, ESPN’s sports commentator Doug Adler, compared African-American tennis ace, Venus Williams, to a gorilla.
That is why in the same US is a movement, Black Lives Matter, created in 2012, largely because in that so-called ‘land of the free’, there is this racist-driven wanton killing of black people by whites from time immemorial.
And last week in Matobo, President Mugabe summed it up when he said: “Surely for you to want to go to America kunotsvaga basa is stupid.
Kuri kutandwa vasiri maAmericans vari ikoko.
Iwe unenge washaya chiiko munyika mako?
So let us value our own country, and its resources; work hard to transform our natural resources.”

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