LET us from the onset warn you dear readers. The narration below, by Cde Julian Maodza Murenga Mukomawashe, belongs to the spiritual world. Born on August 22 1960, in Mbire; Cde Murenga is that muzukuru waMbuya Nehanda that Cde Joseph Khumalo and many other freedom fighters referred to during our interviews. Many freedom fighters say Cde Murenga was present when Mbuya Nehanda met the leaders of Zanu and she said in future, “whenever kana mava kuita matare angu, musasiya chizukuru changu ichi.”
We tracked down Cde Murenga and his interview with our team comprising Munyaradzi Huni and Tendai Manzvanzvike is the kind of stuff that needs strong believers in the spiritual world. He narrates a sort of stranger than fiction incident in 1971 where about 44 white Rhodesian soldiers used all means necessary to take Nehanda Nyakasikana, including trying to burn her house and trying to shoot her, in a bid to take her to Salisbury but to no avail.
Cde Murenga, who boosts that he will live up to more than 100 years, for the first time reveals the real name of this person called Mbuya Nehanda and he tells the fascinating story that begins in Mesopotamia, which is some area near the country called Yemen today. And he will tell you that Zimbabwe’s real name is Chivavarira. Now don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Read on …
SM: Comrade Murenga the ever-spoken about chizukuru chaMbuya Nehanda, we are glad to speak to you today. Can you briefly tell us about yourself?
Cde Murenga: My father is called Gatsi Murenga Mukomawashe and my mother is called Raudze Mariwo. Grew up in Mbire, ndakakura ndichingori murwere pane zvainetsa kudzinza kwedu zvechivanhu. At six years, I got worse and we went to see mhepo, kana kuti homwe yaNehanda Nyakasikana, people know her as Mbuya Nehanda. I call her Nehanda Nyakasikana, that’s where I went for treatment. My parents would tell me that ndairwara zvedzinza kana kuti mashavi. I mean mhepo inonyangira mumadzinza or kuti munhu ane mhondoro. I was staying at Tsokoto village, kwasabhuku Mazheru.
SM: What exactly was troubling you?
Cde Murenga: In my dreams, I would see people and these people would appear like they were holding guns. I would scream to my father saying ‘baba honai vanhu avo vakabata pfuti vari kumhanya.” I would bolt out of the house trying to see these people but these people would be nowhere. This would trouble me a lot and I would not sleep. So when we went kwaMbuya, that’s when we were told that ndine mhepo yemhondoro.
SM: When did you go to see Mbuya Nehanda?
Cde Murenga: It was now in 1969. So when we got there and she told us this, she said iwewe, Murenga Mukomawashe, meaning my father, ndichakupa jira, jira iri raiva reblue. She said ndaifanirwa kurara ndakarisunga padumbu pese pandinorara. After a while, I got worse. I would cry the whole night and we went back to Mbuya Nehanda. She said mupwere wenyu uyu ari kunyangirwa nemhepo yatateguru vake vainzi Murenga. She said to me don’t worry too much and performed some rituals. We went back home. Things started getting better after this.
SM: Who is this tateguru Murenga?
Cde Murenga: I will have to take you back in time. Mbuya Nehanda narrated to me that Murenga died in Kenya. He is the one who brought people to Southern Africa from Guruuswa achibva from Tanganyika. He is the one who led people to DRC, Angola and other Southern African countries. Mhondoro yaMurenga is the one that led people as they were walking to Southern Africa. Murenga had two children, one of them was Mindudzepasi, people know him as Chaminuka. The second child was Nyakasikana. By this time she was not yet called Nehanda. The name Nehanda came when she was now in Zimbabwe.
Mbuya Nehanda told me kuti ini ndakabva mhiri yegungwa kunonzi kuMessopotamia. She said her father was this Murenga.
SM: Is this how you are related to Mbuya Nehanda?
Cde Murenga: Yes, that’s where the connection is. When people say ndiri muzukuru waMbuya Nehanda, its not muzukuru panyama. Ndiri muzukuru pamhepo. Nyama iyi yatakatakura kuenda kuZambia during the liberation struggle inoyera Shava Mufakose. Her real name was Mazviona Kawanzaruwa, mhuri yekwa Chienderamwano from Gonono in Mbire.
