‘Mbuya Nehanda Isn’t A National Hero’ -Historian

Zimbabwean historian, Dr Takavafira Zhou, has said Mbuya Nehanda, a first Chimurenga heroine, isn’t a national hero despite attempts by the state to portray her like one.

His remarks come after President Emmerson Mnangagwa has unveiled the statue of Mbuya Charwe, the spirit medium of Mbuya Nehanda that was erected in Harare. Pindula News present Dr Zhou’s statement below.

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27 May 2021

By Dr. T. ZHOU

This epistle must be understood as an accurate historical narrative, and nothing more. The truth is that Nehanda was not a national figure but local figure as a spirit medium whose influence was restricted to Mazoe area. Her advantage was nearness to the locus of power and white misconception of 1896-97 risings. She has been wrongly elevated to national status because of a totalising Zezuru hegemonic power. To assume only Zezuru had National spirit mediums like Nehanda, Kaguvi and Chaminuka is a dangerous historical misnomer.

Pre-colonial Zimbabwe was more organised along clans with all clans having their own spirit mediums. Many areas had their own spirit mediums with Mazarire spirit medium in Masvingo, Muendamberi spirit medium in Chegutu, VaChipfedza spirit medium in Chivi and Mazvihwa, with the Lemba resorting to Ngoma Lungundu and Gona Magumbate that also had spirit mediums or special handlers. Various other areas had their own spirit mediums and never knew of a Nehanda and Kaguvi.

Historians (Prof Ranger, Prof Sabelo Gathseni, Prof Beach, Prof Cobbing, Dr Zhou etc) are agreed of the absence of priesthood in the First Chimurenga. If Nehanda is to be awarded heroine status it must never be for the First Chimurenga but her mythical influence in the Second Chimurenga. Nehanda even denied to have had sent people who killed a Native Commissioner, Pollard. She was merely an innocent woman wrongly killed on false assumption that religious leaders were crucial in 1896-97 Risings.

In fact, there was no Chimurenga in 1896-97 but Zvimurenga with individual chiefs entering the war alone, fighting alone and being defeated alone. Local politics was more important than feelings of nationality, with many local chiefs joining the war against fellow African chiefs. The concept of a sudden and simultaneous rising by Africans against whites instigated by spirit mediums in a manner reminiscent of the night of long knives in Germany, did not exist. There was no extraterritorial planning but localised and parochial planning.

Nehanda was not known beyond Mazoe. Kaguvi had hunting medicine and when people flocked to him to get the medicine and anti-locust pesticide he was erroneously considered as a centre of planning the rising. He was also a fugitive womaniser, running away from men whose wives he had abused.

It is surprising how our politics has continued to be divorced from academic reality for political expediency. It is also interesting to note how Mugabeism has continued beyond Mugabe’s reign. The Second Republic that initially adopted a Zimbabwe is open for business mantra had by 2020 failed to make this a reality. Worse still its attempt of an overdosage Karangification of Zimbabwe to dilute Mugabe’s 37 years of Zezurufication of Zimbabwe reached a brick wall. Deflated by failure to turn around the economy of Zimbabwe, the so-called new dispensation turned 360 degrees to Mugabeism and liberation struggle rhetoric with the current pre-occupation with Nehanda statue.

If we need the real heroes of the First Chimurenga one wonders why we are silent of Chief Makoni Chingaira who was the first victim of the First Chimurenga, executed by a firing squad. It is undisputable that his head is in the United Kingdom, and not that of Nehanda as erroneously claimed by some people. R.G. Mugabe would not have claimed the bottom of Great Zimbabwe birds and left the heads of his Zezuru kith and kins in UK. Another great fighter was Mashayamombe and his Gwindingwi that became the centre of the rising in Chegutu. Equally important is Nyamanda among the Ndebele who continued the war for some time in the Matopos area when others sued for peace.
Even Lobengula qualifies for hero status given his resolve not to surrender in the 1893-94 war of dispossession. The greatest guerrilla fighter of the initial primary resistance was Mapondera who fought until 1902 using elusive and evasive guerrilla warfare and retreating into Mozambique. Put simply, Zimbabwe needs to move from political rhetoric by leaving a legacy of accurate history for future generations. We must celebrate our unity in diversity and desist from imposing a diet of historical falsehoods for political expediency.

