Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo’s daughter remembers the hard worker who raised a family and a nation. Joshua Nkomo died at the ripe old age of 82 years. His was a long and colourful existence. Among his numerous occupations were those of magician, auctioneer, pastor, social worker, politician, farmer, businessman, trade unionist, college graduate, army commander, refugee, prisoner, diplomat, carpenter, nationalist leader, Vice-President, Cabinet minister, national hero, husband, father and grandfather, to name a few.
His was truly an interesting life.
This piece is not to chronicle Dr Nkomo’s well-documented great deeds but rather to give a rare insight into the man’s everyday values, beliefs, thoughts and ideology on life.
Dr Joshua Nkomo was undoubtedly an icon of the liberation struggle, a revolutionary par excellence and a performer at all times; and yet he was a simple and trusting person who always dealt with people in a transparent manner.
In his book, he writes, “In my dealings with people, I have acted trustingly and have found out too late when I have been betrayed. My comfort has been to trust and be trusted by the masses.”
I will always remember him as a kind, loving and extremely compassionate person who loved and respected his country and the people very much.
Despite the fact that his life was one of strife, struggle and sacrifice, one of tremendous pain and — at times —humiliation, he never became a cynical or bitter person.
To the end he always had a smile and a kind word for those around him. He never lost his sense of humour. Indeed, he had an enlightening wisdom and sense of humour.
My father was a man who fought and truly believed in the right to justice and freedom for everyone. He was a man who put peace in the country above his political interests.
He possessed an uncanny ability to forgive and forget and let bygones be bygones for the good of the nation.
He was really a great man with an even greater heart.
His accessible, good, simple and easy nature for a man of his position certainly stood him out among the rest.
In his dealings with the public, he encouraged all to personally come to him. He always welcomed open and frank dialogue from all sectors in society.
No appointments were required or necessary, day or night, at home or at his various offices around the country. His door was always open and his bodyguards were not allowed to turn back anyone.
His work was his life and his life was his work.
At his Pelandaba home in Bulawayo and his Highfield house in Harare, people began to trickle in as early as 5am if he happened to be in town. People came with all sorts of problems, big and small, and even domestic problems.
The family was never alone; we grew up among strangers and bodyguards assigned by the party to guard the house.
People came from around the country to consult with him on all sorts of affairs, be they political, economic, social, business-related, traditional, domestic, religious and spiritual.
He was a big-hearted man and felt deeply for other people’s problems. He tried to help all who came to him and never turned anyone away.
His style of dealing with problems was direct and hands-on: he was not a tomorrow person. On being informed about an existing problem, he would, for instance, right away get on the telephone and discuss the problem with the person responsible for sorting it out.
At times he would even get into his vehicle and personally go looking for the individual concerned.
His style of personally storming into people’s offices without any warning in order to solve other people’s problems was well known around the country.
Distance was never a deterrent to him. He would travel anywhere in the country at the drop of a hat if he needed to get to the bottom of any matter.
My mother learnt early in their marriage to keep his suitcases packed.
The family never knew when he would be travelling. He usually did not disclose to anyone, his drivers and bodyguards included, his future plans for travelling, nor the destination.
At times he would simply get up from the breakfast table and summon his driver to bring the vehicle. And once in the car he would direct his driver using his walking stick, telling him to go this way or that way.
Most times even his drivers and body guards did not know where they were going until they arrived at the destination.
This secretiveness about his movements was born during the time of the struggle for Independence and it was heightened by the war. It remained with him for the rest of his life.
Another security measure that he adhered to in his life was that he never sat with his back to a window or door. And also he liked a fast-moving car.
People working with him always had to be prepared for any eventuality. His drivers and bodyguards, like him, always kept packed suitcases.
This was the style of movement that he maintained throughout his life until his final admission to Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare.
My father loved to travel.
People and countries around the world and their cultures always intrigued him.
My father lived to work. His life was his work and his work was his life. He did not believe in taking time off from work or taking time to go on leave or holiday.
All these were foreign concepts to him. He felt that holidaying and taking time off from work were a waste of time and that there was too much to do and not enough days to do them.
To him, life was work and more work and nothing but work; and never being able to find enough time or hours in a day to do it all despite the fact that he was an early riser.
He was usually up at about 4am.
Granted, he tried to do too much and worked himself to the point of exhaustion. The concept of relaxation and taking it easy was never part of his vocabulary.
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