28 June 2017 – AS we enter the month of July, we at ZimsInSA.com would like remember former Zimbabwean second vice president, Joshua Nkomo, with the excerpt below from DailyNews Live:
THE son of a wealthy preacher and a cattle rancher, Joshua Nkomo, turned his back on a life of privilege to lead a left-wing revolution in Rhodesia that endured for decades and was shaped by his political cunning and keen sense of destiny.
Nkomo, who died of cancer on July 1, 1999 at the age of 82, was at once a teacher, trade union leader-cum-politician, idealistic and pragmatic, sharply intelligent and charismatic.
The colonial regime saw in him a stubborn guerilla founder of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu) who threatened the minority white regime’s hold on power through both guerrilla and conventional warfare prosecuted by his Zapu’s armed wing — the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra).
Before he became Zapu leader, he was president of the banned National Democratic Party, and was jailed for 10 years by Rhodesia’s white minority government.
Admirers saw a visionary who stood up to white domination of Rhodesia, inspired the socialist movement and brought independence after leading talks at the all-party Rhodesia conference in Britain that followed escalation of independence war, brokering a peace agreement and constitution for an independent Zimbabwe.
Even after reaching their ultimate goal of ousting Ian Smith’s minority regime, Nkomo would not reconcile his differences with President Robert Mugabe.
While ideological differences kept the two men apart far enough to begin with, Nkomo’s ethnic Ndebele background was grounds for additional distrust by Mugabe who constantly feared an uprising by the historically turbulent Ndebele population.
In a public statement Mugabe said, “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.”
Mugabe then deployed the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade to crush rebellion by ex-Zapu guerrillas. Government forces are accused of killing thousands of civilians in the crackdown.
In 1987 signed a unity accord with Mugabe, leading to the integration of PF-Zapu and Zanu PF.
Nkomo could have turned 100 years this month. And even though he is long gone, for his family and the nation at large, there is an enduring sense of loss.
Chief executive officer of the Joshua Nkomo Foundation Jabulani Hadebe said under the watch of patriots like Nkomo, corruption, nepotism and abuse of human rights could have been supplanted, as the government grapples with a cash crunch that has forced people to spend hours at banks queuing for money.
Hadebe said Mugabe and Nkomo may have similarities; “their problem is that of putting so much trust on their subordinates and then discover it too late.”
Political analyst Dumisani Nkomo said the difference between Mugabe and Nkomo was that the late vp, who had many nicknames, including “Umafukufuku”, “Father Zimbabwe”, and “Chibwechitedza” (the slippery rock), was not as cunning.
“Joshua Nkomo was radically different from Mugabe. He was a statesman with vision and foresight who could easily have been another (slain Angolan rebel leader) Jonas Savimbi and (Mozambican rebel leader) Alphonso Dlakama.
“With a heavily armed Zipra army backed by Russia and Cuba, Nkomo could have decided to go back to the bush, costing the country hundreds of thousands of lives.
“Instead he embraced peace, unity and development. In 1987, he asked his brothers ‘what will God say to me if I allow thousands of people to be killed all because of power?”says Nkomo .
After the Gukurahundi massacres, in 1987 Nkomo consented to the absorption of Zapu into Zanu, resulting in a unified party called Zanu PF, leaving Zimbabwe as effectively a one-party State and leading some Ndebeles to accuse Nkomo of selling out but they were in such a minority that they did not constitute a meaningful power base within the cross-section of Zapu.
“It was not surprising that on a daily basis there were hordes of people from all over the country at his Pelandaba home. Ordinary people had access to him.”
Nkomo described him as “an amazing visionary and entrepreneur”
“In the 40s before he went into politics, he was one of the country’s first black estate agents.
“His nose for business and empowerment could be seen in the way Zapu procured properties for ex-combatants using demobilisation funds,” he says.
According to Nkomo, the country’s founding father made sure that Zapu engaged in various life-sustaining projects including a technical college in Umguza, an egg farm, a snake park, had various farms and buildings including Magnet House.
Perhaps one of the highlights of Nkomo’s illustrious life was when he helped Econet Wireless, now Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile telecoms company, get a mobile phone licence, after being stonewalled by then minister Joice Mujuru.
In early 1997, Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa received an unexpected telephone call from the VP Nkomo. Nkomo invited Masiyiwa to visit him.
Masiyiwa said: “And he (Nkomo) said to me: ‘I read about this. Every time I hear your name it’s to do with this fight, tell me about it.’ And I told him the whole story. We must have spoken for maybe two hours. And he started crying.
“He said: This is not what I fought for, this is not the Zimbabwe I fought for. So he went to see the president. He found the president in a Cabinet meeting, and just stood in the middle of the room and said: ‘Why, why, why are you doing this?’ And then Mugabe turned around and said: ‘Okay, let’s talk about it later.’
“In the evening, the vice president called me and said to me Mugabe had agreed to issue a third licence, so Zimbabwe would have three operators instead of two. And I said fine.
“And he said: ‘But do you accept one condition, that the other people should be shareholders in the company? He (Mugabe) simply said that you cannot be alone in the business, you have to have other shareholders and you should accommodate others in the company.’
“I said: I am not going to accommodate anybody. I’ll take the company public, anyone who wants to buy a share can buy,” Masiyiwa recalled.
As they say, the rest is history, and Econet is one of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange’s best performers.
Says Obert Gutu, spokesperson of the main opposition MDC:
“We have been on record stating that Nkomo was an iconic nationalist with very few parallels amongst his contemporaries,” Gutu said. “He was passionately and genuinely anti-racist and anti-tribalist; the very antithesis of Mugabe.
Had Nkomo become the country’s president, his son, Sibangilizwe, said he had a blueprint that could have maintained the country as the “jewel of Africa.”
“He had a blue print of how Zimbabwe should be run.
“He had a blueprint of the land reform and resettlement programme and that was all in a book about a new Zimbabwe,” Sibangilizwe said, adding “he stayed with people and knew what people wanted.”
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said: “He was a gentle giant. He was unlike Mugabe. He harboured no parochial interests, but broad national interests. This was never matched by current crop of pretenders. It’s a shame that he was laid at the same shrine with tribalistic non-heroes and violent thugs such as Elliot Manyika, Border Gezi and Chenjerai Hunzvi.” – DailyNews Live
This article is mean’t to be a biography of former vice president J Nkomo and the contents DONOT in anyway reflect the editorial opinion of this website or its staff but an excerpt to commemorate his death.