University knowledge must be manufactured and processed and guide leaders against the trenches of folly. We can’t celebrate the centrality of priesthood in 1896-97 when it had very minimal influence. It is also dangerous to elevate ethnic spirit mediums to National status when history is pregnant with facts of their local status. As much as it is important to remember the dead, Zimbabwe would do better if leaders are preoccupied with the improvement of the livelihoods of the generality of the Zimbabwean people.

Mbuya was never a ZANU PF member because she died in 1898 and ZANU PF was formed in 1963

@Takavafira Zhou

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9 comments on “‘Mbuya Nehanda Isn’t A National Hero’ -Historian

  1. Quite intriguing and insightful. More research and articles are welcome in this area to open debate over the issue.

  2. Zvinoshamisa kwazvo kana maDr edu anofanira kuswatanudza nhema dzakanyorwa nevarungu otoquota ndiwo madistortions acho.Zhou Takavafira is putting his anti zanuism and anti.Nehanda into academic field.His personal biases influenced his experience,he sounds to be working for someone wanting to discredit Nehanda. Other spirit mediums in all parts of the country recognised and mentioned Ambuya Nehanda as a great Mhondoro.If other mediums existed they saluted to the powers of Chaminuka and Nehanda.All Chief’s in Zimbabwe vaiuya kuzopetera kuna Mambo Chaminuka including Lobengula who realised Chaminuka as the superior medium of the land.Nehanda became the leading warrior spirit whose influence pervaded all provinces in the 1890s and from 1884 the year she possessed Charwe of the Hwata family.The Dr is totally lost,but it seems deliberate.In 1898,The Settler regime,said,”The BSAC must shoot on spot anyone possessed by the spirit of the great mhondoros of Chaminuka,Nehanda” To precise Mike Cambel the Administrator of Salisbury said these words soon after execution of Nehanda .Why is that other mediums were not cited as national threats is a bone to chew for the Dr.The issue is like biblical wars where God had a leading priest in his wars to independence.God is an authority like aDr,he does not want confusion,one leading prophet at a time.When Moses led Egyptians as the most prominent -God Chosen figure it doesn’t mean there were no junior priests,no.For the Dr to reduce Ambuya Nehanda’s status to a local family spirit is mockery to justice and the revolution.Spirit mediums has got ranks which the Dr may need to find out by reading Mutsvairo’s and other publications by mentally disillusioned African writer’s.The Dr is very wrong .The fact that only ZANU PF is following the correct path of our ancestors since the cited 2nd Chimurenga makes he spirits connect themselves to it,than to voluntary Sellouts who include the most educated Professors and Drs.The Dr want credit but does not want to give credit where it is deserved.Why is that Chitepo from Manicaland ordered the Cdes to take Ambuya Nehanda,”Mazviona” to lead the war in exile in 1972 as if there were be mediums of spirits in his home area.This is why Chitepo qualifies to be a Nationalist,who does not seek greatness by attacking people on tribal lines like what my Dr Zhou is divisivly spitting hatred on tribal lines of Zezuruism,Karangaism,which he himself is perpetuating in his tribal comment,by a Dr.

