‘I wish I could do something for Gogo’

AT the end of last month, we published interviews by Gogo Taripiwa Shawu whose responsibility in the early 1970s, was to cook and bath homwe yaMbuya Nehanda in Tsokoto. Gogo Shawu narrated how some comrades carried Mbuya Nehanda from Tsokoto to Chifombo just before the start of the liberation struggle. She narrated how after the death of Mbuya Nehanda all comrades gave her lots of respect until the attainment of independence in 1980.

In a narration that touched the hearts of many, Gogo Shawu narrated how after the attainment of independence, she felt abandoned by those that gave her so much respect during the liberation struggle. Our Deputy Editor Munyaradzi Huni, took Cde Norman Bethune who was among the comrades that carried Mbuya Nehanda from Tsokoto to Chifombo, to Gogo Shawu’s homestead to ask him why they abandoned her after 1980.

Cde Bethune in defence said it was not his fault but Huni refused to buy his story. Read on . . .

MH: Comrade Bethune together with Cde Khumalo you were among the comrades who in 1972 were sent by the Zanu leadership to go and take Mbuya Nehanda from Tsokoto to Chifombo. You have been listening to Gogo Shawu’s sorry story. What is your comment?

Cde Bethune: The first thing that I want to tell you is that the Second Chimurenga was led by Chaminuka, Munhumutapa, Mukwati, Kaguvi and Nehanda. Masimba akapihwa kuna Nehanda Nyakasikana together with Chaminuka. Kumatare aiititwa nevakatanga musangano weZanu, kune kwavaipandiwa kuti hondo yamatarisana nayo yenyika haisi yenyu moga. Do you still remember that when Nyakasikana died, she said mapfupa angu achamuka? This idea of you comrades taking up arms to fight the struggle is not your idea on your own. It’s the spirit of your ancestors yapinda muhana menyu. Hakusi kuronga kwenyu imi venyama. This is how the foundation of the liberation struggle was established.

When we got to Chifombo, there were some of our seniors who had come earlier to talk to their Frelimo comrades that included (Eduardo) Mondlane and Samora Machel. One of our leaders, Cde Joshua Nkomo, vakambofamba kumatare trying to see how the issue of the spirit mediums could be incorporated into our struggle. Later when Zapu and Zanu had split, leaders such as Cde Mayor Urimbo, Cde Chinamaropa, Cde Justin Chauke, Cde Kadungure, Cde Dabulamanzi, Cde Joseph Chimurenga and others went to Mozambique and they were told that hondo haisi yenyu. These leaders were told that you cannot start the liberation struggle before visiting Mbuya Nehanda. So they went to Tsokoto and we followed later.

The arrangement that Mbuya Nehanda should be taken to Chifombo was done after kwasumiwa kumhondoro dzepasi. Zvikatevedzerwa and zvikatendwa. The day that Mbuya Nehanda was carried from Tsokoto, that was in March 1971, pakaita hondo nevarungu when the Rhodesian soldiers heard that muchembere atorwa. Before this, mabhunu akamboenda kuTsokoto vachida kuti vatore Mbuya kana kuvagura musoro but all this failed. As we were carrying Mbuya Nehanda, Rhodesian soldiers tracked us and there was a fierce battle. In the midst of this battle, kwakaita mhute that confused the Rhodesian soldiers and they failed to stop us from carrying muchembere.

When we got to Zambezi River, Mbuya vakati ndisati ndayambuka Zambezi ndine mashoko mashomanana andiri kuda kuti muzive. Ndiri kuona ndisingazodzoke mhiri uko ndichiri kukwanisa kutaura nemi. Some of the comrades who were there include Joseph Chimurenga, Mayor Urimbo, Kadungure, Dokwi, Patrick Mupunzarima, James Bond 007, Kenny Ridzai, myself, Jimmy Mangwende, Joseph Khumalo and others.

Mbuya Nehanda started by saying “muchagona here kuzondiviga nhai machinda? Kana kuchengeta mapfupa angu as should be done traditionally?” Our leaders gave her assurance that they would make sure she would be buried according to tradition.

