Emilia Zindi and Tinashe Farawo
July 1 is a day that Zimbabweans from all walks of life cannot choose to ignore as it marks the departure from this world of one of the country’s founding fathers and great nationalists, Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo, who passed on at the age of 82 in 1999.
He is remembered as a great leader.
Were it not for his sacrifices and those of others, the country would not be talking about independence.
It is generally agreed that every sacrifice he made ended in victory for Zimbabweans who, for many years, suffered under the bondage of white settler rule.
This day, therefore, provides every responsible and patriotic Zimbabwean the opportunity to reflect on the rough and bumpy road the nationalist travelled.
If one considers the many years he was in detention, the thousands of kilometres he travelled, the numerous meetings he attended and the record of dedication to his cause, one is drawn to the credentials of a great nationalist.
In addition, Father Zimbabwe, as he was affectionately known, bore the mental scars of a decade of incarceration at the infamous Gonakudzingwa Prison.
At one point, he described this period as a wasted time of his life.
Upon his release, he boldly stated that he endured hardship for the freedom of the people.
The nationalist was banned from entering the then Salisbury for three months in 1964. The ban was announced by then Minister of Law and Order Clifford Dupont on January 28, 1964.
In the statement he issued, Dupont clearly stated that “for purposes of maintaining law and order in and around Salisbury, I have considered it desirable to issue an
order in terms of section 44a of the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act prohibiting Mr Joshua Nkomo from being in an area contained within a radius of 15 miles of the Kingsway Post Office, Salisbury, for a period of three months from the 29th of January, 1964.’’
Dupont’s reasons were based on the fact that Dr Nkomo was the president of the People’s Caretaker Council and supporters of the political organisation were
responsible for the intimidation and violence that had occurred during and after his appearance in public in Salisbury.
Dupont further stated that information which had been placed before him, which he could not divulge because of the confidential nature of its contents, and sources
of such information had also made him issue that order against Cde Nkomo.
Cde Nkomo again publicly attacked the Parliament of that time, saying it had been elected by 80 000 Europeans and 2 000 Africans out of a population of three million Africans and 240 000 European settlers.
He said: “The white settler oligarchy, assisted by the racially restricted civil service, police force and army, and a judiciary which is entirely white, has resorted to repressive and restrictive measures to muzzle and stifle African political and economic aspirations.’’
Cde Nkomo further attacked laws which he said constituted political subjugation and social degradation of the African people.
He cited the Land Apportionment Act under whose provisions over 53 percent of the best land had been occupied by white people.
He also lamented the placement of African leaders under restriction orders, refusing them entry into African areas under the draconian Native Affairs Act.
He also boldly castigated the 1961 Law and Order (Maintenance) Act which he said led to 10 000 Africans, including 2 000 African women, being arrested for
opposing the white-imposed constitution with these Africans being sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging up to 20 years.
The late nationalist was also on record as castigating publicly the Native Education Act of 1961 which, he said, had been created to give limited education to Africans so as to prevent them from invading the European sphere of employment.
These and many other encounters the late nationalists went through clearly demonstrate how eager he was to see a free and independent Zimbabwe.
Born on June 7 1917 in the Semokwe Reserve, about 50 kilometres south of Bulawayo, Dr Nkomo was encouraged by his father and local missionaries to leave his village and to use his gift of a good brain and learn the ways of the amakhiwa (white men).
He had secondary school education attained at Adam’s College in Natal, South Africa. He later went to the Jan Hofmeyer School in Johannesburg where he attained a diploma.
On his return to the then Southern Rhodesia in 1948, he worked as a social worker with the African Affairs Department of the Rhodesia Railways in Bulawayo, earning £20 per month.
During that time, he further studied for a degree in social science in his spare time while being a Methodist lay preacher.
By the end of 1951, he became full-time general secretary of the Railways African Workers’ Union and had gained sufficient influence to be invited by the then Prime
Minister, Sir Godfrey Huggins, to accompany him to London for the initial talks on the Federation.
By the mid-1950s, he was firmly entrenched in African nationalism, swaying black crowds with his oratory and irritating the government of the day.
