Of Coffee With Mbuya Nehanda

If you were having coffee with me, I would be happy as usual for your visit, it means a lot; sit back and put your feet up, now, where to even begin…

So I had occasion to go into Harare city the other day, and had a first hand experience with the pirate taxis… First, I spent hours standing in the road trying to flag down a lift going into town, a couple of Zupco buses passed but they were all full, eventually, a taxi van with boarded-up windows stopped… the fare was a bit more than I expected, I guess with the price of fuel having gone up, things are going to go up.

The combi dropped us after circling the CBD trying to find a spot with low police presence and we had to scurry out as the conductor and driver urged people to quickly disembark before the police arrived. Fortunately, the police arrived as the last passenger got off and the combi sped off in a squeal of burning rubber.

I then had to get another kombi to take me to High Glen Shopping Mall and since the Market Square terminus was packed and crowded while I was running late for an appointment, I opted to find the pirate taxis and enquired from a friendly vendor where I could find the mshika mshika to High Glen (referring to the pirate taxis) and true to the directions I found a combi with conductor shouting those who are serious about their travelling should get in… I was serious, so I got in.

The interior of the combi was hot, on account of again not having windows but wooden boards and the windscreen had a network of iron bars to protect it from a policeman’s baton stick. The conductor stood at the door keeping an eye out for police and also to “vet” the passengers to make sure they were not undercover police, I suppose on account of my hair he didn’t even give me a second glance as I boarded but the person behind me was stopped and told they weren’t carrying his sort. He had a crew cut and clean shaven…  

Conductor’s butt by the door

The police arrived shortly after and started assaulting the combi with baton sticks… ah that’s why they no longer have windows, the noise was fearsome, and the combi took off at high speed, a lady who had been about to board the combi tumbled backwards, I hope she wasn’t injured I couldn’t see what became of her, no windows you see… as the driver sped recklesslessly down a one way street…

I prayed to anyone who would listen, I even wondered if Mbuya Nehanda was watching over us, she didn’t die for this ish… We eventually arrived safely thank you very much whatever benevolent spirits kept us safe.

wooden boards where the windows should be

If you were having coffee with me, I would tell you that Mbuya Nehanda is an ancestral spirit which has been popping out to be channeled by different spirit mediums across the ages. The most recognised spirit medium is Charwe Nyakasikana who then become known by honorific title Mbuya Nehanda (which translates to grandma Nehanda) even though she was only in her eary 30s when she was executed in 1898.

Mbuya Nehanda

Back in July the government unveiled plans to erect a monument in honour of Mbuya Nehanda which was supposed to have been completed by August but then COVID happened I suppose. Anyway, a picture of President inspecting the memorial went viral alongside a social media outcry at its… inaccuracy

Some argued it looked nothing like the iconic image taken just before she was executed by hanging. Some argued that they were glad the artist had taken creative liberty to create a statue that showed her more womanly and not as some haunted person facing death, of course, others were scandalized with the curvy statue, thick around the edges and wait are those pointy nipples peaking through…

A line of argument was that the budget the statue gobbled up could have been used to refurbish Mbuya Nehanda Materinty Ward and that could have been a better way to honour the spirit…. One interesting thought popped up:

Good question who is this person really?… Well for starters I would love to know how this person came upon the idea that the first camera in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) was in 1906.. I have seen pictures of the Pioneer Column from the 1890s.

Interesting aside the book I am currently reading The Old Drift partly chronicles the arrival of one Percy M. Clark who established a photography business at the Victoria Falls in 1903…

If you read my previous article on Traditional Knowledge Systems in Zimbabwe I quoted how a lot of our history is regarded as non-existent as it was not written, at least not by us.. I was searching for accounts on Mbuya Nehanda and the works referenced are from the observation of colonial settlers.

Mbuya Nehanda’s skull may or may not be on display in a museum in the United Kingdom, there was supposed to be some sort of repatriation exercise back in February and then well, COVID.

Mbuya Nehanda’s spirit has come and visited spirit mediums across the ages but again its not very well documented. The original Nehanda was considered to be Nyamhita, the daughter of the first Monomatapa Mutota, who was living in the escarpment north of Guruve in about 1430.

The more known Nehanda medium is Charwe Nyakasikana (pictured above) whose famous last words were my bones will raise again… Its possible that somewhere out there is a living host of the Mbuya Nehanda spirit and we have forgotten the faces of our ancestors….

I liked the debate the Mbuya Nehanda statue sparked, it got people talking, researching and sharing facts. We have all picked up something we never knew from it, I know I did

Mbuya Nehanda’s descendants are somewhere out there and have they got a story to tell.