SM: You seem to know this history very well and we are tempted to ask, so as we are speaking to you, who are we speaking to?
Cde Murenga: You are talking to me panyama. Hatisi kumhepo.
SM: Can you repeat again, how you were related to Mbuya Nehanda?
Cde Murenga: Like I said, people say ndiri muzukuru waMbuya Nehanda. Huzukuru uyu hunouya nekumukudza kwatinenge tichiita iye Nehanda Nyakasikana. Huzukuru wedzinza asi kunana baba wangu, kana Nehanda Nyakasikana achiona baba wangu, anototi baba because she said it in 1970. Something had happened in Dande so many spirit mediums came, some from Mukumbura, some from Kaitano and others came from Kanyemba. When these spirit mediums had gathered, my father was called and vasvika padare, baba vakatanga kuombera zvikanzi aiwa, iwe usandiombere, nekuti ukandiombera matare angu haazofambi nekuti uri baba wangu. This is what Nehanda Nyakasikana said to my father. That’s when we got to know that tiri vedzinza rake. She told my father that whenever you come padare usandiombere because uri mhuri yekwaMurenga and inini ndiri mwana waMurenga saka tiri vanhu vamwe chete. Ini ndinoyera Nzou Samanyanga.
SM: Let’s take you back. After visiting Nehanda Nyakasikana what happened to your illness?
Cde Murenga: After she performed the rituals, after about three weeks, I stopped screaming and running out of the house at night. But the dreams continued. Up to this day, ndinorotswa, chipo changu. In the morning ndatomutswa and I was told I would come here and I was told what we were going to talk about.
SM: So what would you dream about during these times?
Cde Murenga: I would dream about the war only. I would see people running vari kumabvazuva vakatakura pfuti but during those days I was too young to know kuti pfuti chii. Once in the while, my father would take me to Nehanda Nyakasikana to explain my dreams.
SM: Was it always the case then that whenever someone fell sick, they would seek for treatment from Nehanda Nyakasikana?
Cde Murenga: It was not always the case but what I know is that quite a number of people went to her seeking treatment. Whenever she was told about my dreams, she would say I told you kuti mwana wako uyu isusu kare kwacho takanga tine munhu akabva kuMessopotamia. Munhu iyeye akanga aine mudzimu wehondo. That person’s name was Ramawo. Munhu iyeye ndiye akabereka mwana ainzi Mwambiri akazozvara mwana anonzi Tobella others call him Tovera. By the way, all this history is recorded.
SM: How far was your homestead from Mbuya Nehanda’s homestead?
Cde Murenga: It was about 500 metres. Taiva mumusha mumwe chete.
SM: Now, Cde Murenga, when the freedom fighters came to see Mbuya Nehanda, where you old enough to know and understand what was going on?
Cde Murenga: I was already in Sub A at Musengezi Mission. The first comrades came around 1971. I could understand what was going on but by this time I didn’t know anything about politics. All I knew was going to the fields, going to school and herding goats and cattle.
SM: We are told that before the comrades eventually came to carry Mbuya Nehanda across into Zambia before the liberation struggle started, some unusual things, strange things happened before they came?
Cde Murenga: Yeah, so many things happened. What I can tell you is that before the comrades came in 1971, Nyakasikana called all the elders in the village. They all came and she explained to them that there was a war coming but hondo iyi haisi hondo kwandiri, ihondo kwamuri imi. She said if you listen to what I will tell you here, you will survive this war.
Some of the elders didn’t understand what she was saying. She then said Musengezi Mission would soon be closed and kune vasina mabvi vachauya munyika ino asi vachazosvika pachikoro vobva vadzinga vana vechikoro. Vachatanga kugara ipapo, vanhu ivavo ndeve hondo.
The elders asked what they were supposed to do. She called Mambo Matsiwo anoyera Ngara and she told him to go around telling all headmen kuti vabvise mapenny, mari yakare yaiva neburi pakati. She said all the headmen should bring mapenny aya pano and in total there must be 12. She said 12 represented marudzi ari muZimbabwe and they were supposed to be given to my father and three other elders called Chaparadza, Chiweshe and Chatambudza. These elders were supposed to take mapenny iwayo up to Muvhuradonha mountain kumabvazuva kwaigara Nyatsimba Mutota. Mapenny iwayo aifanirwa kunoiswa paguva rake on that mountain vachikumbira kuti hondo isaenderere mberi.
