In May 2016, we published an interview where Cde Julian Maodza Murenga Mukomawashe claimed that as a young boy from 1970, he was given the responsibility to look after homwe yaMbuya Nehanda. In that interview he claimed that he looked after Mbuya Nehanda with assistance from another equally young girl.
Our Deputy Editor Munyaradzi Huni managed to track down this “young girl”, Gogo Taripiwa Shawu whose responsibility in the early 1970s was to cook and bath homwe yaMbuya Nehanda. Gogo Shawu narrates how as a little girl she was given the task to cook for Mbuya Nehanda when she could hardly cook. She narrates how in 1972, some Zanla comrades arrived in Tsokoto to take Mbuya Nehanda to Chifombo before the start of the Second Chimurenga. She recites Mbuya Nehanda’s last words to the Zanu leadership at Chifombo. Her honesty and the way she remains humble is just a marvel. Read on . . .
MH: Gogo, thank you so much for this time. It’s finally good to have this opportunity to talk to you. Can you briefly tell us about yourself?
Gogo Shawu: My name is Taripiwa Shawu. I was born in Dande. I don’t even know when I was born because ndichingoita kamhandara ndakabva ndanzi bikira muchembere. I didn’t go to school and even my parents were not educated. So I grew up ndichingobikira mweya. Even Sekuru vangu Murenga vanoziva kuti handina kuenda kuchikoro. Handina kudzidza nekuti handina kuwana mukana wacho. I am told that my father was called Friday vachiyera Shava. He went to Zambia a few months before I was born and he never came back. My mother later remarried.
I grew up in Dande around the Tsokoto area under Sabhuku Mazheru. As young girls I remember we would on many occasions go musango kunononga masawu and so on. There wasn’t much to do and remember I still very young by this time.
MH: You say you didn’t have the opportunity to go to school. At that time, didn’t this worry or trouble you because other children of your age were going to school?
Gogo Shawu: There was nothing I could do. This is something zvakarongwa nevakuru. Ndaiva nambuya vangu, VaMakururukwa, vaigarawo na- Mbuya Nehanda but vakazokura ndikanzi ini ndichinogara naMbuya. Zvakandirwadza but ndakaona kuti hakuna kwandingaende. Ndakati regai ndiite zvomweya ndakazvipira pazviri. Mbuya Makururukwa realised that she could no longer look after Mbuya Nehanda properly because she was old and so I was chosen to replace her. My father was a son to Mbuya Makururukwa, so that’s how I was chosen to look after Mbuya Nehanda. Mbuya Makururukwa actually told Mbuya Nehanda kuti muchembere ndakura handichagoni kukubikirai nekukupai bakwa refodya, I can no longer wash for you so ndava kutora mwana wemwana wangu to look after you.
Mbuya Nehanda was from Chienderamwano in Dande.
When I was chosen, I actually cried because I couldn’t do some of the duties like cooking for her. I can’t remember how old I was but by this time I couldn’t cook sadza. I remember the first day ndaibika sadza and porridge zvine mapundu but Mbuya vaingodya zvakadaro.
MH: You say you were young when you started staying naMbuya Nehanda, but what do you remember about her? What kind of a person was she?
Gogo Shawu: Mbuya Nehanda was so old that she could not walk on her own. Vaiita zvekukambaira. Kuti vaende kunogeza waitobata tsvimbo yavo. But before taking her for bathing, very early in the morning you had to make sure waisa moto kuti vagare vachidziirwa.
MH: What exactly where your duties?
Gogo Shawu: My duties included cooking for Mbuya Nehanda, making sure that she ate her food, kuwacha machira avo, making sure she had water to drink and bathing her. She could not eat food that was prepared by any other person.
MH: Why you only?
Gogo Shawu: Ndicho chakanga chiri chiga chacho.
MH: What kind of food would you cook for her?
Gogo Shawu: Ndaitora nzungu ndotsikinya mafuta mudovi. Mafuta iwayo woisa muriwo. Wotora mapfunde kana kuti chibage wotswa. Wozvinyika muhari kuti zvipfave. After this wovabikira sadza vodya. I was taught how to cook for her by Mbuya Kagede.
