On April 27 1898, the architects of the First Chimurenga War, Mbuya Chahwe, the medium of the Nehanda spirit, and Sekuru Gumboreshumba, the medium of the Kaguvi spirit also known as Murenga, were hanged by the settler regime for daring to challenge colonial dispossession. It is from the Kaguvi spirit, that was alternatively known as Murenga, meaning “war spirit”, that the name Chimurenga was derived.
Mbuya Nehanda along with Zindoga, Hwata and Gutsa wrongly stood accused of murdering a brutal white native commissioner, one Henry Hawkins Pollard of the British South Africa Company who lived near Mazowe and terrorised people in that district.
Rhodesian legal documents classified Mbuya Nehanda modestly as a Mashona woman residing at Chitawa’s Kraal in the Mazowe District; Zindoga as a native kitchen boy residing at Nehanda’s Kraal; and Hwata and Gutsa as native hunters residing at Hwata Kraal.
The four — along with Sekuru Kaguvi — were arraigned in the High Court of Matabeleland that sat in Salisbury on February 20 1898 and were subsequently convicted on March 2 1898 in a case entered as “The (British) Queen against Nehanda”. They were sentenced to death by hanging.
The execution was authorised by the (British) High Commissioner for South Africa, one Alfred Milner, and endorsed by the (British) Imperial Secretary on March 28 1898. The presiding judge was Judge Watermayer, with Herbert Hayton Castens Esquire, as “the acting Public Prosecutor Sovereign within the British South Africa Company territories, who prosecutes for and on behalf of her majesty”.
The warrant for Mbuya Nehanda’s death commanded that she be executed within the wall of the gaol of Salisbury between the hours of 6 and 10 in the afternoon. A Roman Catholic priest, one Fr Richertz, was assigned to convert Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, Hwata and Zindoga. It is said the hapless Catholic priest failed to make headway with Mbuya Nehanda but managed to convert Sekuru Gumboreshumba, whom he baptised as Dismas, the ‘‘good’’ thief.
Gutsa, Hwata and Zindoga were also converted and similarly hanged.
According to Fr Richertz’s account, Mbuya Nehanda “ . . . called for her people and wanted to go back to her own country Mazoe and die there . . . When I saw that nothing could be done with her, the time of the execution having arrived, I left Nehanda and went to Kaguvi who received me in good dispositions. Whilst I was conversing with him, Nehanda was taken to the scaffold. Her cries and resistance, when she was taken up the ladder, the screaming and yelling disturbed my conversation with Kaguvi very much, till the noisy opening of the trap door upon which she stood, followed by the heavy thud of her body as it fell, made an end to the interruption”, he wrote.
Fr Richertz, however, conveniently forgot to mention the other words Mbuya Chahwe said to him, that “Mapfupa angu achamuka (my bones will surely rise)”.
Source: Mugabe R. G (2001), Inside the Third Chimurenga, OPC