Bob honours Nehanda, ignores Lobengula

via Bob honours Nehanda, ignores Lobengula – NewZimbabwe 12 August 2015

WHEN Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana, the inspiration behind the First Chimurenga now better known now as Mbuya  Nehanda, was executed by white colonial settlers in 1898, she reportedly told them that “my bones will rise again” in what would be read as a premonition of the Second Chimurenga which would end racist minority rule decades later.

Now the said bones are supposedly rising anew, this time causing commotion in the head of Zimbabwe’s 91-year-old leader.

President Robert Mugabe told the Heroes Day commemorations in Harare Monday that Nehanda’s bones would be repatriated from a British Museum for reburial at the controversial shrine on the outskirts of the capital.

The veteran leader, who distrusts British authorities with a vicious passion, did not say what measures had been taken to authenticate the bones he claimed to be in the UK, if only to mitigate the mischief of an impostor’s remains or, worse, the skull of a common knave being sent to Harare for Mugabe to speechify and ululate over.

“How can we even be sure they are Nehanda’s bones; have we done DNA tests? And why are we going to far-away Britain when we have not repatriated the remains of ex-Zipra cadres from Zambia? asked a Zimbabwean lecturer based in the UK.

Significantly however, Mugabe made no mention of one Lobengula whose bones are also missing. The last king of the Ndebele died from small pox, it is claimed, while fighting white settlers in 1894.

In fact, some historians argue that Lobengula’s Matebele War of 1893-94 in which he fought white forces that included Shonas in their ranks, was actually Zimbabwe’s first anti-colonial war, not the Nehanda-inspired ‘First Chimurenga’ of 1896-97.

So, why does Mugabe privilege Nehanda’s heroics and yet makes no mention of Lobengula’s role in the country’s first struggles against colonialism?

Hardly surprising, said Mbuso Fuzwayo, director with Bulawayo-based Ibhetshu Likazulu who described Mugabe as a tribalist who has never acknowledge any heroic exploits from people in Matebeleland.

“It is well known that Mugabe is the chief tribalist,” Fuzwayo said.

“It is common to all right thinking people that Mugabe will not care about the Ndebele monarch; he is only concerned about people from Mashonaland.

“To him, anything that is to do with Matebeleland is not worth talking about let alone celebrating.”

Exclusionary nationalism

“Lobengula is as much a hero as Ndabaningi Sithole; there is no reason not to bury those guys at Heroes Acre,” said another Zimbabwean academic based in the UK who preferred not to be named.

“What is happening speaks to a very narrow brand of nationalism which started in the early 1980s with what happened in the Matabeleland and the Midlands.

“This narrow brand of nationalism is almost Shona centred and, to a larger degree, really about Zanu PF.

“You see this especially at the Heroes Acre where the history that Mugabe talks about is Zanu PF history which starts from Nehanda and comes down to Zanu PF.

“So it speaks to a very narrow and non-inclusive nationalism which leaves out a lot of people.”

“It stands to reason that Zimbabwe should be allowed to enjoy a multiplicity of histories,” said Brilliant Mhlanga, a Zimbabwean lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire.

“Mugabe should have acknowledged King Lobengula, Chief Magwegwe Fuyane and others whose remains are still yet to be found.”

He added: “All heroes and heroines; old and recently departed, dead and alive should be acknowledged and given full respect – this includes King Lobengula whose remains have not yet been accounted for.

“Yet history tells us that the ultimate disappearance of the great Ndebele King (Lobengula) was at the behest of Britain’s racist surrogate colonialists, Cecil John Rhodes, Leander Star Jameson, Lord Lugard, and others.

“At least Robert Mugabe should show that he values the unity of the state. Also it should be acknowledged that King Lobengula ranks highly, among the first crop of genuine decolonisers and nationalists who gallantly fought against colonialism; during Umvukela wamaNdebele.

“Therefore, King Lobengula, deserves to be honoured as one of Zimbabwe great heroes.”

Anti-Ndebele streak

But there is method to Mugabe’s commissions.

It may be recalled that another Ndebele liberation icon – Joshua Nkomo – was, for years after independence, and in Mugabe’s own words, a snake whose head had be crushed, until he supplicated before the Zanu PF leader and allowed his own party to be swallowed whole in 1987.

That supplication came after Gukurahundi had killed, rights groups say, 20,000 civilians – most of them Ndebeles – in the Matebeleland and Midlands regions.

Mhlanga said Mugabe’s singling out of Nehanda and deliberate exclusion of many others was instructive.

“For Mugabe to simply single out Mbuya Nehanda, Kaguvi, Mashayambombe, Tangwena, and leave out King Lobengula, Chief Magwegwe Fuyane, Mkhithika Thebe, and all the warriors who died fighting at Gadade and Battle of Pupu in Lupane tells us something about him,” he said.

“(It tells us) that he is a hypocrite! And that he is a tribalist pretentiously dressed in the respectable garbs of nationalism.

“We therefore demand that the narrative of King Lobengula’s disappearance, his missing remains to date be accorded the respect it deserves as part of the broader decolonial discourse and also as part of Zimbabwe’s nationalist pantheon.

“There is need for a proper search for the remains of King Lobengula, Chief Magwegwe Fuyane and others, whom we all know that their disappearance was at the behest of the white colonialists.

“In his (Heroes Day) script, he (Mugabe) should have stressed that if Britain has to honour the injustices caused by their wars for conquest and ultimately colonialism, with all its evils as we know it, Britain should equally explain the forced disappearance of King Lobengula by its surrogates, in particular, Her Majesty’s servants, Cecil John Rhodes, Leander Star Jameson & other such rabid colonialists.”

Lobengula sold-out?

But could Lobengula’s claim for a place in the pantheon of Zimbabwe’s liberation lore be undermined by charges that was a sell-out after being defrauded by Cecil John Rhodes’ emissaries.

“Nonsense,” said the UK academic who chose not to be named.

“That is also another way of just writing out people; who hasn’t compromised or sold out in a sense? Everyone has.

“When Mugabe signed the Lancaster House Agreement, wasn’t that selling out? They went to war for land, but did they get land at Lancaster House? So did Mugabe sell out?

“Even within Zanu Pf itself we had those hardliners who didn’t want to work with Tsvangirai. So when Mugabe agreed GNU with Tsvangirai, did he sell out? Did Nkomo sell out by doing the unity accord?

“Come on, the sell out charge doesn’t hold; it’s just a way of delegitimising others.

“You don’t just cut people out. It’s just like these ‘Gamatox’ people; so Mai Mujuru is not going to be honoured as a hero because she wanted to be president?”