If you were having coffee with me I would tell you a journalists was ranting that youth of today are useless and only follow frivolities on the internet than do important things with their time…

but then hey they are just youth being youth I mean if one has to rally youth to participate in important things it’s a sign of a generation that failed the same youth and name calling only serves to alienate than to jolt them into supporting causes…

I used to dream I was the future and now my beard has gone white not quite old to be old yet no longer young, and where is my future….. when will Nehanda’s bones rise?

Whats been going on in your neck of the woods?




  1. Hey B,
    the largest market in Kampala, Owino, is one you will find whatever your heart desires. Hehe!
    It is especially famous for its hand-me down clothes from western Europe, America, and now China. Why am I telling you this? well, when you go looking for the latest trends, it is very common to hear the seller say, “this is for only serious buyer!” Sound familiar?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fascinating, if you changed the name of the market to Mbare, Harare you could easily be describing a visit to one of our largest markets here.

      Eerily familiar.


      Liked by 1 person

    1. When the government first introduced lockdown it was announced that there would be no public transport running, then later they adjusted that only public transport operating under the ZUPCO franchise would operate as they would follow government regulations (and former private taxi operators either have to join the state owned ZUPCO franchise or stay off the roads)
      And the police are enthusiastically carrying out a blitz campaign on the taxis which even at the best of times have always been rather unruly and difficult to regulate and they can now concentrate the full wrath of the law on them; this article from 2 years back might put things into some perspective https://becomingthemuse.net/2018/09/22/of-combie-diaries/

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely loved reading the beginning of this post. It’s like you were a journalist reporting straight from the action zone regarding the taxis. Fascinating! I felt the urgency and anxiety. I, too, hope the woman is alright.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At the time I was even questioning the sum total of my life choices which led me to be in that vehicle and how smoother life would be if I had my own car🤣🤣 well buying fuel has its own car owner problems…. It’s crazy.

      Well this blogging thing is turning some of us into pseudo journalists… I sometimes get comments from people saying they read my blog to find out what’s really going on

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, what a rush, I felt like I was in that combi with you. I am glad you are ok and travelled well. Keep giving us your world from your POV( Point of View).


  4. It has always been a question for me as to the rationale behind erecting monuments to honour great people of history when basic human rights of a people are yet to be fulfilled. The SA government did a similar thing recently with a statue of OR Tambo (a man after whom the biggest airport in SA was named) when we are currently faced with the highest unemployment rate yet. Luxuries over necessity. The maternity ward would have been elated at receiving funds used for the monument

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And it’s a legit concern too because it seems more like gesturing than actually doing the things that need doing… Misplaced priorities and being out of touch with reality

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It truly was like you were a journalist on a journey which you were of sorts! And glad you made it safely. I was sitting here thinking why it would be useful to beat a van “taxi” with a baton? Like that would make it stop? And since the windows are broken out, replaced by wood, the beatings are even less useful! Just so strange to me… I understand why they want to stop the not legal taxi services, which is kinda crazy but am actually glad they are still out there for you all. Just think how much safer it would be if taxi’s could just function legally. Well, I am sure y’all are thinking that too! Governments are crazy in my mind!
    Stay safe out there! And enjoyed the coffee! 🤠 ☕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You would think governments’ first priority would be to make life easier for its citizens…
      At this rate I think we will wake up one day and find they have decided to force compliance by making it such that being in an unregistered vehicle is a crime and everyone including the driver gets jailed for now its only the driver and conductor who get into trouble, oh snap I hope they arent reading this and getting ideas…
      I suppose in beating it up maybe they hope to inflict damage that will discourage the owners from putting it on the road?
      I really dont understand what their plan is but I foresee fatalities resulting from these cat and mouse games..
      Its not even like one willingly wants to use the pirate taxis its either that or wait for hours and hours or walk….
      Thanks for visiting
      Just staying alive ^_^

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The adrenaline rush one gets when the police appear while one is in a mshikashika taxi, I can imagine. And the taxi drivers behave as if they have qualifications in that car game need for speed. They get you to your destination on time but you get there carrying your heart and nerves in your hands.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Totally, you will be there thinking deliver me from recklessness 🤣🤣
      The number of hit and run accidents is also increasing that now no one is safe you could just be standing minding your own business and boom… A mshikashika evading police knocks you down..

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You recount of the combi is very similar to that of our danfo drivers and conductors here in Lagos, Nigeria. However, our conductors display their dirty butts for free as they’re always sagging 🤦

    Liked by 1 person

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