Nehanda
(c. 1863-1898)

Previous page | She exhorted the Shona people to expel the British from the land, encouraging them to intensify the struggle and rallying them on. Using secret messages to communicate with each other, the mhondoro effectively coordinated their efforts. Kagubi was captured in October 1897, but Nehanda eluded the British a while longer until she was eventually captured in December. They were both charged with murder—Kagubi for the death of an African policeman and Nehanda for the death of the Native Commissioner Pollard—and summarily sentenced to death by hanging. Kagubi subsequently converted to Christianity, but Nehanda steadfastly refused, and went to her death in defiance, denouncing the British.

Nehanda's dying words, "My bones will rise again," predicted the Second Chimurenga, which culminated in the independence of present-day Zimbabwe.

Facing the superior technology of the British, the rebellion surprisingly lasted until the end of 1897 despite British acts of horror and brutality. Although the British casualties were numerically less, they represented one-tenth of their population.

The key elements of the mhondoro cults—ancestor veneration and spirit possession—persist among the people of present-day Zimbabwe. During the Second Chimurenga, Ian Smith, then Prime Minister of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), in an airborne leaflet drop, invoked the names of royal mhondoro in a desperate effort to dilute popular support for ZANLA (Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army). In 1972, the spirit of Nyamhika Nehanda found a new medium in an elderly woman, who was whisked to safety by ZANLA guerillas. She was consulted on military decisions and her prophecies provided valuable assistance to the revolutionary struggle. She died in 1973.

The indomitable Mbuya Nehanda, revolutionary prophet and leader of the First Chimurenga in 1896, has now been rightfully buried in Zimbabwe's Heroes' Acre.
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Books

General History of Africa, Vol. VII: Africa under Colonial Domination, 1880-1935, UNESCO. University of California Press, 1990.
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Great Zimbabwe: described and explained, Peter Garlake, Zimbabwe Publishing House, 1982.
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Modern Africa: A social and political history (2nd ed.), Basil Davidson, Longman Group, 1989.
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A political history of Munhumutapa c 1400-1902, S.I.G. Mudenge, Zimbabwe Publishing House, 1988.
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Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, 1896-7: A Study in African Resistance, Terence O. Ranger, Heinemann, 1984.
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The struggle for Zimbabwe: The Chimurenga War, David Martin & Phyllis Johnson, Zimbabwe Publishing House, 1981.
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Women Leaders in African History, David Sweetman. General Publishing Company, Limited, 1984.
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Search for 'Nehanda' on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.
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Links

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