The spirit of NEHANDA
A Rhodesian Game Ranger's War Story

NEHANDA is a story about three people: a black Mashona boy, a half-Chinese/half-Mashona girl, and a white Rhodesian boy, all of the same age. The white boy’s father owned the farm on which they grew up together. It was located in what was then the British colony of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the heart of south-central Africa.

The three friends developed a close-knit threesome during their teenage years. The black boy taught the white boy about the traditions of his people and how to speak his Mzezuru language. The white boy taught the black boy how to shoot with his .22 rifle, and he taught him and the girl how to speak English.

The black boy and the girl became lovers when they were fourteen years old and by the time they were 17 the girl had seduced the white boy, too. Throughout her life she held a special place in her heart for her handsome white teenage lover. The friendship broke up, through force of circumstance, when they all left school.

Fifteen years later, the black man and the woman, now husband and wife, joined the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA). They became two of Robert Mugabe’s ‘Freedom Fighters’. They achieved high rank and fought to liberate the Zimbabwe people from what they perceived to be the oppressive regime of the white Rhodesian government.

The white boy realized his dream of becoming a game warden. When war broke out he offered his big game hunting and tracking skills to the Rhodesian Security Forces. He, together with his two Bushman trackers, used their combined expertise to track down and to engage what the Rhodesians called ZANLA ‘terrorists’. As a team they became renowned and highly accomplished hunters of men.

Permeating the story is the ancestor worshipping cult of the northern Mashona people.  It was significant because it truly affected both the direction of the war and the outcome of events. The senior spirit of this religion is called ‘NEHANDA’.

Inevitably, the two men come face to face in combat and the woman becomes the deciding factor in the story’s conclusion. The main narrative takes place between 1970 and 1975.

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