FOURTEEN years after his death, Zapu leader Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo will today be finally honoured in a meaningful way.
President Robert Mugabe will officially open the new terminal at the Joshua Mqabuko International Airport, to make the landmark a worthy legacy of the great son of the soil.
Mugabe will also unveil Nkomo’s statue along Bulawayo’s Main Street in what is billed to be a big celebration for the city.
The history of Zimbabwe can never be complete without the mention of Nkomo who led Zapu and Zipra in the execution of the liberation war. He was a great nation builder after independence.
He survived several assassination attempts by the Rhodesian regime and Mugabe’s administration soon after independence, but was never vengeful.
Nkomo was a revered figure not only in Matabeleland, but throughout the country and in his last days he was fondly referred to as Father Zimbabwe because of his magnanimity.
At the height of the Gukurahundi killings in Matabeleland and the Midlands soon after independence, the veteran nationalist consented to the absorption of Zapu into Zanu to save people’s lives.
Despite his popularity throughout the country, Nkomo put his supporters’ lives first and agreed to play subordinate to his former rivals.
That he was not honoured soon after his death in July 1999 is a big scandal, but as today’s proceedings would demonstrate, it may never be too late to do the right thing.
The death of South Africa’s post-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and the unveiling of his giant statue at the seat of government in Pretoria, a day after his burial should be a lesson to Zimbabwe.
The official opening of the airport terminal that took over a decade to construct and the statue whose erection was shrouded in controversy should just be the beginning of a process to finally honour Nkomo’s contribution to this country.
If the government is serious about paying tribute to the nation’s father, a much bigger statue should be erected in Harare as a matter of urgency.
The present scenario where all the landmarks to commemorate Nkomo’s life are centered in Matabeleland creates the wrong impression that he was a regional leader.