  3. It is agreed that other crucified warriors like Chingaira ,Mashayamombe ,Chiwashira,Khumalo ,up to about 25 of them were great warriors too,they too saluted to the powers of Nehanda well before and during the 1896 war.
    The Dr may need to know that it was the great spirit of Nehanda that foresaw the birth of a great fighter Mapondera and took the miracle of his birth complications to the Spiritual King of the land Sekuru Chaminuka,who made a beeline prophecy that the baby boy,Mapondera would be a great warrior,and in deed he was up to 1894 when he and the Nyamanda Movement extended beyond 1898.That alone tells you that Nehanda is indeed a Great National Hero.Drs can get it wrong ,they are not gods.Infact they must start researching on what they don’t know,their own culture,spiritual ancestral knowledge.To do this,they must use a pure Afrocentric ideological underpinning.This is why such Drs fail to question the colonial narrative that still ask history questions that talks of “benefits of colonialism” These Drs are teaching for money,criticizing for political mileage and forgetting to selfcrique and think they are gods in politicizing a National Hero who is no more,whose head is outstanding.The Doctoral timing to attack such a figure is misplaced ,it pleases those who gruesomely murdered Charwe .The Dr is also belittling the rest of the first Chimurenga heroes whom he want to confine their influences to their provinces or districts of origin.Mashayamombe moved to the Mazowe liberation epicentre because powers of war influence were coordinated from there nationwide as was done by Mkwati.In summary the Dr is telling the nation not to honour vaChingaira,Mashayamombe,Kaguvi,Umlugulu,as National ,but local tribal leaders.This is regrettable and a misfiring that will dent his Doctorate credentials on historical matters.He seems to have been driven by his ambitions to attack the achievements of the second republic.If the Dr is too African like some of us,he can not be redeemed until he realizes that there is God’s power in Nehanda.God can curse the whole nation like how God turned against Egyptians who failed to realise God’s powered on their journey to Canaan.Kusaita chivanhu chekutemekedza these Sacred heroes can cause the nation to suffer .That is. how the government is addressing the spiritual aspects of the land because most christianised Drs and Professors are shy to associate with their cultural realities to an extent of calling them demons.Livelihoods can be solved by appeasing spirits of the land.At family level you can try to address livelihood issues of surviving members,but you won’t succeed for as long as “usati waripa Amai vawakarova or baba vakakutsamwira” When the biblical god said kudza baba naMai…he was teaching the power of spirituality to the living whose living days can be cut shot for failure to respect parents.African religion knew this before bible came.Whatmore failure to respect mawar vets akakuchekerwai sana Ambuya Nehanda,aya ndiwo maDr anorovesa nyika neshamhu pedzezvo voti vaMunangagwa gadzirisai hupenyu ivo vasingaone pavari kusvisvera vanhu nhamo napo.Iye Dr uyu adii kutsoropodza how sanctions have negatively affected livelihoods dzaati VaMunangagwa varikuita misprioritise.Inga iye asiyawo zvese ndokututi takarasima nekuita kacritique thesis on Nehanda.This proves one thing,that Nehanda is a Bigger National ,non tribal spirit than the Dr,and vaMnangagwa’s government is right in restoring spiritual legacy destroyed by Europe thru such Doctorates as confirmed by Macaulay in British Parliament on 2 Feb 1835,and by Leopold of Belgium in his1883 message to mercenary missionaries who came to confuse Africans by destroying our cultural and spiritual backbone that was more civilized than European one.Dr must research these and stop lecturing personal tribal competition on national matters.Nehanda or Chaminuka’s spirits know no tribes,they were there when our black race was created and the may overshadow anyone.The Hwata clan owns their child Charwe who was crucified ,not the spirit of Nehanda.The spirit can actually come kumusha kwaDr kuzovaratidza kuti the spirit is indeed national