MH: Where would you get nzungu, chibage and so on to cook for Mbuya Nehanda?
Gogo Shawu: The chiefs and headmen in the area would go around homesteads in the area to collect these things for us. Some people would come on their own to make donations to Mbuya. Isu hatairima. Mambo ndiye aifamba mudunhu achipihwa chikafu chedu.
MH: So what was Mbuya Nehanda’s favourite food?
Gogo Shawu: Ummm, sevanhu vemweya kudya kwacho kwaitoshupa. Sometimes she would eat in the afternoon only the whole day. Sometimes she would go for days without eating anything, just drinking water. But I can say her favourite food was sadza even though she would not eat it that often.
MH: Would you sometimes sit down with her and talk?
Gogo Shawu: Like I told you I was still very young so most of the times after doing my duties ndaienda kunotamba. At that time I didn’t see it necessary to sit down and hear nhorowondo yavo.
MH: By this time were you aware that Mbuya Nehanda was such an important person?
Gogo Shawu: I knew. Pane vamwe vana mbuya vaindiudza kuti pawawuya kuzotamba, wasiya wabikira Mbuya here? They would tell me how important she was to the country. Even pandaienda kurwizi kunotuhwina nevamwe, I would always find time to rush back home to cook for muchembere.
Like I said, during the first days I asked myself kuti “umm, ndinozvigona here?” But kana wanzi uri kuenda pamweya, mweya iwowo unokupinda pamoyo kusvika wava kuziva zvauri kuita.
MH: What do you mean kupinda pamweya?
Gogo Shawu: Ko Ambuya handiti ndivo vakatungamirira nyika ino? Ndivo vaiwudza vakomana zvekuita. Kana vakati hondo iri kuuya mangwana, yaitowuya zveshuwa. Even pavakaparura, vakaudza vakomana kuti ini ndava kuparura asi ndichange ndichiudza Chidyamauyu kuti hondo ichange ichifambe sei. Chidyamauyu aiti akauya achiti ndanzi naMbuya endai mucover, zveshuwa waitowona hondo yauya.
MH: Tell us briefly about Mbuya Nehanda’s dressing.
Gogo Shawu: She would put on ordinary clothes but vaipfeka matehwe kana vava pamweya. As I said, iyi yaiva homwe yaMbuya Nehanda saka homwe hayaipfeka matehwe. But kana mweya wasvika, ndipo pavaipfeka matehwe. The difference between homwe and mweya was that kana vava kumweya ndipo pavaitaura zvinokosha. Zvavaitaura kana kuronga ndizvo zvaitoitika. Kana iri homwe, ahh, taitotaura nyaya tichitoseka zvedu.
MH: As you stayed with Mbuya Nehanda in Tsokoto, who are some of the people who would visit her?
Gogo Shawu: Mostly it was the chiefs. They would come to thank Mbuya for a good harvest or for the good rains. Sometimes they would thank her for looking after madunhu avo.
MH: What would Mbuya Nehanda say to these chiefs?
Gogo Shawu: I would not even listen to what she would say. Ndaitoenda kunotamba zvangu neshamwari dzangu vana Chiedzo, Rudia, Trish, Violet and others. Vese ivava hakuchisina kuDande, vakafa kare. I went to Dande in August last year and havasisiko vese.
Sometimes white people would also visit her. They would come in many vehicles vovatora macard. Varungu ivavo vachingofamba a short distance, something would happen. Quite a number of them died. Mbuya vaitorwa mapikicha variko kuDande asi hapana kana pikicha one yakabuda.
Gogo Shawu: Mbuya vakanga vasina kodzero yekutorwa mapikicha. Mbuya waiva mudzimu mukuru usingatambwi nawo. Mbuya Nehanda’s name was known all over because in addition to guiding the comrades during the war, vairapa vanhu vazhinji vachipora ipapo. That’s why many whites were fascinated by her. She would say they can take as many pictures as they want, but they will not take the pictures anywhere. She would say “torai henyu mapikicha, asi mberi kwamuri kuenda hamusikusvika”. And, indeed, hapana kwavaisvika.
