Why a party needs 'soul'

BULAWAYO - The history of the typical political party is shrouded in mystique — or just plain rough stuff.

In the very early days, the party which triumphed often used gangster methods.

It hardly matched the Cosa Nostra. But its opponents knew that should always be ready for a hell.

For me, the first political party gathering I ever attended was almost serenity itself. There was hardly any rough stuff.

It would not always end up as gloriously triumphant as Cinderella, but it took time to get cured to the blood and guts.

This was the inauguration of the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress (SRANC) in the Recreation Hall in Harare township in 1957.

I was a junior reporter of The African Daily News. There was hardly any rough stuff.

Some people suspected it had all been scripted to the letter.

Joshua Nkomo emerged as leader while James Chikerema and George Nyandoro were chosen as his immediate assistants.

Other positions were of no particular consequence. The idea was to avoid conflict. This was achieved with flying colours.

The SRANC was set up with little conflict, among the senior leaders. Its stature as an organisation was so robustly steady the white governments were scared of its unity from the beginning.

For The African Daily News and its sister African Weekly, it was a day the editors would never forget.

Nathan Shamuyarira and Willie Musarurwa have only recently passed from the media scene, but nobody can dispute the fact that they carved huge niches in the media world for themselves during their time.

There has always been speculation among political analysts that if the SRANC unity had lasted longer than it eventually did, independence would have been achieved much earlier than 1980.

Many analysts have blamed the selfish attitude of the nationalist leaders for failing to bolster their unity in order to vanquish the tottering strength of the colonial administration.

But it turned out the function of splintering the unity of the nationalist movement was not as great a task as it might have been.

There were so many splinter groups that nobody now doubts that if unity had been achieved as speedily as it ought to have been, independence might have been achieved earlier.

There is, to this day, no argument that had the unity of the nationalists been more resilient, independence would have come sooner.

For me, at the age of 20, the real pivot around which everything seemed to revolve were these two men, George Nyandoro and James Chikerema.

There are even people today who tend to play down the two men’s roles in the success of the nationalist movement.

Yet, there is no doubt that if the two had been less tenacious in their work than they were, a lot of the history of the nationalist success would not have been written as gloriously as it was.

We now know that Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe emerged as the kingpins of the nationalist movement.

Yet the real hard work was eventually done on the shoulders of, among others, people such as Nyandoro and Chikerema, whose names will forever be associated with the nascent days of the fight against colonialism.

In some respects, the souls of these two men played as key a role in the struggle as that of Simon Muzenda did to many others.

With their departure from the scene, who will replace their “souls” today, as the movement teeters on the brink of collapse?


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