FOURTEEN years after the death of veteran nationalist Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo, the government has finally decided to honour the man widely referred to as Father Zimbabwe.
The late Vice-President is set to be immortalised when a giant statue of him is unveiled in the middle of the intersection of Main Street and 8th Avenue in Bulawayo by President Robert Mugabe on Unity Day, December 22.
Although Nkomo was already immortal in the eyes of most Zimbabweans, the government has finally seen it fit to officially honour him not only by unveiling his statue, but by also renaming Main Street Joshua Nkomo Street and officially opening the Joshua Nkomo International Airport on the same day.
Jabulani Hadebe, chief executive officer of the Joshua Nkomo National Foundation, said the long awaited statue would be unveiled after years of dithering.
“I can confirm that the statue of Nkomo will be unveiled by Mugabe on December 22,” said Hadebe.
However, Bulawayo Provincial Affairs minister Eunice Sandi-Moyo yesterday told Southern Eye that while they were pleased with speculation surrounding the possible honouring of the veteran nationalist, there had been no official announcement on the unveiling of Nkomo’s statue, opening of the airport or renaming of Main Street.
Sandi-Moyo said the honour was generating a lot of interest and the government would obviously communicate details if and when there was confirmation of any new developments.
“There is no official announcement and so you must wait for it,” said Sandi-Moyo.
The erection of the statue has been postponed on numerous occasions in the past few years resulting in the government being accused of deliberately disrespecting Nkomo and his family.
Nkomo’s statue was initially erected at the same intersection in 2010, but was pulled down before being officially unveiled following protestations by the nationalist’s family and some city residents about the small pedestal on which it had been mounted considering his stature.
Construction of an elevated pedestal resumed in August 2011, but the time it has taken to complete it has angered most Bulawayo motorists because of the traffic chaos created by the site in the middle of the busy intersection.
Speculation had been mounting that the statue would be unveiled by Mugabe when he came to Bulawayo to officiate at the National University of Science and Technology graduation ceremony.
However, nothing came of it and officials remained tight-lipped making no attempts to dispel the rumours until Mugabe returned to the capital leaving the rumour mill in overdrive.
Meanwhile, the Bulawayo City Council has blockaded the roads close to the statue and created space for a pedestrian mall that began operating yesterday and will run up to January 4 2014.
“People will be allowed to perform at the mall in honour of the legendary late nationalist.
“Culture groups will also come and perform at the temporary mall in remembrance of Father Zimbabwe,” Hadebe said of the Joshua Nkomo National Foundation.