ZANU PF yesterday said it used its “wisdom” to declare former Defence minister Enos Nkala a national hero as it emerged some former PF Zapu elements in the party were not happy with the decision.
Nkala resigned from Zanu PF after he was embroiled in the Willowgate scandal in 1988 in which senior government officials resold cars bought at concessionary rates from Willowavale Motor Industries.
Zanu PF has in the past refused to grant renowned nationalists such as Thenjiwe Lesabe hero status on account they had left the party. Nkala, who died on Wednesday, was declared a national hero and on Thursday is set to be buried at the Heroes’ Acre, a place he once said he hated.
Zanu PF secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, yesterday said Nkala’s hero status was decided even before a formal request was submitted from Bulawayo Province.
“Yes, they (Zanu PF Bulawayo province) did write a letter, but I got it late,” he told Southern Eye.
“The decision to accord Nkala the hero’s status was unanimous.”
Mutasa claimed Nkala was still a Zanu PF member, despite his widely publicised statements aligning himself to a Matabeleland-based opposition party, as there was no record showing he had resigned.
“I don’t recall receiving a letter from the late Nkala stating that he has resigned from Zanu PF,” Mutasa said. “As far as I know he was still one of us though not all that active.
“Unlike (Edgar) Tekere who resigned from the party, when he died, through our wisdom we saw it fit to declare him (Nkala) a national hero based on his contribution during and after the liberation struggle.”
Mugabe, immediately after the Zanu founder member’s death, declared that if a person like Nkala was not buried at the national shrine, “no one else qualifies”.
However, several senior Zanu PF officials from Matabeleland who spoke to Southern Eye, yesterday said the hero status had shocked them considering Nkala’s association with the Gukurahundi massacres and the fact that he had left the party.
“In public, Zanu PF officials would want to appear as mourning Nkala, but deep down they don’t want to be associated with him,” a Zanu PF politburo member who requested anonymity said.
“They are conscious of the fact that people of this region have not forgiven Nkala.”
A number of senior Zanu PF senior officials interviewed by this paper said they had nothing to say about Nkala.
But Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said the party could not be divided by the hero status, claiming the death actually brought them together.
“That (reports of divisions) is not true,” he said.
“Zanu PF has never been divided by any death of our member. Instead, deaths bring us together.”
One of the surviving PF Zapu leaders Dumiso Dabengwa told Southern Eye in an earlier interview that although Nkala played a crucial role in the liberation of Zimbabwe, his record was tainted by Gukurahundi.
“To an extent he deserves to be given good points, but after independence there is nothing. All is wiped out by Gukurahundi and the Willowvale scandal,” the Zapu leader said.
Some analysts have said Nkala will not be mourned in Matabeleland and the Midlands for the role he played during the Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s.
While Nkala in the past said he was innocent, he was widely quoted in the State media during the atrocities calling for the demise of Zapu, ahead of a pogrom that claimed an estimated 20 000 lives.
Dabengwa said Nkala’s hatred of Zapu stemmed from an unknown domestic problem with the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo that had nothing to do with the party.