By Moses Matenga
Thousands of people, mostly Zanu PF supporters, yesterday gathered in defiance of COVID-19 safety protocols in central Harare for the unveiling of the statue of Mbuya Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana.
This was the third time inside a week that President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed a State function without adhering to World Health Organisation-prescribed safety protocols.
Last Friday, he addressed a huge gathering at Chief Njelele’s homestead in Gokwe South, in the Midlands province, where some of the attendees were not wearing masks.
The next day, he attended the memorial service of the late Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri in Chikomba district, where he attracted a sizeable gathering.
Shiri succumbed to COVID-19 in July last year and was buried at the National Heroes’ Acre.
This comes as the country is under threat of a third wave, with the deadly Indian variant of the disease having already claimed one life and infected nine people in Kwekwe.
Yesterday, traditional leaders performed rituals at the unveiling of the statue of the revered spirit medium where they described President Emmerson Mnangagwa as the chosen leader for the country.
Thousands of Zanu PF supporters clad in party regalia, chanting revolutionary songs thronged the site where Mbuya Nehanda’s statue stands at the intersection of Julius Nyerere Way and Samora Machel Avenue in Harare.
The Zanu PF youths threatened to beat up opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa and his supporters in Harare.
Mnangagwa, who was flanked by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and several Cabinet ministers during the unveiling ceremony, said the country would continue to push for the return of Mbuya Nehanda’s remains from the United Kingdom for proper burial.
His remarks come after suggestions by some sections of society that government should have repatriated Mbuya Nehanda’s skull from the UK before erecting a statue in her honour.
Norton MP Temba Mliswa (Independent) said it would have been prudent for Mbuya Nehanda’s remains to be repatriated home before the statue was mounted in her honour.
During the unveiling ceremony, some six traditional leaders knelt and performed traditional rituals at the site, claiming that Mnangagwa was chosen by the spirit “a long time ago” as the leader of the Second Republic.
“We ask you to bless us because we have remembered your spring that you hit with a stick and water gushed out,” the chiefs said during the ceremony.
“This is what your great grandson has done, the angel of the country. We have remembered you, so please give us the gift from the deepest of your spring. Your sons, the chiefs, are here and being led by our war veterans and those we elected as you said a long time ago that ‘he who I will name will lead you in the second journey of the children of Zimbabwe’.
“We have Mnangagwa, you told us he was your chosen one and you told us that, we as chiefs, should respect him for you have chosen him. Please give our leaders the brains and the power to lead us.”
After the function, Mnangagwa handed over 18 vehicles to traditional leaders to enable them to conduct their duties effectively.
The same traditional leaders once declared that the late former President Robert Mugabe should rule for life before the veteran leader was deposed in November 2017 via a military coup orchestrated by Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, his former loyalists.
In his address, Mnangagwa said: “The towering Mbuya Nehanda statue we are gathered here to unveil is a reflection of heroic people of our country from Zambezi to Limpopo who sacrificed for the freedom we enjoy today.
“We are a people who we are, and where we come from and where we intend to go.
“In her heroic defiance to the brutal hanging, she declared that mapfupa angu achamuka (my bones shall rise). Present and future generations must correctly contextualise that emphatic declaration,” Mnangagwa said.
In choosing the site, Mnangagwa said it was the spring where Mbuya Nehanda would drink water from and rest.
“You see those trees there, there is a church. A long time ago when she was fighting the oppressors, it was there where there was a well she would drink from,” he said, adding that his government was seeking to tell the correct history of the country and was “setting the record straight”.
“It is not a place where young boys and girls will loiter around with their lovers hand-in-hand. We must respect the place,” he said. News Day