This Chief who had been given this responsibility to go around telling this to the headmen had just married his second wife so he failed to accomplish this task because his two wives were staying far apart. He would go and stay one month living with one wife and the next month he would go to the other wife. The month that this chief went to his second wife, white Rhodesian soldiers came to Musengezi Mission. They came in a Dakota and it landed at the school grounds. They went to the headmaster and told him that the school would be closed until tabata magandanga. They told the headmaster that they had been sent by Queen Elizabeth from England. By the time Mambo Matsiwo came back, Nehanda Nyakasikana said she was no longer able kuita mhiko yake because it was too late.
SM: What did these Rhodesian soldiers do after forcing the closure of the school?
Cde Murenga: On the fourth day, I think one of our relatives ainzi muzukuru Garden had told them about Mbuya Nehanda. He told them that Mbuya Nehanda was assisting freedom fighters. He showed them the way to Mbuya Nehanda’s homestead. These white Rhodesian soldiers had one black soldier from Fort Victoria, which is Masvingo now. He is the one who was speaking chilapalapa leading these soldiers as they looked by Nehanda Nyakasikana’s homestead.
Before these soldiers arrived at her homestead, Nehanda Nyakasikana akasvikirwa after calling all the elders in the village and told them that in the morning, vaya vasina mabvi vachauya pano. Asi iwe Murenga Mukomawashe, meaning my father, ndoda uyambuke Muzengezi river uyende kune zvinhu zvangu. My father was the one who knew this place, paiva nemuwuyu. Paiva nezvima nezvimwe zvakawanda kusanganisa mari dzekuTanganyika, netsvimbo.
My father came back with these things and gave Nehanda Nyakasikana tsvimbo iya.
SM: This Nehanda Nyakasikana – how old was she and how did she look like?
Cde Murenga: I am talking of someone who was very old. She was now blind with old age. She was around 105 years by this time. My brother Godfrey Murenga is the one who knew exactly her age.
She instructed that no one in the village should go kumunda on this day. She said I want to show you kuti imi murikutya asi kwandiri hapana chinotyisa. Ini ndakada kunovhurira mbudzi ndikarambidzwa. Still very early in the morning, we saw a puma vehicle coming to the homestead. The vehicle parked at a distance and if what I was told is correct, there were 44 Rhodesian soldiers. When they arrived, they asked who was the head of the village. The village head came and that black soldier said “tiri kutsvaga kwaNehanda.” Many of the white soldiers had painted their faces black. The village head showed them Nehanda Nyakasikana’s homestead.
When these soldiers arrived at Nehanda Nyakasikana’s homestead, ndakanga ndabva kunovapa mvura yekumwa nemukombe. So ndakangobuda ndichibva ndamira padhuze nemuti wemupani. The village head instructed me to go and stand at a distance where other people had gathered watching all this. One of the white soldiers had something that looked like a radio and he started talking saying they had arrived at the homestead of Mbuya Nehanda who was giving freedom fighters powers to start the war. The plan was to capture Nehanda Nyakasikana and take her to England, but things didn’t happen as they expected.
SM: How did they fail to do this? What happened?
Cde Murenga: As they were standing pachivanze, mhepo yaMbuya Nehanda yakasvika vachibva vatanga kuimba vachiridza muridzo. She was alone in her hut with the door closed. She then shouted, “Murenga uri kupi?” My father responded saying, “Ndiri pano.” He then rushed into the hut. The white soldiers panicked because they couldn’t understand what was going on. They surrounded the house with their guns ready to fire. After a few minutes my father came out of the house and that black soldier asked him what was going on and he told him that she wanted some water to drink.
The black soldier said they wanted to see Mbuya Nehanda and asked the village head if she could come out of the hut. The village head said that was not possible since she could not even walk. He however said let me go inside and inquire from her. I now remember this village head was called Bandazi. He got inside and came out after a few minutes.
Nehanda Nyakasikana shouted saying, “Ndiani anondida panze wandisina ukama naye? Wandisingazivi uye wandisina kuona kuti kune munhu ari kuuya nhasi? Vataurirei vabve pano vari kunhuwa.”
