Nkomo honours not favours

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FOURTEEN years after the demise of the Zapu founding father Joshua Nkomo, the government of Zimbabwe has finally decided to honour the man who was once described by the then Prime Minister of Zimbabwe as the “Father of dissidents”.

The government must be commended for taking steps to honour the late nationalist hero because just 30 years ago it was inconceivable that Nkomo could and would be acknowledged as having contributed to the liberation of Zimbabwe.

Thirty years ago in 1983 people would disappear for just wearing badges with the picture of Father Zimbabwe and many indeed vanished from the face of the earth for daring to wear any Father Zimbabwe paraphernalia, especially badges or orange Father Zimbabwe — T-shirts or white PF T-shirts.

Popular songs praising Nkomo by the Light Machine Gun Fire Choir were literally banned from the airwaves because at that time any association with Nkomo was deemed collaboration with dissidents. It is therefore commendable that some thirty years later Nkomo has finally been honoured.

It is befitting therefore that a street has been named after Nkomo and an airport has been built in honour of him fourteen years after his death. It is commendable that a statue has been erected and unveiled fourteen years after his death.

It must be noted, however, that Nkomo deserved these honours and this is not a favour which the government is bestowing on Nkomo, his family, the people of Matabeleland or Zimbabwe.

After all, the man had long been honoured by the African Union as one of the greatest icons in Africa.

One wonders why it took so long for the man to be honoured when it took barely a year to rename almost all the major streets in the country in the ’80s.

Nonetheless it is a commendable that a man who was once described as a “cobra in the house” has been honoured.

Yes, it is commendable that fourteen years after his death a man who was once described as a threat to national security has been honoured.

It is in indeed inconceivable that a man who was accused of plotting to overthrow the government in 1982 and was unceremoniously sacked from government has been honoured. Yes, that very same Nkomo whose Zapu properties including Magnet House, Castle Arms and Snake Park were confiscated by the government is being celebrated.

Yes, it is the same Nkomo whose car was attacked and shot at by Zanu PF supporters in 1985 in Masvingo. It is the same Nkomo who was whisked out of the country by Makhathini Guduza in 1983 after his Pelandaba home was attacked by armed State agents who were baying for his blood.

This is the same Nkomo who saw thousands of his supporters being detained and tortured at Stops Camp in Bulawayo and Bhalagwe near his rural home in Kezi, with thousands being killed in Nkayi, Tsholotsho and Lupane for merely associating with the man and his party.

Yes, it is it is indeed inconceivable that this man has been honoured. It is inconceivable, but commendable that Nkomo has been honoured.

This is the same Nkomo who signed the Unity Accord to save thousands of Matabeles from being slaughtered by the 5 Brigade. Unity Day is therefore a day in which we should remember that a “ceasefire” was negotiated.

It is also the day when we should not forget thousands of Nkomo supporters who lie in mass graves and hundreds who disappeared for daring to belong to Zapu, Zipra and the thousands of orphans who up to today have no birth certificates because their parents disappeared and death certificates where never issued for them.

The statue will forever remind us of Nkomo’s indelible contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe.

It will remind us of his great entrepreneurial and prophetic vision which saw him conceive Ekusileni Hospital long before there was a health crisis in Zimbabwe.

It will remind us of his contribution in helping to set up the National University of Science and Technology, Nkulumane Shopping Complex and Entumbane Complex.

Today millions of people are using Econet lines because Nkomo had the courage to defy those who denied Strive Masiyiwa a licence and on the day he became acting president he signed the necessary documents for Econet to get a licence to operate in Zimbabwe.

We will be forever reminded of these contributions but the statue, the airport and Nkomo Street are also a memorial for thousands of his supporters whose graves are not known .

Let the history books be written to explain why he became Father Zimbabwe and to explain that his people were not dissidents.

Yes, it is commendable that a statue has been erected in his honour, an airport built in his honour and one street in the whole of Zimbabwe renamed after him, but the truth should be told. It is the truth ,the whole truth and nothing but the truth that will set us free.

Mayibuye!

Dumisani Nkomo is a political commentator and chief executive officer of the Habakkuk Trust. He writes here in his personal capacity