MH: Gogo, are you telling us the real truth here?
Gogo Shawu: (laughs) Zvaiitika pafair chaipo.
MH: Some people won’t believe you?
Gogo Shawu: Hoo, ahh, pakanaka. Mbuya Nehanda vaiyera. Kuti tizopinda murusununguko ndimuchembere. Dai pasina muchembere dai takaitora here nyika ino?
MH: So how would you know that it was time to cook for Mbuya Nehanda?
Gogo Shawu: I would just look at the sun. Kana ravapakati I would know kuti muchembere anoda kugeza. So around 12 I would warm her bathing water because she could not bath in cold water due to her age. After bathing her, I would make sure she eats then I dash to go and play with others. Late in the afternoon, I would come back home and start cooking sadza. Taingodya tiri two kapoto kedu ikako.
In the evening, I would refuse to sleep nemuchembere. I would go and sleep with other young children. Mbuya vairara nedzimwewo chembere. Mbuya Nehanda actually agreed kuti ndinorara nevamwe saying “mwana musiyei asununguke”. This was our life until the day some comrades came to take us from Tsokoto. Ambuya vakaramba vachiti hamumbondisimudza pano ndisina kuona mwana wangu anondibikira kuti tiende naye. Ndobva ndauya kuzomutswa naSabhuku.
MH: Tell us exactly how these comrades came to take Mbuya Nehanda?
Gogo Shawu: Dare racho rakarongwa ndisipo. What I remember is that comrades like Chimurenga said before starting the war, we should carry Mbuya Nehanda to Zambia. They said the Smith regime would come and torment Mbuya Nehanda and so they wanted to take her to Zambia for safety. On the day when they took us, like I told you Sabhuku came to wake me up saying “Mbuya varamba kusimuka vachiti vanoda iwe kunge uripo.” The comrades didn’t know about me. So I woke up and went to tell Mbuya that we were going together. I then packed all my belongings.
In the yard, there were very few comrades. They were all armed and that really scared me. By this time, we didn’t know anything about freedom fighters. We were only hearing reports that kune magandanga who are coming into the country in the middle of the night.
So after packing my belongings and we were ready to go, I suddenly saw many other comrades surrounding the yard. I started asking myself where these people were taking us. We then started walking but after a few metres, Mbuya Nehanda vakasvikirwa vakati ndiisei pasi. She said muri kundiendesa kupi. The comrades explained that they were taking her away to Zambia so that they could start the war. Mbuya vakabva vabvunza kuti mandikumbira here? The comrades said “tanga tisina,” zvikanzi matadza. Ndidzorei kwamanditora. Sekuru Chidyamauyu vakabva vataura nemweya uya kusvika vabvuma kutakurwa. There was Chiodzamamera, Chidyamauyu and Chipfeni. Ndiwo masvikiro aifamba naMbuya Nehanda. Vaiva vazukuru vaMbuya Nehanda kumweya.
MH: Now take us through your journey.
Gogo Shawu: The comrades were carrying Mbuya Nehanda on some stretcher and all of us we were walking. We would rest during the day under cover and walk during the night. The comrades said we had to walk during the night so that vanhu would not sell us out to the Rhodesian soldiers. You know we later heard that some people after we left rushed to report to that Mbuya Nehanda vakatorwa nemacomrades? So we would walk the whole night.
MH: As you were walking or resting during the day, would Mbuya Nehanda speak to the comrades?
Gogo Shawu: She was very quiet most of the times. You know we walked for days until my legs were swollen. Also along the way, while resting, I would cook her food.
MH: You said some people went to report that Mbuya Nehanda had been taken by comrades. Did the Rhodesian soldiers try to track you down?
Gogo Shawu: Yes, they did. They caught up with us at Ruzeze and there was a big battle. I remember there was Cde Gurupira, Cde Masamba and another comrade who had been given the responsibility that in case of an attack, they were supposed kubereka Mbuya votiza navo.