This black soldier told his white fellows what she was saying and they really got furious. They spoke for a few minutes between themselves and that white soldier who had a radio hang it on the mupani tree and walked towards the door into the hut. I am talking of a giant white person here. Just as he got to the door, he appeared as if he had run out of energy, he became jelly-kneed and fell down. Some of the white soldiers rushed to see what had happened. After a few seconds they dragged him away from the door. He gained composure and walked back again and the same thing happened.
They then concluded that there was some juju and so they came up with a plan. Most of them had handcuffs and so they handcuffed each other, about ten of them forming a line with my father at the front. They then ordered my father to lead them into the hut. The moment my father got into the house, mahandcuffs akadambuka with all the white soldiers still outside. That’s when the white soldiers realised that they were dealing with a spiritual person. They said, if she had such powers, it really was true that she was giving freedom fighters powers to start the liberation struggle. Ndiye ari kupa magandanga mushonga. They retreated and started talking among themselves. My father later came out. The white soldiers then ordered that the door, raiva retsanga, to be removed so that they could see Nehanda Nyakasikana from outside. The door was removed. Nehanda Nyakasikana was seated, akatsikitsira netsvimbo yake, a bit to the left of the hut. As all this was happening, she continued singing. She was draped mumachira eblack, blue and white asina bhutsu. Akanga akatambarara makumbo tsvimbo iri pamakumbo.
SM: What was she singing about?
Cde Murenga: Vaiimba dzimbo dzinonzi dzemhondoro. I can’t remember the exact song she was singing, but she used to sing one song where she would say “gore rino muchadya nhoko.” I still remember this line because she would sing about it often. Vaiti kana vasanga mhondoro vachiimba as young boys we would really enjoy ourselves.
So when the door was removed, one of the white soldiers started taking pictures but after a few minutes he indicated that although we could also see Nehanda Nyakasikana, when he looked via the camera he was seeing nothing.
Whatever they were doing, these soldiers kept giving feedback on their radio speaking to someone who seemed to give them more instructions. We could not hear what this person was saying, but the word England was said a lot of times.
They then came up with the idea to burn the house so that Nehanda Nyakasikana could come out. This was a grass-thatched hut. So they took some diesel from containers that were in their vehicle and poured on the grass-thatched roof. The crowd that had gathered was ordered to move a distance away. One of the white soldiers akada kubatidza the roof, he tried several times at different spots, but moto wakaramba kubvira. Other soldiers joined in but moto wakaramba kubvira. The soldiers retreated and went into lengthy discussions among themselves. Others actually started smoking, clearly showing that they had been unnerved by what was happening. After a while, the soldiers decided that they were going to shot and kill Nehanda Nyakasikana so that they could take her body. Vakatora pfuti yavo hombe yaiva nemakumbo kumberi vachibva vaigadzika pasi.
SM: As all this is happening, the removing of the door and so on, what was Mbuya Nehanda doing?
Cde Murenga: She remained in her position. Havana kana kusimudza musoro. She kept on singing vachiridza muridzo. So one of the soldiers took position behind the gun. The elders in the village ordered munhu wese kutarisa kumadokero. I could see the elders were praying. I think they thought this was the end of Nehanda Nyakasikana. I remember on this day, vana mai vedu vakatsanya the whole day. They didn’t eat anything.
SM: What do you mean they were praying?
Cde Murenga: Kana ndichiti kunamata, I don’t mean the way Christians do it. Ndiri kutaura kunamata kwepasi chigare. Ndinogona kutora mashizha kana matatu ndichitaura nevekudzinza kwangu, munamato iwoyo. Vamwe vanoti kupira.
So this white soldier pointed the gun at Nehanda Nyakasikana and when he tried to shoot, the gun appeared as if it had jammed. He tried it several times, changing positions, but what happened in the end is that pfuti iya yakabuda mvura. This white soldier got frustrated and went back to his colleagues who were standing a few metres back. They again spoke on this radio and among themselves. We could hear them saying “she is an old woman but we don’t know where she is getting her powers.”
They again came up with another plan. At Musengezi Mission, paiva nemagrader, those ones used to clear roads. So they decided to take one of the graders so that they could destroy the hut. One of the white soldiers was sent to go and drive the grader. He went and brought it. I think about 300 metres from the homestead, the grader developed a technical problem. They tried to fix it but instead yakabva yatonyura muvhu.
