Father Zimbabwe the gentle giant

HARARE - After independence in 1980, Zimbabwe woke up to one curious and catastrophic event commonly referred to as Gukurahundi which according President Robert Mugabe was a “moment of madness”.

This was after security agents allegedly discovered arms caches at farms owned by Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu in 1982 which led to a massacre later termed Gukurahundi where 20 000 people were killed in Nkomo’s home area, Matabeleland.

Out of this chaos, blood, anguish and ashes emerged the unparalleled statesmanship and leadership of Nkomo, famously known as Father Zimbabwe.

The man swallowed any political or ideological differences he might have had with his opposite number in Zanu and the result was Zanu PF, a political vehicle made up of Zanu and Zapu.

This move quenched the fires of death and suffering that had consumed Matabeleland and Midlands for almost half a decade. As a result, a high priest of Zimbabwe was born.

While Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo could have been 100 years today, could he be in agreement with the way the country is being run, the corruption, unemployment and factionalism tearing political parties in Zimbabwe?

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said: “I remember Nkomo as a gentle giant who was not parochial. He was inclusive and not tribal. His demise was a huge loss to Zimbabwe.

“He would not have taken the rot happening here. Nkomo would not take the corruption and mediocrity in Zimbabwe’s administration.”

Analyst Vivid Gwede said he remembers Nkomo as the founding nationalist leader in Zimbabwe.

“Clearly, he wouldn’t have agreed to the way the country is being run today. He did express his concern long back in his speech at the funeral of Lookout Masuku that there is a lot of fear, disharmony, exclusion and hatred being promoted in this country.

“As shown by the case of Econet’s licensing, he was not suspicious of local business people. He wanted to promote local entrepreneurs not to fight them. Nkomo was more caring than he was cunning, which are the hallmarks of a true statesman,” said Gwede.

Political commentator Blessing Vava said: “Obviously Nkomo would be a bitter man with the state of affairs currently. He was a unifying figure in our politics who was above any form of discrimination, he saw Zimbabweans not Ndebeles or Shonas.

Media practitioner Nhlanhla Ngwenya said: “I know my parents were ardent Zapu supporters and they would take us to his rallies as little kids. Then we didn’t know what the fuss was all about.

“But it later dawned on us that there was some low level war against their idol when one day they woke up in the middle of the night in 1983 and burnt their Zapu regalia as well as music by the LMK Choir.

“They told us those materials were a sure death warrant if found on them. The hate for Zanu and its leader was sown in us since then.

“But I can hardly say I had an occasion that I encountered the man in person, up until I attended his burial in Harare in 1999. That would be my first and am sure last time I will attend the Heroes Acre.”

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said: “I have stated it before and I will repeat it here and now that Nkomo was the best founding president that Zimbabwe never had. Nkomo must be turning in his grave right now considering the political and socio-economic rot that is engulfing Zimbabwe.

“This is definitely not the Zimbabwe that Nkomo and his fellow departed nationalists would have wished to have.

“The country has been privatised into a Robert Mugabe (Private)| Limited with Mugabe as the sole and majority shareholder. Mugabe is like an emperor; an absolute monarch. He has totally and utterly failed to build a Zimbabwe that is democratic and progressive.

“Zimbabwe is now a fascist totalitarian State that is being run by an illegitimate, intolerant and rabidly corrupt Zanu PF regime. This is the very antithesis of what Joshua Nkomo would have wished for his beloved motherland.”

Media practitioner Nigel Nyamutumbu said: “Zimbabwe certainly misses the leadership and wise counsel of long time human right defenders in the mould of Nkomo.

“There is no way Father Zimbabwe, who all his life was a firm believer of justice would have remained quiet in light of the political and socio-economic injustices obtaining in the country at the moment.

“As a proponent of media freedom, I certainly remember the role he played in opening up the telecommunications sector and ensuring State monopoly is broken.”

Zimbabwe Partnership of Prosperity leader Blessing Kasiyamhuru said he urges us all to be students of Nkomo. “If his values echo in our hearts, and his clouds of honour remain on our minds, we can enter the Promised Land of a just and equal society.”

“I had an opportunity of being part of his memorial lecture on ethical leadership at Wits University two weeks ago, speaker after speaker they all spoke of a great man.

“His departure caused a significant element of Zimbabwe’s fragile entourage to disappear: the unity. This unity between the peoples of Zimbabwe particularly the tribes that form the Matabele people in the west and south of Zimbabwe and the Western and northern tribes referred as Shona.

“The tense but welcome unity served as an honour guard for the people of Zimbabwe, gracing them with dignity, deterring the errant nations from attacking the fledgling nation of Zimbabwe through their dividing rhetoric.

“This cloak of uneasy respectability accompanied the nation in Nkomo’s merit. When he died, it departed.”

Kasiyamhuru said bereft of the aura of the untouchable, Zimbabwe became vulnerable to external threats.

“Rabid politicians with deep seated tribal resentments emboldened by the apparent fragility of our unity have already launched an offensive on the people of Zimbabwe to divide us. “Father Zimbabwe’s death, the fear, resentment and poverty beset our nation with doubt about our ability to build prosperity and posterity in our time, and they decided to return to the only land they knew: Egypt which for us represents savagery, strife, colonisation of the mind, racism and tribalism.

“What could induce a nation to return to the land of their nightmares? The story of Zimbabwe, like the biblical story of the Israelites in the desert inching toward their final destination is the story of any individual or society making its way towards its ideal state. And every detail of the story contains endless possible applications to both our private journeys and our communal or national ones.

“Perhaps we can examine the life of Nkomo in the context of inclusion of all tribes of Zimbabwe in the political, economic and social strata of our beloved nation,” said Kasiyamhuru.

He added that Father Zimbabwe was a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loved every creation.

“There was nothing on our land, no creation, in which Nkomo did not see the trace of the nation of Zimbabwe. His love was like the cloud that blanketed a nation without distinction. To progress to the land of the free, we had to be led by such as Nkomo and his cloud of dignity.

“But when Nkomo died, and his cloud of love and respect evaporated with him, we are prone to regressing to Egypt, to carving out cul-de-sacs of private privilege within our communities while barring access to those we deem undeserving.

“Without Father Zimbabwe’s presence, the journey is disrupted, the land of Canaan for us Zimbabweans becomes a frustrating dream, and we turn back to the prejudices lodged in our minds.”

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