THE late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo declined to be president of Zimbabwe at independence in 1980 as he was not after ceremonial titles that would have endowed him with personal glory because he wanted a platform to contribute to national development, Zapu said yesterday.
President Robert Mugabe on Sunday told guests at the unveiling of Nkomo’s statue in Bulawayo that the veteran nationalist turned down the offer three times soon after the 1980 elections.
Zapu alternate secretary-general Strike Mkandla yesterday told Southern Eye that Nkomo was not keen on being a ceremonial president.
“Yes, it’s true that he turned down the offer, but Mugabe did not give reasons.
“Nkomo was not after a ceremonial post that had personal glory attached to it, but lacked developmental substance to offer the nation,” he said.
“Mugabe yesterday (Sunday) said Nkomo was humble; yes he had humility to reject the presidency and offer himself as a Cabinet minister in the first government which is a key indicator that his passion was to contribute to development in practical ways.”
Mugabe said Nkomo had on three occasions turned down the offer and he ended up appointing the late Reverend Canaan Banana.
“I personally asked Dr Nkomo to be president, but he said no. I sent another delegation, but again he said no.
“I sent a third delegation to plead with him, but he said no — such was his humility. Perhaps you didn’t know,” Mugabe said.
However, other accounts say the 89-year-old Zanu PF leader refused to appoint Nkomo to the powerful post of Defence minister and shunted him to Home Affairs.
On Sunday Mugabe also pleaded with Zapu members who broke away from the Unity Accord to return saying “they make me cry”.
Responding to Mugabe’s plea to “come back” to the fold, Mkandla said that would never happen.
“We left an uneven combination which was not unity,” he said.
“The issue of going back to Zanu PF does not arise at all as we broke from an association that had swallowed us using State force.
“Some pre-independence PF Zapu members did not even join Zanu PF after the Unity Accord.
“Nkomo reluctantly agreed to the Unity Accord for the sake of fostering peace as people were killed for supporting him,” said Mkandla.
Mugabe said the pullout from Zanu PF makes him cry as it is an act of disloyalty to Nkomo’s legacy.
Current Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa quit together with former Finance minister Simba Makoni in 2008 in protest over Mugabe’s continued stranglehold on power.
Meanwhile, Makoni yesterday said he would never return to Zanu PF where he was a politburo member.