As the white soldiers were pondering what to do next, Nehanda Nyakasikana spoke from the hut.
SM: What did she say?
Cde Murenga: She said ini ndinonzi Nehanda Nyakasikana. Ndimi here munotaurwa kuti muchakonzeresa hondo? Hapana hondo apa. Ndakaita hondo ndiri mhiri kwegungwa, kwete zvamuri kuita izvi.
As she was talking, you remember during those days, mabhunu aipfeka those helmets dzaivapina muhuro. So these soldiers were wearing these helmets.
Nehanda Nyakasikana akazodeedza one of the elders ainzi Chaparadza. Akamuti huya mumba muno, but the white soldiers blocked him. As they were blocking him, kumabvazuva kwemba kwakauya mhepo yatakanga tisati tamboona munyika iyi. Mhepo iyi was coming straight to the homestead. Kwakabva mhepo iyi kwaiva nedziva ravaiyeresa ivo. Maitogara zvimwe zvinhu zvavo zvemhepo yavo mukati memvura. Ndiko kwatakaona mhepo ichisimuka ikoko ichiuya kumba.
Mhepo yakasvika yakananga mabhunu aya ikatora all their helmets. No one knows where those helmets were taken to. After this, these soldiers showing panic rushed into their vehicle and quickly drove off.
SM: By this time, where you old enough to understand when someone was speaking in English?
Cde Murenga: Not quite but like I told you, many people had gathered and we had brothers, some who were in Grade Seven who told us what was being said.
SM: This is some stranger than fiction story you have just told us. You see, Cde Murenga, we don’t want people to start thinking that we have lost our senses here. This story you have just told us, it is very, very difficult to believe.
Cde Murenga: I know some people will say ndinonyepa zvakaoma. I know that, but I can’t stop people from making their own conclusions. I was there and I saw these things with my own eyes. If you go kuMbire and talk to some people there, they will confirm this and tell you even more strange things. There are quite a number of witnesses to this story. If you really want, we can go kuMbire and you talk to as many people as you want. There are still some people who were there on this very day. Some of my brothers are still there. If you want we can drive to Mbire now.
SM: You understand these things better and as you say you were there. Tell us what exactly was happening here?
Cde Murenga: These white soldiers didn’t believe in the powers of Nehanda Nyakasikana. Even some of us were shocked to see how far the powers could go. We also could not believe our eyes as things unfolded. We knew Nehanda Nyakasikana had powers, but we never thought she was that powerful. But let me explain things this way. Pane panonzi mvura yakarohwa ikamira kufamba, vanhu vakapfuura.
SM: Yes, that story in the Bible?
Cde Murenga: Hooo, you actually know kuti it’s in the Bible. You are prepared to believe that story yet you were not there? Why? Just because that story was told by the whiteman? Do you know for people to also come to Southern Africa, mhepo yaMbuya Nehanda yakarovawo mvura ikamira kufamba kuti vanhu vapfuure kuuya kuno kunyika yamunoti Zimbabwe? Nyika ino yaisanzi Zimbabwe kumhepo. Yainzi Chivavarira. Zimbabwe inonzi Chivavarira. That Great Zimbabwe you see, mureza wakaiswa uya to show kuti we have arrived and we are not going anywhere.
SM: Where does this name come from?
Cde Murenga: Chivavarira zvaireva nzimbo yaivavarirwa kusvikwa. You only hear people saying takabva kuGuruuswa but no one has ever explained kuti vanhu vaibvirei kuGuruuswa kuuya kuno. You need to know that before settling in Guruuswa, vanhu vakambogara munyika yainzi Topia, which you call Ethiopia today. Before they settled in Topia, vanhu vakanga vabva mhiri kwegungwa and gungwa racho rakanga rarohwa naNehanda Nyakasikana kuti vanhu vayambuke.
You can ask me why were these people running away from mhiri kwegungwa? Vaitiza huyipi nekuti kwakanga kusisina mirayiro yakapihwa vanhu naMusikavanhu. That’s why these people came to Africa. So mukufamba, paiva nemhepo yaNehanda naMurenga. Murenga ndiyo yaiva spirit hombe. Nehanda akanga ari mwana wacho pamwe chete naMhindudzepasi, anova Chaminuka. So vana ava vaibatsira baba wavo and baba wacho, iye Murenga ndiye aitaura zvenyika ino achiiti Chivavarira. So they walked all the way looking for Chivavarira. On their way, Murenga died in Kenya, but these people kept saying we are looking for nyika inonzi Chivavarira now being led by Nehanda and Chaminuka.
