Let’s press for compensation after UN ruling on Nehanda, Kaguvi

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THERE was a feel-good factor around the announcement that the original Rhodesia police dockets and court judgments that saw liberation icons Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi executed are now on the Memory of the World Register, recognising their roles in changing history.
But that recognition must propel the country to press for charges against the perpetrators and demand compensation for victims of Rhodesian brutality.
For more than a century, both Britain and Zimbabwe had largely remained mum on the circumstances relating to the deaths of Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi, in the process threatening to wipe their collective memories from history.
Equally baffling, especially on the Zimbabwean side, is that while the country has, through the National Archives of Zimbabwe (NAZ), led the push for recognition of Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi’s place in the annals of global history, it has been silent on calls for compensation on the executions of these liberation stalwarts.
Interestingly, a country like Kenya, itself a former British colony, has successfully pressed for compensation from its former colonial master.
Surely Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi deserve much more than having records of their brutal execution being placed in the Memory of the World Register.
Last month the NAZ succeeded in its bid, making Zimbabwe the 14th African country to win endorsement from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO’s) 14-member International Advisory Committee.
The entry was one of two African papers accepted ahead of 3 998 others.
Only 47 submissions were accepted in 2015.
Prior to this recognition by UNESCO, there had been muted, but justified calls for compensation of these two and other liberation icons who were murdered by the colonial settler regime.
Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi were inspirational, spiritual and religious leaders who mobilised the masses to rebel against the Rhodesian settler regime that had occupied Zimbabwe in the 1890s.
Mbuya Nehanda’s execution was authorised by British High Commissioner for South Africa Mr Alfred Milner and endorsed by the British Imperial Secretary on March 28 1898.
The executions were done on the authority of Judge Watermayer, with Mr Herbert Hayton Castens as ‘the acting Public Prosecutor Sovereign within the British South Africa Company Territories, who prosecutes for and on behalf of Her Majesty’, The Sunday Mail reported this week.
According to the death warrant, Mbuya Nehanda was to be executed within the wall of the goal of Salisbury, between the hours of six and 10.
A Roman Catholic priest, Father Richertz, was assigned to convert Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi.
It is believed he failed to make headway with Mbuya Nehanda, only succeeding with Sekuru Kaguvi, whom he baptised ‘Dismas’ – the ‘good thief’.
It is said on the day of their execution, wires were hot with telegrams to London with ‘news’ that the war had ‘ended’.
Their skulls, together with those of Chiefs Chingaira, Chinengundu, Mashonganyika, Mapondera and Chiwashira were allegedly shipped to England as ‘war trophies’.
In August, during the Heroes Day commemorations, President Robert Mugabe called for Britain to repatriate the remains of fighters of the country’s struggle against its colonialism.
“We are told that skulls of our people, our leaders, are being displayed in a British museum and they are inviting us to repatriate them,” said President Mugabe.
“We will repatriate them, but with bitterness, questioning the rationale behind decapitating them.
“The First Chimurenga leaders, whose heads were decapitated by the colonial occupying force, were then dispatched to England, to signify British victory over, and subjugation of, the local population.
“Surely, keeping decapitated heads as war trophies, in this day and age, in a national history museum, must rank among the highest forms of racist moral decadence, sadism and human insensitivity.”
In 2013, Britain ‘agreed’ to compensate Kenyans tortured during the Mau Mau uprising against colonial rule in the 1950s.
Foreign Secretary William Hague then expressed what he said was ‘sincere regret’ that the abuses had taken place and that his government would pay a total of US$30,8 million to 5 228 clients represented by a British law firm.
Negotiations began after a London court ruled in October 2012 that three elderly Kenyans, who suffered castration, rape and beatings while in detention during a crackdown by British forces and their Kenyan allies in the 1950s, could sue Britain.
The torture took place during the so-called Kenyan Emergency of 1952-60, when fighters from the Mau Mau movement attacked British targets, causing panic among white settlers.
In a test case, claimants Paulo Muoka Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara last year told Britain’s High Court how they were subjected to torture and sexual mutilation.
Lawyers said that Nzili was castrated, Nyingi severely beaten and Mara subjected to appalling sexual abuse in detention camps during the Mau Mau rebellion.
A fourth claimant, Susan Ngondi, has died since legal proceedings began.
The Mau Mau nationalist movement originated in the 1950s among the Kikuyu people of Kenya.
Its loyalists advocated violent resistance to British domination of the country.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission estimated that 90 000 Kenyans were killed or maimed and 160 000 detained during the uprising.
It is our hope that the lawyers in Zimbabwe are preparing for a bruising legal battle that will make Britain pay for its past sins.

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