He earned some prominence early in 1957 by becoming the Federation’s first African auctioneer and estate agent and, for a while, his initial success in commerce suggested he might forsake politics.
But political fever had gripped him.
His political activity led to a neglect of his businesses and as leader of the African National Congress he began venturing abroad frequently in search of sympathy and funds for the cause of African nationalism.
Indeed, he found that sympathy and funds abroad, but clashed repeatedly with the Whitehead United Federal Party and then the Field Rhodesia Front administrations.
He would shed one political coat for another — the ANC, the National Democratic Party and the People’s Caretaker Council, which were all banned. He later fled the country in 1957 for two years, but returned and was on hand to take part in and be a signatory to the 1961 constitutional documents which he repudiated a few days later.
A year later, he found himself restricted for a while to his old home area of Plumtree.
As violence was fermented by active African nationalism, so he was banned from setting foot in certain areas until finally in 1964 he was detained and stayed in prison for 10 years.
He was allowed out briefly to talk to visiting British politicians, including Harold Wilson during the latter’s abortive pre-UDI visit to Rhodesia in October 1965.
On his release, the late national hero was most circumspect in his actions and made few speeches.
He was content to remain within the ANC fold, knowing fully well that this was the only nationalist body in Rhodesia which was recognised by the British government.
It would have been fruitless stepping outside and reviving his last and also banned party, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu).
So, it was within the ANC framework that he manoeuvred, always careful to abide by the “constitution” and waited for the people to decide — even if the people
needed some positive prompting.
Zanu-PF national chairman Ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo, who was Dr Nkomo’s long-time lieutenant, described him as a fountain of wisdom and an icon of the liberation struggle.
“There is no doubt that the late Vice-President was an apostle of unity and a great visionary who was a father to all, from Zambezi to Limpopo and Victoria Falls to the Eastern Highlands,” he said.
Ambassador Moyo said Dr Nkomo was a man of rare qualities and impeccable leadership credentials.
“The man hated tribalism, regionalism, racism and all forms of negativism which affect the unity of the people of Zimbabwe.
“It is now more than a decade since the late Vice- President breathed his last, but his legacy will live forever and unscrupulous budding political parties must not squander it.’’
He said Dr Nkomo gave away personal gains to sacrifice his life for a national cause. He was one of the few educated Africans with better prospects in colonial Rhodesia, but decided to leave the comfort of his profession to lead the armed struggle, which led to the independence of the country.
“But to him, the basis of peace and development was unity, hence the indispensability of the 1987 Unity Accord. That agreement is irreversible because the vision was to see this country prosper in the interests of every Zimbabwean,” he said.
Cde Moyo added that Father Zimbabwe disliked corruption, selfishness and greed.
His focus, Cde Moyo said, was to make sure that the wealth of the country was equally distributed.
“As a result of his wish, the land reform programme and the ongoing economic indigenisation are well anchored in his great mind,” said Cde Khaya Moyo.
He said the country should not fail the late liberator and nationalist in fulfilling his vision of a united and prosperous Zimbabwe.
Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube, who worked with the late Vice-President during and after the liberation struggle, said Dr Nkomo was a great man with a great vision.
“There is no doubt about that. The man was a fatherly figure who had time for everyone regardless of one’s social standing,” he said.
Rtd Colonel Dube said Dr Nkomo was always close to the people and understood their needs, problems and aspirations.
“This made him affectionately known as Umdala Wethu (our father) by multitudes of Zimbabweans wherever he went,” he said.
Cde Dumiso Dabengwa — who also worked with Dr Nkomo during and after the liberation struggle — said the late nationalist wanted to see land being redistributed to the indigenous people of Zimbabwe and ensure that the land was fully utilised to feed the nation.
Zapu secretary-general Mr Ralph Mguni said the spirit of Cde Nkomo lives on.
Mr Mguni said the theme of unity among Zimbabweans and its deliberate destruction was one that Dr Nkomo re-visited regularly.
He said Zimbabweans were regrouping to claim what is rightly theirs through the indigenisation programme.