SM: Where is this Mesopotamia?
Cde Murenga: I think somewhere around Yemen in today’s geography. Nehanda Nyakasikana actually spoke about this place Yemen in her last days. I will explain about this later when we get to that point in time.
SM: Comrade, munosvikirwa here?
Cde Murenga: I don’t know, but handifungi kuti ndinosvikirwa. I know many people will say maybe ndinorwara because hazvina kuitika kunzvimbo kwake. I know there are some places in Zimbabwe where because of mission schools, there are no spirit mediums. If you check, in Zimbabwe, the area you hear kuti kune maspirit mediums, its Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West. It may take a very long time for a colonised people to understand what is a spirit medium. That is what mission schools have done to some of our people.
You know in the past, this country had lots of spirit mediums but kana huyipi hwawanda, vanotiza because of kutadza kwevanhu. Vanhu mukatadza too much zvekudarika mutemo, maspirit mediums anoyenda kumapako kana kuti kuninga.
SM: Now, comrade, let’s go back to your narration. When these soldiers left in a hurry, what went on to happen?
Cde Murenga: All elders in the village, including women were called and they gathered pamba paNehanda Nyakasikana. Asi mudare kuvakadzi kwaingopinda vaya vakaguma kubereka. Nehanda Nyakasikana akabva ataura achiti ini ndinobva kumhiri kuMesopotamia handisi wemuno. Ava ndivo vaya vandakakuudzai kuti vari kuuya vasina mabvi. Zvino iye zvino ndavhara havachafi vakauya pano kusvika ndazosimuka. Vanhu vakabvunza kuti kusimuka muchienda kupi?
She said pane vasununguri veropa vachauya kuzonditakura pano gore rinouya. Meaning in 1972. She continued saying makanonoka ndakati mambo ngaauye nemapenny aya ndiite mhiko kuti musaite hondo. Zvino mambo akanonoka kuuya saka ndichatakurwa pano. Asi kana ndatakurwa, ndichaenda kunyika inonzi Kambiya. This is Zambia today. Just for you to know, Mozambique in those days was called Mazambuko because that’s where people crossed into Chivavarira. Nehanda Nyakasikana said kana ndaenda ikoko kuKambiya homwe yangu yandakamhara pano, ndiko kwaichazoparara nekuti nyika iyoyo handikwanise kunogara ikoko nekuti nyika iyoyo ndakaipa mwana wangu, ainzi Ruwananyika (now called Chief Lewanika).
She said handifanirwi kunogara kuKambiya nekuti handifanirwi kutongerana nemwana wangu nekuti pandaipa matunhu ndakasiya Ruwananyika ikoko. Mutupo wake Murozvi, muyera Moyo. Saka kana ndaenda kuKambiya ndinofanirwa kunofa.People were really saddened by this. Some elders even started crying saying kana mafa todii? You see, in these days, rufu rwaikosha. Zvaiyera kuona munhu akafa zvekuti vana taivharirwa mumba. We would go for about three years pasina kufiwa.
SM: You seem to know quite a lot about Nehanda Nyakasikana?
Cde Murenga: Yes, I do because I stayed with her. Aigara achiti handidye zvemuuyi and mumba make maigara zvirongo nehari chete. One of my duties was to clean her hut. Makanga musina anything chesimbi. Even chibage, vakafa vasingadye chibage. She used to say this was a seed that was brought by invaders. She said mbeu yedu mapfunde, zviyo nemhunga. She said izvi ndizvo zvatakabva nazvo mhiri yegungwa.
SM: By this time you didn’t know anything about freedom fighters?
Cde Murenga: Mabhunu akanga atiudza kuti vanonzi magandanga. I had never seen them. These white soldiers even told us that these magandanga akanga ane mutswe.
This intriguing and somewhat stranger than fiction narration will continue next week. More strange things continued happening as Nehanda Nyakasikana met the Zanu leadership that was based in Zambia at that time. Don’t miss your copy of The Sunday Mail.
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