Zanu PF, family tussle over Nkomo legacy

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THE LATE Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s son Sibangilizwe yesterday said tommorow he will declare July 1 a Joshua Nkomo and Liberators’ Day as the battle over the legacy of one of the country’s most prominent nationalists between his family and Zanu PF intensifies.

REPORT BY NQOBILE BHEBHE.

Sibangilizwe wants July to be designated as a national holiday, but has been ignored by the government.

Nkomo died on July 1 1999 and his family plans to hold commemorations of his death at Stanley Square, Makokoba.

Zanu PF says it will hold its own celebrations that will last the whole week, but the Nkomo family insisted that it was never consulted.

“All necessary preparations for the special day have been finalised,” Sibangilizwe said.

He said Zanu PF had not responded to an invitation to attend the event.

“We expect thousands of people to take part in the historic event. We are declaring Joshua Nkomo and Liberators’ Day on Monday,” he said.

“My father told me to stick with the people, the masses.

“If the people in suits don’t attend, the family and I are not worried as the celebrations are not targeting them but ordinary people.

“People first, my father used to tell us,” Sibangilizwe said.

Nkomo’s outspoken son in April said the government had ignored several letters he had written requesting that July 1 be declared a holiday in honour of his late father.

In a Government Gazette published on Friday announcing 2014 public holidays, July 1 was not included as a holiday.

Some of the public holidays include Workers’ Day (Thursday, May 1), Africa Day (Sunday, May 25), Public Holiday (Monday May 26), Heroes’ Day (Monday August 11), Defence Forces’ Day (Tuesday August 12), National Unity Day (Monday December 22), Christmas Day (Thursday December 25) and Public Holiday (Friday, December 26).
Sibangilizwe said his push for the recognition had nothing to do with his political ambitions as he was only concentrating on cultural activities.

“Our father began as a culturalist since that provided a strong base to be in touch with the people,” he said. “So I am following that path of being with the people. Politics comes later.”

Zanu PF has declared July 1 to 5 as “a special week to commemorate the life of the late Vice-President Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo”.
Several activities have been lined up in the first week of July.

Some of the activities will include exhibitions, lectures and entertainment by cultural groups.

However, Sibangilizwe said he will only attend the events if they were meant to preserve his father’s legacy.

Zanu-PF central committee member Godfrey Malaba yesterday said party officials would attend the Stanley Square celebrations although it did not take part in the preparations.
“We are definitely attending the event on Monday,” Malaba said.

“People think that we are in conflict with the Nkomo family.

“That’s not true. We have been updating them on every development pertaining to the series of events lined up.”

Malaba said there was a notion that Zanu PF was not doing enough to preserve the Nkomo legacy, but this week’s events will demonstrate that the party still valued his contributions.

Zanu PF has come under fire for not ensuring that projects built in Nkomo’s honour that include the Joshua Mqabuko International Airport and the Ekusileni Hospital in Bulawayo were completed on time.

The government also angered people in Matabeleland and Midlands after it contracted North Koreans to make statues of Nkomo to be erected in central Bulawayo and Harare.

North Korea trained the 5 Brigade which hounded Nkomo into exile and was blamed for the massacre of 20 000 people in the region soon after independence.