Mbuya Nehanda said if you bury me properly imi mauto zvinhu zvichafamba zvakanaka asi mukarega kundiviga zvakanaka, zvinhu hazvifambe zvakanaka. She said if my burial is not done properly, I will blame Chidyamauyu, Chipfeni and Chiodzamamera. They should guide you in burying me.

She added that nezvandiri kuona nemuyedzo yepfuma, handisi kuona basa rangu richiitwa zvakanaka. She said nyika muri kutora asi matora nyika, munofanirwa kuisuma kuvaridzi vayo kubudikidza nemadzishe akatorerwa masimba nemuwuyi wamuri kurwisa uyu. Ivavo vakatorerwa masimba ndivo vamunofanirwa kuita basa iroro navo. She said quite a number of things.

MH: Ok, can you talk about Gogo Shawu?

Cde Bethune: Coming to Gogo Shawu, by that time she was still a young girl but she had the responsibilities to look after Mbuya Nehanda. Up to this day we call her mudonzvo wemuchembere. I really want to thank God naiyo mweya yepasi yaita tisangane nhasi uno.

I want to tell you that Cde Tongogara after the death of Mbuya Nehanda made it clear to us that Gogo Shawu should be given all the respect throughout the liberation struggle. That is why we were later arrested together and were taken to Mboroma then to different camps in Mozambique until we settled at Chimoio where I was the overall commander. While at Chimoio, Gogo Shawu and Sekuru Chidyamauyu, Chiodzamamera and Chipfeni were staying at Pasichigare base. All this time, Gogo Shawu we referred to her as Mbuya and we gave her all the respect. However, after the liberation struggle, I lost track kuti Mbuya varipi.

MH: How did that happen? How could you forget Gogo Shawu with the role that she played and with the way you say you respected her during the liberation struggle?

Cde Bethune: Ini handina kukanganwa kuti Mbuya havako. Zanu-PF as the party that is ruling this country should remember hwaro hwayo. Zanu- PF should look back to where it came from. Zanu-PF haina kungonyuka.

MH: Cde Bethune, let’s stop pushing the blame to Zanu-PF. You were part of the team that took Mbuya Nehanda from Tsokoto and you stayed with Gogo Shawu at Chimoio for years. When I spoke to Cde Murenga, he actually said “tava nherera dzaMbuya Nehanda.” Why did you forget about Gogo Shawu after independence?

Cde Bethune: It’s true what you are saying but you can’t blame me also. Iniwo ndinotori nherera saivowo. Pane achiri kuziva here kuti Bethune aiva chii? Pane achiri kuziva here basa rataka bata pamwe chete naCde Khumalo?

MH: When you look at the life that she is living . . .

Cde Bethune: Zvinosiririsa. It actually pains me but I am not in leadership. I have spoken to the leadership about this issue several times. That is all I can do? Ndinotonyarira Zanu-PF kuti kana nyika ichinzwa zvakadai inoti chii?

MH: No, Cde Bethune. Stop this blame game.

Cde Bethune: Hapana wandiri kukandira nyoka mhenyu. I am a mere Bethune.

MH: Yes, you are a mere Bethune but can you tell me why after independence you never went back to Tsokoto just to say to Mbuya Nehanda takadzoka? Surely, that has nothing to do with Zanu-PF?

Cde Bethune: Yes, I didn’t go to Tsokoto but ndiri munhu wenyama. Ndine mudzimu yekwanguwo yakandichengeta kuhondo kubudikidza naiwo mweya mukuru wemuchembere. Kana ndichiona kuti zvinhu hazvina kufamba zvakanaka handidi kunotsika pane minzwa kare. Ndino nyenyeredza munzwa iwoyo kusvika munzwa iwoyo wabviswa. That’s why today I am here.

MH: So who will remove munzwa uyu?

Cde Bethune: Those who will see kukosha kwazvo. The things that are troubling Gogo Shawu zvidikidiki. If I had money, I would build Gogo Shawu imba yakanaka.