  4. If Zhou is an African in his culture,he must know kuti ukatuka Amai hapana chinofamba Chero uri Dr,just becoz of spirituality in chivanhu chedu chaiveko bible tisati rauya.Bible rakatozouya richitsinhira kuti ukasaremekedza vabereki unogurirwa hupenyu naMusiki.If an African family is not doing well feret solutions and sources of problems from all corners.If you try to address a problem wrongly Dr ,you miss it.God expect christians to respect Jesus just because he is said to have died for spiritual freedom in the same way Dr Zhou and everyone else must respect ma war veterans akaita saMbuya Nehanda Charwe,vanaTongogara,Ziyapapa,Nikita,Mnangagwa,Chiwenga for what they went thru for the nation to be free.People who fail to respect people given to them as sacrificial lamps vanokonzera nhamo munyika nekuti vanokwezva hasha dzaMwari sezvakaita vaive vopandukira Moses murenje nekusaziva kuti chovarumisa nenyoka chii,”it was the issue of spirituality” Every war of God is led by Priests or inspired people who would lead others to deliverance like Moses and God gives one overall leader at a time.Moses zvaaitungamira hazvirevi kuti kwaive kusina mamwe maprophet madiki,kana kuti majuruwo munezvimwe.Pahondo Charwe aitove mukuru aitozikanwa nemasvikiro enyika yese kubvira 1884 pakapoterwa Charwe,uye kuma 1896 porwiwa Chimurenga.VanaMashayamombe vakatotama kuuya kumuzinda waNehanda kuzopihwa makwara eHondo.Vose vana Chingaira Vanoziva hukuru hwaNehanda husingazikanwe nemaDr akaita saZhou.To reduce first Chimurenga heroes and heroins to local tribal family or district heroes is a mockery to justice and revolution.Saka Dr asingagone kupa vamwe the respect they deserve iye ndiye opihwa mbiri yeuDr hwekushora vaanofanirwa kusaluter. As I aluded to earlier our failure to honour such heroes whose heads are still in the UK,imi maDr muchirara muma hotera may bring wrath from God from the spiritual angle until maziva sevana veegypt murenje.Ko varungu vaizobatirei Nehanda chete vachisiya mamwe Masvikiro emamwe matunhu nguva idzodzo,it is because she became the most outstanding one.The Dr may need to quote from books by mentally decolonised panafricanists who were correcting colonial distortions this Dr Zhou is still quoting.Mike Cambel ,soon after hanging Nehanda,said,” The BSAC must shoot on spot anyone possessed by the spirits of the great mhondoros of Chaminuka,Nehanda..” proving kuti Masvikiro ane mazera .Chero Dr vakaunganidza Masvikiro ose nhasi vanongozvinzwira kuti vachirikutotaura hukuru hwaNehanda naChaminuka nekuti Mweya inongobata chero wayanzi ibate naMwari zvisinei netribe nekuti yaivepo paisikwa mutema naMwari.Dr’s confining Nehanda’s spirit shows kuti ndiDr wezvimwewo,izvi haatozvizive.Hwata people can claim to own Charwe the medium,not the spirit which is National dating back to Tovera.Charwe was the 6th or 7th medium of Nehanda ,the first Nehanda was Damukwa mwana waSeke ,others were Chinyumira,Nyamhita.The Dr may need to read Mutsvairo’s works among others.Europeans knew the spiritual power of National spirits well before colonialism,and they planned to destroy African cultural and spiritual realities,This Dr must find the secret plan of the British from Macaulay’s 1835 February 2 speech in the British Parliament and Leopold’s lecture to mercenary missionaries in 1883.MaDr asingazivi history yavo anotisekesa,otherwise they were recruited to deteach as mentally colonised agents.
    Chitepo from Manicaland was a real nationalist who could order war vets to take Ambuya Nehanda(Mazviona) in 1972 to go and lead the war spiritually .Zvaaitora Mbuya Nehanda ava,zvaireva kuti kuManicaland kwaive kusina Masvikiro here etribe yake,this is why he is a Nationalist unlike the tribal comments of Dr Zhou whose criticism is hovering around Zezuruism,Karangaism,stooping so low.
    You pretend to be sympathetic to the Chingaira’s,Mashayamombe,Umlugulu,yet you are putting them in the same derogatory bracket and level of being “local-tribal” warriors yet they are all national heroes.During the birth complications of Mapondera,it was Nehanda’s spirit that told people to wait as she ran to tell the miraculous birth complications to the spiritual King Chaminuka,who then prophesied the birth of a baby boy who will be a great warrior.He proved this prophecy by leading the revolution up to 1904 and together with the Nyamanda Movement ,they extended Chimurenga one beyond 1896.Lobengula acknowledged Chaminuka as a Great spirit and he was bringing tithes to the National Spiritual King where all other kings and their spirit mediums took the spiritual word from Chaminuka who directly communicated with God without the colonial need for a Jesus to inteces.Chaminuka died in 1883 his powers splitted the waters of Shangani river on the day of his death and the river Mupfure when he was possessed under Chief Chivero before the spirit came to Pasipamire of the Rwizi family.Chaminuka prophesied the day and month of the eclipse that happened on the day he woul give last supper and breakfast to all Zimbabweans before his departure to hand himself to Lobengula whom he called (Chingururu) in Shona.
    This is what Dr Zhou must spent reading or learning.His lack of respect of sacred heroes may cause suffering of livelihoods from God and he will expect VaMunangagwa to solve the mess he invites himself in the same way the Dr fail to do a thesis to explain how the sanctions imposition they called for have negatively affected the livelihoods which he wants VaMnangagwa to solve.The Dr wastes time doing a mini thesis criticizing good work on Charwe,instead of explaining how his participation in inviting sanctions have destroyed livelihoods as PTUZ President.He seems to be lecturing poison.Ndiwo maDr achiri kurga Zimsec ichibvunza vana kuti “what were the benefits of colonialism” This is what they must advocate for removal kana Ari maDrs zvechikwadi asina dzakapambwa pfungwa.I wonder if he is a Dr .Such Doctorates and Professors are not national assets.This will dent his Dctrt in terms of perspective heholds.

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‘Mbuya Nehanda Isn’t A National Hero’ -Historian