EVERY nation has a month of remembrance.
It is a time nationals stop, come together and acknowledge the sacrifices that make them a nation.
All this is done despite or in spite of their differences.
Despite the ‘ice’ that characterises relations between Americans and Russians, every June 6, they meet at Normandy beach to remember a communal effort that saved them as allies in the Second World War.
On that day, their ideological differences cease to matter.
In Zimbabwe, history has made April our own month of remembrance.
On April 26 1898, the mediums of Sekuru Kaguvi, Mbuya Nehanda together with Chief Mashayamombe and Muzambi awaited their execution.
Now and again Mbuya Nehanda’s medium, Charwe’s anguish echoed from behind the cold stone walls.
As news spread of the capture of these mediums, the Salisbury Nugget created a poetic verse in celebration.
“How are the mighty fallen! Aye, mighty in bloody deeds;
The witch doctors’ wives and women will soon wear widow’s weeds.
Their Lord is fallen – his power is done,
His rule has set – as the setting sun,
But – never to rise again.
How are the mighty fallen! Go look at him in his cell,
Stripped of the bracelets and doctor’s charms,
Stripped of his rank as well.
A convict waiting to know his doom,
Like a withered flower that has lost its bloom on a sandy desert plain.
Spirits of innocent victims, look down on your vanquished fore;
Let not your friends who are living forget the revenge they owe.
As others have learned long years ago,
So the young generation must learn to know
That the White Queen means to reign.”
Father Richartz of Chishawasha Mission, who had attended the court procedures, went to the cells to convert the four.
“Go to the others, I refuse,” Sekuru Kaguvi said to the priest.
The others did not respond to the priest’s conversion ranting.
Mbuya Nehanda broke into war song.
Refusing to give up, the priest returned to Chishawasha where, interestingly, the medium of Sekuru Kaguvi’s daughter was a practising convert.
The idea was to use her to convince her father to repent.
The priest had rightly assumed the daughter would be Sekuru Kaguvi’s weakness.
He brought her back with instructions to persuade her father to ‘repent from the sin of rising against the British queen and her descendants’.
He was also to repent in order to be admitted into the heaven of those who had displaced, maimed, raped and killed his (and her own!) people.
Her plea was for her father to repent and be baptised by the spiritual representative of the British queen and empire now curiously acting as spiritual guide to the empire’s black victims.
And, in the end Sekuru Kaguvi the great medium was converted, baptised and renamed Dismas, ‘the good thief’ who had been crucified together with ‘Jesus of Nazareth’.
The next day, April 27 1898, the condemned were led to the gallows where Mbuya Nehanda made the historic vow: “Mapfupa angu achamuka.”
After the executions, Father Richartz declared: “Everyone felt relieved after their execution, as the very existence of the main actors in the horrors of the rebellion, though they were secured in prison, made one feel uncomfortable.”
But his next words belied the show of confidence.
He continued: “Their bodies were buried in a secret place, so that no natives could take away their bodies and claim that their spirits had descended (as in the Jesus case) to any other prophetess or witchdoctor.”
However, a spiritual template that would dog the nation for almost a century to come had been cast for the Zimbabwean month of April.
Four years down the line, on April 10 1902, Cecil John Rhodes who had died in SA on March 26 was buried at Malindidzimu, one of the most sacred spaces on Zimbabwean land, in the Matobo Hills.
Because Rhodes was a homosexual, the burial translated to a spiritual desecration of the whole nation.
The equivalent would be a burial of Adolf Hitler in Jerusalem.
Then on April 8 1919, another curse was born in Zimbabwe in the form of Ian Douglas Smith who was to perpetrate another holocaust similar in proportions to one that had been committed by Rhodes in the First Chimurenga.
On April 1 1931, the Land Apportionment Act was legislated to totally deprive black Zimbabweans of every form of livelihood they had hitherto derived from the land.
The late former ZANU Chairman Herbert Chitepo described it as, ‘a genocidal extermination of a people’.
The act ensured Africans remained condemned and quarantined in the tsetse fly and mosquito-infested lowveld and on waterless, rocky granite sandy soils.
Next was April 14 1964, when Winston Field was replaced by Ian Smith who vowed: ‘Not in a thousand years!’ would black majority rule see the light of day.
The result of Smith’s entry on the Rhodesian political scene was interesting.
On April 28 1966, exactly 68 years after Nehanda’s historic vow, the Second Chimurenga was sparked off by the Battle of Sinoia (Chinhoyi) in which a group of seven men symbolically code-named Armagedon clashed with the Rhodesians.
All seven perished in the fighting but as in Nehanda’s case, their death was not an end, but a beginning of a protracted armed struggle that would bring us independence on April 18 1980.
Chinhoyi was followed by Chitepo’s assassination on March 18 1975 and the following month on April 25, Robert Mugabe and Edgar Tekere left Rhodesia to lead the liberation struggle from Mozambique.
The Chimurenga struggle would rage in the name and prophecy of Mbuya Nehanda until the Rhodesians are forced to surrender to mark Zimbabwe’s independence on April 18 1980.
The descendants of Mbuya Nehanda would invite another of Father Richartz’s successors to bless their independence.
The following 37 years would see the black believers go into mountains to deny themselves earthly pleasures to mourn the death and later celebrate their saviour Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Few would remember the sacrifices closer to home made by men and women over the years.
Mbuya Nehanda’s descendants would organise marches against anyone who dared pledge their allegiance to their country.
Some would even claim to have the spirits of the Queen’s religion which was trying to protect the nation.
Any traffic accidents that would occur in this month would be blamed on the ‘demonic’ African religion and its followers.
Anyone who dares remind the people of their history is quickly labelled a political party cadre using propaganda.
People would come with all sorts of reasons for not acknowledging the sacrifices of those who went before them.
“We are economically not stable to think about Mbuya Nehanda and the struggle,” some would declare.
“The liberation struggle and Mbuya Nehanda business is no longer relevant, it is a thing of the past, we want to focus on bread and butter issues,” others would contend
And just like the nation would be indifferent, Mbuya Nehanda’s legacy would slowly be forgotten, not even a mention of her would be heard on April 27.
Isn’t that a tragedy?
EVERY nation has a month of remembrance.