First Chimurenga heroes’ remains vanish


THE names Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, Lobengula, Chingaira, Chinengundu Mashayamombe, Mapondera, Chitekedza Chiwashira, Chingaira Makoni, Chikare, Chigavazira and Mashonganyika are more than identification symbols.
These are names of black people who laid the foundation of resistance to colonialism; leaders in the rise of indigenes against colonialism.
But these names, huge in deeds and ideals as they are, today have limited space in the country’s physical and psychological realms.
The colonisers desecrated these heroes of the First Chimurenga and what they stood for in every way possible.
Today, not a single grave or shrine exists to identify the final resting place of these heroes and heroines.
There are no shrines and places of honour hosting these heroes where citizens can visit and pay homage. Their physical space has been completely obliterated.
It behoves on us to accord them the spiritual space they so richly deserve.
In desperation and need for a rallying point, Zimbabweans once identified a tree along Josiah Tongogara Avenue in Harare where it was said Mbuya Nehanda was hanged.
It became known as the Hanging Tree.
Never mind whether it was or was not the actual place where the great Nehanda was executed.
It became a rallying point that kept the memory of the national heroine alive.
But in the fashion of the yesteryear coloniser, the Harare City Council chose to desecrate the memory by removing the tree and tarring the spot, doing away with any trace of the ‘sacred’ place.
While Cecil John Rhodes, the architect of the colonisation of the country and his band of invaders who included Leander Star Jameson, the whites’ heroes lie in our national shrines such as Njelele (Matobo Hills), the whereabouts of indigenous leaders of resistance, the rightful heirs to those sacred places, are unknown to date.
Of course, it is known that some of these leaders were beheaded and their heads shipped to museums in London and other parts of Europe as trophies.
The disappearance of Gumboreshumba, the medium of Kaguvi or Murenga and others were deliberate acts.
The beheadings, unmarked graves, humiliation, forced conversions of blacks to Christianity and forcing them to abandon their beliefs and religion was an erasure, a desecration meant to justify conquest, domination, enslavement and plunder of the land.
The disappearance of First Chimurenga heroes was meant to take away the human qualities, national aspirations of these heroes, removing rallying points against future uprisings.
“Until near the end of the 19th Century, the African freedom struggle was a military struggle,” writes John Henrik Clarke in World’s Great Men of Colour
“This aspect of African history has been shamefully neglected.
“Africa’s oppressors and Western historians are not ready to concede the fact that Africa has a fighting heritage.
“The Africans did fight back and they fought exceptionally well.
“These revolutionary nationalist African kings are mostly unknown because white interpreters of Africa still want the world to think that the African waited in darkness for other people to bring the light.
“Until quite recently, it was rather generally assumed, even among the well-educated persons in the West that the continent of Africa was a great expanse of land, mostly jungle, inhabited by savages and fierce beasts.”
These heroes had to be vanquished from memories not just of Africans, but also those of the settlers.
Their exploits were legendary that graves in places of honour and their continued remembrance would forever make the invaders uneasy in the land they had forcibly taken.
For instance, whites admitted to Chinegundu’s military might; “At Mashayamombe, we have not been able to take real control of the witch doctor’s kopje (Kaguvi’s stronghold); and we probably had more casualties than the natives, I do not propose to attack any strongholds, but to establish forts, harass him (Chinengundu) and threaten his crops.”
To the settlers, Chief Kadungure Mapondera was an outstanding commander and politician who in 1894 proclaimed his independence of the British South Africa Company (BSAC)’s rule, led a rebellion in the Guruve, Mazowe and Mount Darwin areas of Mashonaland Central.
He led a force of initially under 100 men, but had over 600 under his command by mid-1901.
He was captured in 1903 and died in jail in 1904, never to be seen or heard from again by his people.
Clearly, what the settlers trashed were not the persons of these heroes, but what they represented.
Erasing them was critical to the success of their agenda of plunder.
For instance, the message back home in Britain was that these were minor skirmishes and when shareholders visited the colonised country, they would not find great monuments in honour of Chiwashira or Nehanda.
Thus after the pyrrhic victory of the settlers, the BSAC issued its apologia to shareholders in 1898 under the title of ‘Reports on the Native Disturbances in Rhodesia, 1896-97’.
The reports states that ‘the rebels were defeated’ and the war is described as ‘disturbances’.
According to publishers who reproduced the report in 1975: “The 96 Rebellions is, we feel, more accurate than its forerunner. ‘Disturbances’ seems somewhat euphemistic: they were, in fact, full-scale uprisings…the original title were perhaps more generally acceptable to late Victorians.”
So widespread was this desecration that Kenyans have successfully sued the United Kingdom for similar crimes.
According to legal gurus, the country can use international conventions to recover and restore the heads of the leaders who were beheaded.
Prominent lawyer Jonathan Samkange is on record saying Zimbabwe could claim damages against Britain, and that reparations could run into billions of United States dollars considering the gravity of the brutality.
“We can institute a class action against Britain and possibly its allies like what other countries have done.
“It can be in the form of a class action or Zimbabwe as a sovereign State representing its own people against anyone who participated in the heinous acts.”
It is important to note that to date, white people have not stopped their habit of desecrating heroes of ‘weaker’ nations.
For example, Americans ‘killed’ Osama bin Laden and swiftly ‘buried him at sea’.
This move, no doubt, was to ensure that bin Laden is forgotten by his people.
And realising the power of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the West executed him and his body was ‘buried’ in some unmarked grave in the desert.
Today as Libyans regret the murder of Gaddafi, they cannot even draw inspiration from their leader’s shrine.
They do not know where he is buried.
Zimbabweans must also reflect on their First Chimurenga/Umvukela heroes.
Yes, the whiteman mercilessly murdered them, but where are their remains?



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