Joel Biggie Matiza
Dr Joshua Nkomo is worth celebrating everyday of our lives.
Long before Independence, he had incubated in himself a totally free Zimbabwe both politically and economically. In his own words, he “thirsted for freedom” — freedom for his people.
He abhorred the racially-structured elitist system that was characterised by a brazenly discriminatory order. Zimbabweans commemorate the 18th anniversary of his death with reflective and sober minds, minds drawn to his dedication to their freedom.
Two things stand out in that reflection: Dr Nkomo’s disdain for tribalism and his quest for unity. Throughout his nationalist life, Dr Nkomo spoke strongly on the dangers of tribalism and the need for unity among Zimbabweans.
He knew tribalism is divisive and renders itself as a ready weapon for mischief by external hostile forces or our own power-hungry people. My first encounter with this great man was in Zambia at Nampundu Camp in 1977 when he had come to address new recruits.
He captivated me with his speech, which emphasised unity against a common enemy. No one in those camps bothered about where one came from. There was curiosity to understand each other’s languages. I, being from Murehwa, found Venda intriguing and Kalanga interesting.
I took interest in learning from my fellow comrades, who, after Independence, became my great friends. Dr Nkomo was a national leader who spoke and acted as such; contrary to Don Quixotes who viewed him as a tribal leader. Zapu’s composition reflected national character, with people from different parts of the country.
Traditional chiefs were also part of the Zapu leadership; the likes of my great uncle, Chief Munhuwepi Mangwende (Chioko), of Murehwa. This chief saw in Dr Nkomo great leadership qualities and from his “restricted” home in Seke helped recruit cadres countrywide for the armed struggle in Zambia.
The inspirational song was “Soja raNkomo tora hutare …” Dr Nkomo’s thirst for unity could be seen during the days of the struggle, and later in Independent Zimbabwe.
His pivotal role in the Unity Accord and unity and peace is there for everyone to see. This was his wish, even on his death bed. Dr Josh never looked at one’s tribe. He elevated many young men and women without an iota of tribal inclination. Some have become very successful.
When the Unity Accord was signed, roads to a prosperous Zimbabwe were opened. What a legacy! Floodgates of creative and transformational programmes addressing historical imbalances were let loose.
Dr Nkomo was a rare breed that put Zimbabwe first. This is the lesson Umafukufuku bequeaths to us from his grave. It is this lesson that we, as leaders, must emulate. He remains the embodiment of sacrifices made during the liberation struggle.
This larger-than-life figure towers above us, symbolising the ever-needed unity. He achieved it, and was never a bitter man. I will never forget his words at Cde George Silundika’s funeral. Hear him: “The concept of Zimbabwe is not a nation of tribe, races or groupings, but a nation of people. We should not do anything to divide the people. This is one of the evils we need to fight!
“You are part of Zimbabwe, you are part of the majority of Zimbabwe; not majority of a tribe or race or grouping. We only talk of majority of vote when a government is returned; not a majority of tribe or race.”
- Cde JB Matiza is the National Assembly representative for Murehwa South and a former Chairman of Zanu-PF Mashonaland East province
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