MH: I don’t agree with you that the things troubling Gogo zvidiki.

Cde Bethune: I am telling you zvidiki. You may not agree, but zvidiki.

MH: How can this be a small matter when Gogo is telling us that she failed to send all her four children to secondary school? How can it be a small matter when she is living in abject poverty?

Cde Bethune: It’s a small matter because I am not in a position to assist but if people ask me for advice, I have ideas how this issue can be solved. But I am not Zanu-PF and I can’t repeat same story over and over. Unoda kuti ndiite sei?

MH: I still don’t understand why you didn’t take the initiative to look for Gogo Shawu after independence. I am sorry I am not buying your story. Why, why Cde?

Cde Bethune: Ahh, maybe zvine mweya mukati. Even coming here together with your team Huni, mweya wandisvitsa pano. It’s not like I just came sekufunga kwangu zvenyama. Her life, it’s a pity. It’s a pity. It’s a pity (Gogo Shawu goes into a trance).

It’s a pity, this that we are seeing. I am not Zanu-PF. I am part and parcel of Zanu-PF, but I am not Zanu-PF. (Gogo Shawu still in a trance, throwing her hands into the air and shouting on top of her voice). Imhosva here kuti tisu takatakura muchembere? Kudzipakata hazvirevi kuti dziridze. Handisini ndinoridza ini (tears flowing down Cde Murenga’s cheeks)

Zanu-PF is ruling this country. It pains me. (Gogo Shawu still in a trance attempts to stand us but is restrained by Cde Bethune and Cde Murenga). Why can’t Zanu-PF do something about it? (Cde Bethune clapping his hands, talking to Gogo Shawu) Muchembere, muchembere, tinoziva kuti zvinorwadza. Kutakura haisi mhosva. Taiitira nyika. Taiitira musangano unova uri kutonga nhasi. Shungu ngadziite shoma. Zvakawanda zvinoda kugadzirwa nemi. Tiri vanhu venyama isu (long pause. Gogo Shawu breathes hard and after a while returns back to normal. Tense atmosphere and long silence)

MH:  So Cde Bethune, what is the way forward?

Cde Bethune: Who doesn’t know about the role that Mbuya Nehanda played during the liberation struggle? Bethune oita mhosva yekuti akatakura? Ndairega sei kuita basa randakanzi neZanu ndiite? That cannot be my fault.

I really wish I could do something about this. Nehanda Nyakasikana akabata basa and tese we agree. Surely, we can’t forget just like that. Nehanda idzinza renyika yese (turning to Gogo Shawu). Tine hurombo muchembere. Ishungu, tiri vapwere tinoda kubatsirwawo. Tinokumbira mutibatsirewo nesimba renyu sezvamakataura kuti vachasaruka muchawona muyedzo neminana.

Ndiri kutaura izvi ndakamirira vese vandaiva navo patakakutakurai. Hatina kuuya kuzopopotedzana asi tauya kuti tikurukure. Ndinovimba vakuru vachanzwa izwi renyu.

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  • Duke-General Hacha

    Munyaradzi was more concerned about Gogo Shawu than the ” —- quite a number of things” that Mbuya Nehanda said but CDE Bethune left unsaid. These things concern the whole populace of Zimbabwe rather than one person that Munyaradzi appears so concerned about. For example – where exactly is Charwe’s grave? Why have we not built a monument or traditional shrine at that grave. The legacy and spirit of Nehanda would be better served by interviewing all people she gave instructions and prophecies to. Those people should reach a consensus on exactly what the spirit instructed and ZANU PF should take the lead in ensuring those things are done. The spirit gave these instructions to ZANU PF but the party got drunk with power once independence was attained. I agree with CDE Bethune – ZANU PF can solve the issue of Gogo Shawu’s life within a single day – its a simple issue really. If you can transform the life of a Grade One diesel n’anga with embarrassing speed what’s stopping the party from taking care of Gogo Shawu. Leave CDE Bethune alone – he has no capacity to help that poor woman.