ON April 27, 1898, the district surgeon of Salisbury wrote: "I certify that I have examined the body of Nianda, upon whom sentence of death has been executed, and that life is extinct." "Nianda was none other than our gallant defiant and fierce heroine of the First Chimurenga, Ambuya Nehanda, the legendary spirit medium (Svikiro) from Mazowe.
"She had been apprehended and hauled to her Majesty's court in March of the same year, alongside Zindonga, Hwata and Gutsa for the alleged murder of one Hawkins Pollard, the brutal white Native Commissioner of the British South Africa Company (BSAC) who resided near Mazowe and terrorised natives in that district," wrote President Mugabe in his 2001 book "Inside the Third Chimurenga", a book that traces the Zimbabwean revolution from the First to the Third Chimurenga.
Ambuya Chahwe the medium of the Nehanda spirit and Sekuru Gumboreshumba, the medium of Kaguvi, were arraigned in the High Court of Matabeleland which sat in Salisbury on February 20 1898 and were subsequently convicted on March 2, 1898 in a case entered as "Regina (British Queen) versus Nehanda".
Ambuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi were sentenced to death by hanging.
The execution of Ambuya Nehanda was authorised by the British High Commissioner for South Africa, Alfred Milner (the man who had earlier proclaimed that Roman-Dutch law shall be the law of the BSAC territory of Mashonaland).
The British Imperial Secretary endorsed the hanging on March 28 1898.
The presiding judge was Judge Watermeyer, while Herbert Hayton Castens, Esquire (the British term for gentleman) was the acting public Prosecutor Sovereign, the man who prosecuted on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen of England.
Before Ambuya Nehanda was taken to the gallows, one Father Richertz, a Roman Catholic priest, was tasked with converting her and Sekuru Kaguvi to "Christianity".
Sekuru Kaguvi was baptised and given the name Dismus - "the good thief", the name of the thief who was saved by Jesus on the cross.
It is said Ambuya Nehanda refused to talk to Fr Richertz apart from reminding the startled Roman Catholic Priest, that "My bones will surely rise again".
Her prophecy came true on the 68th anniversary of her death when seven Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla) guerrillas crossed into the country; and fired the first shots of the Second Chimurenga war at the Battle of Chinhoyi on April 28, 1966.
Even though the seven commandos - Cdes Simon Chingosha Nyandoro, Godwin Manyerenyere, Christopher Chatambudza, Chubby Savanhu, Godfrey Dube and David Guzuzu - were wiped out after an eight-hour battle by superior Rhodesian firepower that included air and ground forces; the spirit of the liberation struggle did not die with them.
The Second Chimurenga had begun in earnest, it gradually intensified as Mozambique attained independence from Portugal, allowing Zanla guerrillas to operate across the eastern border; while the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (Zipra) forces operated from Zambia across the Zambezi river valley.
Training camps were organised in Tanzania. Thousands of men, women and children left to join the war.
As various parts of the country were liberated, most of the white Rhodesians fled to apartheid South Africa, some of the surviving Rhodies hold considerable stakes in the South African media today, and have intensified the anti-Zimbabwe lobby in the right wing South African media.
Today as we go about our various endeavours; even as we strut in Harare's First Street, and many other urban centres, we must remember that without Mbuya Nehanda's prophecy and the sacrifices of the seven guerrillas and many other cadres who received the Chimurenga baton; we would still be second class citizens in the land of our forefathers.
We should never forget President Mugabe's inspirational tribute to all heroes living and fallen, at the burial of National Hero, Dr Bernard Chidzero on August 12 2002, when he said in part:
"Bernard and all who lie buried here worked for the people, sacrificed for their well-being and that of our children. Today, in the eerie silence of this sacred acre, they ask you and me many questions. What have you done for your country in your little sphere of activity?
"What are you doing with your life for your nation, for your people, for our children? Or are you negating the very illustrious essence of these proud and venerated men and women of honour we gather yearly to acknowledge?
"If Joshua Nkomo were to rise this hour, would you be fit to hold his hand and walk in step with him down the path that emanates from this very sacred shrine and ends in a great future for our country?
"If Leopold Takawira, Chairman Herbert Chitepo, General Josiah Magama Tongogara, Jason Moyo, Nikita Mangena were here with us today, would you embrace and greet them in comradeship; would you be found among the trusted cadres they would have proudly inspected?
"The Old Man, Tangwena, would he again stretch his age, cross the fierce, untamed Nyangombe, to join your cause, to applaud your actions? Would he invoke the Spirits' blessings for your pursuits in his profound communion with the dear departed?
"What is your cause today? Does it derive from and connect with the lofty ideals of these men and women we honour today? Or are you, through your actions today, a willing traitor and second executioner of these heroes; willing posthumous betrayer of their cause, indeed the eager butcher of our revolution, our heritage and of the future of our children?
"Today, Bernard is part of the national symbolism, part of our revolutionary tradition as a struggling people, as a people that came into being, that made a nation against the resolute will of the unjust and powerful, against the political and economic calculations and dictates of oppressor nations of the West, now the European Union and America.
Thus we should never forget that, the freedom that we enjoy was not given; but came from the blood of over 50 000 patriots who perished under Rhodesian firepower.
The Rhodesians did not cede power voluntarily - as evidenced by Ian Smith's tears as the Union Jack was lowered, folded and handed to British Heir to the throne, Prince Charles just after midnight on April 18 1980.
We also fought for the democracy neo-liberal forces purport to teach us today.
Thus this day, Heroes Day is a special day in our lives as Zimbabweans as it represents the crystallisation of our hopes and aspirations, the legacy of our quest for self-determination.
We should rededicate ourselves to revolution, and remind the agents of neo-colonialism that we desire no other beginning other than, the heroic one started by Ambuya Nehanda and other spirit mediums in 1896; which was taken over by generations of freedom fighters thereafter till that beautiful day April 18, 1980, when the Zimbabwean flag rose majestically at Rufaro Stadium.
This article was originally published in The Herald, April 27, 2005.