But when we were attacked, these comrades failed kutakura Mbuya. Hondo payakauya these comrades vakangorasa Mbuya vachibva vatiza. These comrades actually said to me “iwe mwana iwe handei, tasiya Mbuya vako uri kugarirei hausikuona hondo iyo?” I said hapana kwandiri kuenda ndofira pamwechete naMbuya vangu.
Mbuya vakanditora as this attack was on vakandigadzika pamakumbo avo. Within a few minutes some white soldiers vakapfuura very close napatakanga takahwanda. They were walking to a nearby base where they went on to burn many houses around the village. I actually remember Mbuya vachinditi “uri kuona varungu ava”, as they were walking past us. These white soldiers ransacked the villages looking for Mbuya Nehanda.
After this battle, some of the commanders came saying “vakomana vatakati takurai Mbuya tanzwa kuti makavarasa during the battle. Come in front.” The comrades walked to the front. The commander then said he was going to shoot these comrades, but Sekuru Chidyamauyu intervened saying that was not the way to solve the issue. He said Mbuya havadi ropa and mukadaro hondo haizoperi.
I remember there was another battle. During this second battle, that’s when I got separated from Mbuya Nehanda. In that confusion, Mbuya vakabva vabira Zambezi while I remained on the other side. When Mbuya got to Rudodo, she spent about a week without eating anything. She was saying “mwana wangu aripi?”
So the comrades looked for me until they found me in the company of other comrades. We then crossed Zambezi and I went to Rudodo. This was a week later. On arrival at Rudodo, Mbuya said “gadzira poto yesadza ndidye”. After this, we continued the journey to Chifombo Base in Zambia.
I don’t even know how many weeks it took us to get to Chifombo but what I can tell you is that when we got to Chifombo, my legs were swollen such that I spent weeks unable to walk. I still had to cook for Mbuya so kufamba ndaiita zvekugwesha.
MH: When you got to Chifombo, who are some of the commanders you saw?
Gogo Shawu: I remember Fox Gava, Tongogara, Mayor Urimbo and others. These commanders had spoken to the Zambian chief in the area asking kuti tipeiwo nzvimbo yekugarisa Mbuya Nehanda.
So they built a hut for us a few kilometres from Chifombo Base. Because of my duties looking after Mbuya Nehanda, the commanders instructed that some of the comrades would wash my clothes. Even pakazoparura Mbuya Nehanda, the comrades continued treating me with respect. They didn’t want me to do any work. Many comrades actually knew me as “Ambuya”.
MH: Let’s go back to Chifombo. How was your stay with Mbuya Nehanda at Chifombo?
Gogo Shawu: Our area kwataigara kwainzi kuPasichigare. So we were staying together nana sekuru vaya Chiodzamamera, Chidyamauyu and Chipfeni. All the people who came to Pasichigare would remove their shoes before entering our yard and talking to Mbuya.
Most of the high-ranking Zanu commanders came to see Mbuya Nehanda. The comrades would bring us lots of food and they looked after us very well. Also at Chifombo, Mbuya Nehanda would treat many comrades and tell them what to expect muhondo and how to go about it.
Before vaparura (before her death) Mbuya Nehanda said “ahh, vanangu zvekuti kana hondo yauya ndoberekwa aiwa ndaneta. Tinofamba mumweya tese. Mashoko angu ese ndichange ndava kusiira Chidyamauyu mumhepo. Ndiye achakuudzai kuti Mbuya vati zvinoti nezvinoti.
“Regai ndizorore nekuti hondo ikauya munozondirasa futi varungu vakanditora vakadzokera neni. Regai hangu ndiparure asi tichange tichishanda tese mumweya.”
Next week Gogo Shawu narrates some shocking drama after the death of Mbuya Nehanda and how she was buried. She will speak about her life after the death of Mbuya Nehanda and many other fascinating episodes of the spiritual side of the liberation struggle.
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