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Council fells tree where Nehanda was hanged

The tree where legendary spirit medium and First Chimurenga heroine Mbuya Nehanda was reportedly hanged by white settlers was yesterday hacked down by City of Harare workers.

Mbuya Nehanda was hanged from this tree
Mbuya Nehanda was hanged from this tree

Myths and legend surrounded the tree where another spirit medium and hero Sekuru Kaguvi is believed to have been hanged on the same day with Mbuya Nehanda on April 27, 1898.

The city employees were repairing the tarmac at the corner of Josiah Tongogara Avenue and Sam Nujoma Street when they brought down the Msasa tree that stood in the middle of the road.

Harare City Council spokesperson Mr Leslie Gwindi said he passed through the place after the tree was destroyed, but was waiting for a report on what transpired. “I will only be in a position to tell what happened after I receive full details,” he said.

Witnesses said the front loader tipper the council workers were using accidentally brought down the tree as it was being reversed. “We are shocked . . . the workers were repairing the road and suddenly we heard a sound which later turned out to be from the tree,” said Timothy Muchina, a street vendor.

“One of the workers tried to cut the tree and we told him the story behind it. That was when he stopped and decided to run away. Drivers of the other two council vehicles fled the scene with their vehicles as people started to gather.”

The tree was hit by a truck and collapsed onto one of its branches in the middle of the street in Harare
The tree was hit by a truck and collapsed onto one of its branches in the middle of the street in Harare

Another vendor, Luckmore Katsende said: “They ran away probably after knowing the myth associated with this tree. For the five years that I have been selling my wares at this place, I have witnessed a lot.

“I have witnessed two occasions when cars crushed onto the tree with the vehicles getting damaged, but the tree being left intact as if nothing happened.”

Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi were tried by the white authorities at the Old French South Africa Company Building that was demolished to make way for the new 26-storey headquarters of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

After the trial, some historians say the two were taken to the tree where they were hanged. This was after the then British High Commissioner to South Africa, Mr Alfred Milner had authorised the execution of the two liberation fighters.

Mbuya Nehanda, it is believed, was executed for the alleged murder of a brutal white native commissioner of the BSAC, Mr Henry Hawkins Pollard. The presiding judge during the trial was Judge Watermeyer, while Mr Herbert Hayton Castens Esq was the acting prosecutor.

When she was about to be executed, a Roman Catholic Priest Father Richartz was sent to convert her into Christianity but she refused to talk to him and asked that she be allowed to go back to her people in Mazowe. Mbuya Nehanda was hanged from the tree.