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Nkomo ‘turning in his grave’

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LATE Vice-President Joshua Nkomo must be turning in his grave at the present political instability, fissures and indiscipline within the ruling Zanu PF, as he was a strict disciplinarian and a stabilising factor in both the party and government, political analysts said yesterday.

Zimbabwe today commemorates 16 years after the death of Nkomo and analysts were unanimous Father Zimbabwe, as he was affectionately known, would not be happy with the state of the country were he still alive.

Political and social analyst Ibbo Mandaza, who republished Nkomo’s biography The Story of my Life, described Nkomo as legendary.

“He is the legendary Father Zimbabwe who was regrettably ill-treated until the Unity Accord,” he said.

“He could have been another (Unita rebel leader, Jonas) Savimbi, but chose not to.

“He chose national unity.

“People like (former Zanu secretary-general) Edgar Tekere and Nkomo chose national interests above their own.

“They had capacity to have this country in flames, at war, as happened in Mozambique and Angola, but they did not.”

One of Nkomo’s longest-serving lieutenants and ex-Home Affairs minister Dumiso Dabengwa said had the late Vice-President been alive, he would have quit government angry at the economic decline.

“I am sure he would have quit because nobody listened to him,” he said.

“He would never have waited to preside over such a calamitous collapse. Nkomo had a vision that led him to set up projects across the country, some of which have been hijacked by the government and run into the ground.”

Political analyst Eldred Masunungure was more scathing.

“Nkomo would have been an unhappy man. He would have adopted the position taken by Cephas Msipa (former PF Zapu secretary-general and ex-Midlands governor),” he opined.

“If you want to see Nkomo and understand how he would have frowned at the current situation in the country and the ruling party, look and listen to Msipa. He is the latter-day version of the late Vice-President.”

Masunungure, while admitting Nkomo would have been dismayed by the economic implosion in the country, however, argued acrimony in the ruling party was omnipresent.

“He was someone who seemed to celebrate order and not anarchy,” he said.

“He would have been alarmed by the lawlessness a year after his death over the land issue as well as the collapse of the social and economic system.

“But Nkomo would not have been much surprised by the convulsions in the ruling party, having witnessed the deadly party re-alignments that rocked both nationalist movements Zapu and Zanu and their armed wings Zipra and Zanla, respectively, in the 1970s.

“Elements of that turbulence are evident today and these are developments he would have been familiar with.”

Critics point to the farm invasion that began in 2000 in tracing the genesis of the Zimbabwean political, social and economic crisis.

Legal expert and analyst, Alex Magaisa, said while Nkomo would have been appalled at the current situation, he was most likely going to support Mugabe regarding the land question.

“Joshua Nkomo was a well-meaning man with a big heart and a wise head,” he said.

“We must not forget that he was a nationalist who believed very strongly that land should be restored to black Zimbabweans.

“In that regard, I suspect he would have agreed with Mugabe’s land policy.”

Nkomo, commonly known as Father Zimbabwe, died on July 1 1999 after a long battle with prostate cancer.

Revered across the length and breadth of the country, Nkomo was seen as more grounded and stable than the extreme President Robert Mugabe.

In 1982, Mugabe — at the height of his political feud with Nkomo, a few years after independence — said of his then Home Affairs minister: “Zapu and its leader, Dr Joshua Nkomo, are like a cobra in a house. The only way to deal effectively with a snake is to strike and destroy its head”.

And Nkomo, like the statesman that he was, in 1983, wrote a stinging letter to then Prime Minister Mugabe from his new base in the United Kingdom after reportedly skipping the border through Botswana.

“I write because I feel that our country is in danger of complete disintegration, to the detriment of all its citizens now living and of generations to come,” he said, a statement that remains relevant to this day.

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