IN MOST cultures people never speak ill of the dead, but very few in Matabeleland and the Midlands will shed a tear for the late Zanu PF founder member Enos Nkala.
Nduduzo Tshuma, Staff Reporter
He is often blamed for being the mastermind of the Gukurahundi genocide, which led to deaths of an estimated number of 20 000 people.
Nkala, despite protestations of innocence, will be mostly remembered for statements he made at the height of the mass killings, when he was the Home Affairs minister.
In one of his infamous quotes, Nkala was quoted in the Chronicle of September 19 1985 saying he intended to wipe out PF Zapu, “within the next few months”, warning that detentions of party officials at the time were only the “beginning of things to come”.
“(PF Zapu leader Joshua) Nkomo should take note. In the next few days you’ll be seeing fire. We want to wipe out the Zapu leadership,” he said then.
“You have only seen the warning lights as we haven’t yet reached full blast. The next few months will see us in top gear and Zapu must be warned.
“I don’t want to hear pleas of mercy (in dealing with Zapu and its supporters), I only want encouragement to deal with this dissident organisation. The murderous organisation and its murderous leadership must be hit so hard that they do not feel obliged to do things they have been doing.”
Former Rhodesian Prime Minister Garfield Todd’s daughter, Judith, in her autobiography, Through the Darkness, A Life in Zimbabwe, quoted Nkala addressing a Zanu PF rally in Bulawayo in July 1981, saying his party’s task was to destroy Nkomo and forget about him.
“I want to declare here that Joshua Nkomo and his group are in government by the grace of Zanu PF. They contributed in their own small way and we have given them a share proportional to their contribution. If they now want more than their small share, then we shall have to tell them that they will not have any share at all.”
Shortly afterwards, a crack North Korean-trained paramilitary group was deployed in Matabeleland and the Midlands leading to a pogrom that claimed an estimated 20 000 lives. Veteran journalist and former Zapu spokesperson Methuseli Moyo said outside Nkala’s family, no one from Matabeleland would shed a tear for the former minister.
“Whether by his own wish or compromise, Nkala was a star performer in the Gukurahundi episode. He was the mouthpiece of the whole operation as it were, and tended to say a lot that attracted a lot of attention to him and most of it negative,” he said.
“He is one of the people pointed out as having played a critical role in Gukurahundi. He was the most senior Ndebele people in Zanu PF and one wonders what he enjoyed when his kith and kin, brothers and sisters were butchered in that period.”
Moyo said Zanu PF tended to view every Ndebele speaking person in a negative way and Nkala was under pressure to prove that he was loyal to the party.
“The people of Matabeleland will not miss Nkala even for a single day,” he charged. “Nkala’s hero status, if granted and what President Robert Mugabe will say at his burial will be of interest to many.
“One cannot talk about Nkala’s history and not mention Gukurahundi. While there is no doubt that he participated in the liberation struggle, Nkala’s name was tarnished by Gukurahundi and further battered by the Willowgate (motor) Scandal.”
Nkala was implicated in a scandal where government officials bought cars at subsidised prices and resold them for a profit.
Producer of a Gukurahundi documentary, Moment of Madness, Zenzele Ndebele posted on microblogging site Twitter saying Nkala would only be remembered for his role in the atrocities.
“Sad that people like Enos Nkala are dying before telling us the whole truth about Gukurahundi.
“Some will see a hero in him, but those who suffered because of Gukurahundi feel sad that he has gone before he could account for his actions,” he said.
Media scholar Brilliant Mhlanga said: “While at every stage of our lives we are bidden to show some sympathies for the loss of life, it should be noted that for most of us, especially the young generation from Matabeleland we have never considered Enos Nkala a hero. To us his death means nothing just like his life”.