On 22/10/1952 at around 6.30am Ndirangu Mau accompanied by another home guard, Njiru were on their way back to camp after patrolling the Aberdares forest the whole night.They saw a glimpse of something. A man was attempting to cross a ditch carrying a bundle.They shouted at him to stop but he started running.Ndirangu fired and missed.He ran after him alone and fired again but missed as he disappeared into the woods.Ndirangu could hear the footsteps of his prey in the distance and followed hot on his heels and caught sight of him as he tried to jump over a ditch. He fired, and this time he caught him.
He heard his victim howl in agony. He raced after him cautiously as he wasn’t sure what condition he was in.
He was scared to death.He approached the ditch,his view obscured by bushes.His gun was,ready with his finger on the trigger.There was nothing.He thought his prey had escaped,then he looked down and was completely petrified.“I looked down and saw a man lying in the ditch bleeding.” It appeared his victim had belly-crawled into the trench.He had been shot on his right thigh.He was wearing a leopard skin.His bundle of sugarcane was lying next to him.He was holding a panga in one hand.” The man had dreadlocks and looked everything Mau Mau. His leg was bleeding. Ndirangu towered over him, shivering in fear and his gun trailed and ready.He studied the man, perplexed.
Finally he asked in Gikuyu: “Mundu nuu?” (Who are you?) “Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi Waciuri.” Ndirangu was stunned.Here was the man whose very name sent shivers down the spine of the colonialists;the man lionized and revered as the leader of the insurgency. There was an awkward silence.Kimathi asked him: ”Niwe wandatha?” (Are you the one who shot me?) Ndirangu answered “Yes.”
“Ni wega.” (Its okay), Kimathi replied, and resigned to his fate in pain. What followed next is what changed the course of the Mau Mau movement and Kenya’s history.Ndirangu yelled for back-up and several other home-guards appeared on the scene.They were astounded at Ndirangu’s catch.They made a stretcher from wood and helped carry the wounded freedom fighter to the Ihururu camp where the news of the capture had already spread like bushfire.The iconic image of Kimathi lying on a stretcher surrounded by colonial officers illustrates the importance of his capture.
The colonial Government printed over 100,000 leaflets in Gikuyu and 20,000 in Swahili announcing Kimathi’s capture.They distributed them in Central and Rift valley province in an attempt to demoralize the remaining fighters.The lives of the two men went different paths as they parted ways at Ihururu camp.Kimathi went on to assume heroic status,immortalized in the country’s history books.Ndirangu retreated to life as a civilian.
Kimathi was charged in Nyeri with being in possession of a firearm, a .38 Webley Scott revolver, even though Ndirangu never narrated finding one on him when he captured Kimathi.On November 27, 1956 Kimathi was sentenced to hang. He was subsequently executed on February 18, 1957 at Kamiti Prison.
Ndirangu later received a share of the 500 British pounds (equivalent to Ksh1.4m at current exchange rate and adjusted for inflation) which was the bounty on Kimathi’s head. A visit to Ndirangu’s home, one would not fail to spot a dilapidated and abandoned truckburied in a mound as it has not moved in decades. It was one of the many things he bought with the reward money but could not enjoy. The community turned on him with anger and resentment,treating him like Judas.
His family bore the brunt of the society’s rage. His children were treated as outcasts in school and physically bullied. Ndirangu Mau died in 1986.