Sekuru Kaguvi was one of the First Chimurenga leaders who operated in the Goromonzi area of Mashonaland. He was in fact one of the most influential political cum religious leaders who led the resistance crusade of the indigenous African societies on the Zimbabwean plateau against the colonisation of the land. Sekuru Kaguvi worked closely with his contemporary politician and religious leader Mbuya Nehanda in coordinating the armed rebellion against the so called "Vapambepfumi Vasinamabvi" meaning plunderers of wealth without knees. Kaguvi was hanged together with Mbuya Nehanda in Salisbury in 1898 on allegations of banditry and rebellion by the British South Africa Company government founded by Cecil Rhodes.
Sekuru Kaguvi was also known as Gumboreshumba. In the local Shona language, the name means the claw/foot of a lion. He lived in the Chikwaka Mountains near Goromonzi in the heart of the Mashonaland province. He was married to Chief Mashonganyika's daughter whose kraal was some three miles to the south of the Goromonzi Hill and he also had wives from the kraal of headman Gondo which is also in the vicinity of Goromonzi Hill. He became known as a supplier of good luck in hunting and was able to speak to people “from the trees and the rocks”.
Religious and Political Influence
Kaguvi was believed to be the spirit husband of the other great Shona spirit, Nehanda. He was a powerful spirit medium, along with Mbuya Nehanda and Mkwati, he was instrumental in organizing the first nationwide resistance (known in Zimbabwe as the First Chimurenga), known to the then colonial rule as the Rebellion of 1896-7 in the then Rhodesia.
The Kaguvi Spirit
Contrary to popular belief, Kaguvi, just like Nehanda, was a spirit which was influential in the local politics dating back from the days of the Rozvi Empire. Kaguvi's spirit or his mudzimu (Shona name for ancestral spirit) lived on from that time occupying the human form of a spirit medium known in Shona as svikiro. Before the European occupation of present day Zimbabwe, Kaguvi's spirit medium was Kawodza who lived on the present day Kaguvi Hill on the southern bank of the Umfuli River approximately 13 miles west of Beatrice town.
Below this hill was a pool in the Umfuli River which had never been known to dry up and which according to Shona tradition used to give forth the noises of cattle, sheep, goats and cockerels. Kawodza himself was killed in a Matabele raid and the family of his son fled north, eventually settling in these hills. One of his sons was Gumboreshumba, presumably named after the founder of the Rozvi dynasty and prior to the European occupation in 1890, Gumboreshumba found himself possessed of the Kaguvi spirit previously held by his grandfather, Kawodza. As colonialism began to get its grip on the natives of Zimbabwe, there was military drive to get rid of the British settlers.
Influence During the First Chimurenga
Kaguvi effectively joined the colonial resistance in October 1896 with the influence of Mbuya Nehanda. This was after the initial resistance campaign by another religious leader Mukwati who commanded the Matabeleland shrine at Matopos. Kaguvi sent messengers to the spirit medium, Mukwati, who lived in a cave in the Matopos and who was the medium of the Supreme God, Mwari. These messengers were sent to obtain medicine to destroy locusts but they came back to Mashonaland with the news that Mukwati had revealed that the Shona people should rise up against the whites in the same way as the Ndebele were doing and that Kaguvi would have the same powers to kill the whites as Mukwati had.
The British South Africa Company had, by end of 1896, recognised the importance of the 'spirit mediums' to the rebel cause. Lord Earl Grey wrote to his wife, “Kaguvi is the witch-doctor who is preventing the Mashona from surrendering. Whilst a Native commissioner in the then Salisbury wrote, “If we capture Kaguvi the war is over”. From then on the military began to exert increasing pressure on the areas where Kaguvi and Mkwati had set up their headquarters, but both men escaped when, after three attempts, the stockaded kraal was stormed. They took refuge in the Mazowe valley with Nehanda.
Arrest and Conviction
The arrest and trial of Kaguvi together with Mbuya Nehanda took place between 1896 and 1897. The two were convicted in March 1898. They were subsequently hanged about seven weeks later. It is believed that Nehanda was hanged first and Kaguvi was given the opportunity to witness the hanging. Kaguvi, after initially refusing to convert to Christianity, subsequently agreed and was baptised after denouncing his African Traditional Religion belief.
Sekuru Kaguvi left behind a unique revolutionary legacy which has been admired by 20th Century Pan African nationalists in Rhodesia. Sekuru Kaguvi offered the ideological base which was used by the nationalist movements such as the Zimbabwe African National Union, Zimbabwe African People's Union, African National Congress and the National Democratic Party. Nationalist rhetoric has been awash with praises and admiration of Kaguvi's sacrifice as the prototype of patriotism. For this reason among others, Kaguvi was honoured in independent Zimbabwe and a street in the Central Business District of Harare was named after him.
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