‘True heroes, heroines never die’

27 Jan, 2019 - 00:01 0 Views
‘True heroes, heroines never die’

The Sunday Mail

We publish the final part of an interview by our Deputy News Editor Levi Mukarati with nationalist Cde Jane Lungile Ngwenya. In this instalment, Cde Ngwenya chronicles how she earned mistrust in both Zapu and Zanu and the insults she endured from fellow party members.


Question: After the historic welcome from Lancaster, what events followed?

Answer: The way people gathered to receive us showed unity or togetherness. We then began preparing for the 1980 elections. There was no violence. It was our first election ever and there was excitement across the country.

Mugabe’s party, Zanu-PF, won the elections. Those who had congratulatory messages sent them while we in Zapu, as losers, mourned.

We did not even fight or engage in any form of violence. We accepted the result because Nkomo was not a violent person; he did not want to do anything that would tarnish his name.

Joshua Nkomo was a man of peace. He said; “this is the elections result, let us embrace it”.

So Zanu won 57 seats in Parliament, we had 20, Smith’s party got 20 and Abel Muzorewa’s UANC had three seats. Then there were consultations on the formation of a new Government.

Joshua Nkomo, as our leader, said we will be part of the new Government. That move saw some people in Zapu label Nkomo as weak.

But we also had a tough time in that Government. There were people like Edgar Tekere and Edson Zvobgo who were ‘hard nuts’.

They would always be ready to criticise anything that came from people who were not from Zanu.

Even in Parliament, they were notorious for booing Zapu and Smith’s legislators during contributions to debates. If you had great views or opinions, they would not listen, but when a member from Zanu stood up and stated the same point, they would clap hands and make wild cheers.

But for people like me, I understood that most of the people representing Zanu in Parliament were student activists. These were people who had spent their time studying and organising party activities ‘in the comfort of their international bases’.

I also should point out that the young Zanu-PF members in Government openly took tribal lines.

Some of them, I will not mention names, but it should be on record that they had pure hatred in their hearts. However, we all had a common cause.

Yes we had some people supporting Zanu-PF and other Zapu, but we all had a shared national vision.

It is unlike today where the opposition MDC is out to criticize Zanu-PF for the sake of criticism.

We have seen cases where Zanu-PF pushes policies such as land redistribution for the benefit of the majority, but the MDC remains critical of the noble programme which some of its members are known beneficiaries. I do not mean to say Chamisa and his associates are bad.

We need an opposition because a country without opposition political parties does not develop.

The opposition is not an enemy, but it is a branch of a strength if it speaks of where you go wrong.

The problem with the current opposition is that its leaders are just concerned about power and taking over from the ruling party.

They say if I am not the leader then there should be chaos in the country. No, that is wrong. You should sell what you offer to the people, not just say remove so and so and replace them with me. No, who are you to think like that?

During the days when we campaigned as Zanu and Zapu, it was peaceful and even after the elections. Just before independence, Zapu was accused to have not fought in the war and resultantly they lost the elections in 1980.

We soon learnt of the mechanisms and tricks which were used by Zanu in that election to give them a win. So we sat down as Zapu leaders and saw that we could not hold the country at ransom simply because we wanted to be in power.

That is why Zapu legislators did not reject their roles in Parliament and even Mugabe appointed ministers from Zapu. This was done in the spirit of developing the country.

Not this situation we have today where an individual thinks he or she can hold the country to ransom simply because they have not been elected president. That is wrong. If we are real leaders, we should champion the people’s aspirations first, the wishes of those we want to lead should be our priority.

Not many people know I did not benefit from the $50 000 lump sum extended to war veterans in the late 1990’s. I had been a deputy minister in Government just after independence and upon leaving office was still entitled to some pay-outs.

I also ran some activities that were giving me some money to fend for myself. So I asked myself, why push to get the money when there were our young soldiers who were living in poverty.

But because of greed, some of the money was stolen and undeserving people benefited.

It was only in 2015 that I began getting the monthly pay-outs for war veterans, but as for the $50 000, I said no, let the young men and women benefit first.

Question: Let us rewind to your appointment as deputy minister after independence, we hear you were seen in Zapu as a sell-out because it came after Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo had been fired from Government in 1982?

Answer: I was never trusted in both parties, be it Zanu or Zapu.

You see, what happened was that when Joshua Nkomo was removed from Government by Mugabe following the dissident activities in Matabeleland, I was appointed Deputy Minister of Labour, Manpower Planning and Social Welfare. I accepted the duty bestowed upon me by the Prime Minister, then Robert Mugabe.

I had fought for the liberation of this county and we wanted to rule ourselves, so why refuse the duty?

In Zapu they called me a sell-out, but this was despite the fact that other ministers appointed by Mugabe from Zapu such as Calistus Ndlovu, John Nkomo, Daniel Ngwenya and Joseph Msika remained in Government.

Only Clement Muchachi left his ministerial post in solidarity with the ouster of Nkomo. If I were a weak person, I could have left politics long back, but I fought for Zimbabwe to be free.

The country was free and freedom meant the liberty also to do and decide what I wanted with my life.

I will never apologise to anyone for accepting to be deputy minister. I wanted to serve my country and I believe I played my part in Government. I could have joined Zanu when it started because of my close links to Sally and Robert Mugabe, but I disregarded the party as it was compromised with tribal inclinations and other things that I could not understand.

Question: Do you believe the ideals for which you fought the liberation struggle are still steering Zimbabwe ahead?

Answer: We wanted to be free and that is what we fought for. But it seems like the one we were fighting against is now stronger.

We freed ourselves in 1980, but we are not totally free. We are still chained by a spirit of selfishness. Tine chindini and this comes as a result of the fact that we have not sat down as Zimbabweans and discussed the nitty-gritties of running the country.

“. . .we have people who say it is only me who did such and such, but we forget we had our old people in the rural areas whose homes were burnt because they supported the liberation fighters. There was no way after training in Cuba, China, Russia, Mozambique or Zambia you could just come and say I am wagging a struggle without people in the area you are operating showing you how to navigate the terrain.

We were fed by these people in the villagers. We need to clarify who did what and recognise that each one of us made a contribution.

I think where we erred is that from the beginning, the soldiers thought they are the ones who fought, but they forget some grandmother and grandfather cooked for them, gave information and they even consulted the spirit mediums for guidance. There are also the nationalists who were on the forefront of strategising the war and we think we are more important because we acquired education.

We should respect our history which has thick blood that was shed for the freedom of Zimbabwe.

No one operated in isolation and no one should today claim to be a super hero or heroine.

The history of Zimbabwe is painful. We went through a lot that is why even today I no longer participate in active politics, because there is no politics to talk of.

Question: Before we wind up, can I draw you to reports that your marriage collapsed because of your ‘close’ interaction with members of the male dominated Zapu. What was it like being a woman in the midst of many men especially in the wake of recent insinuations that cases of sexual abuses during the liberation struggle remain buried under the carpet?

Answer: During my days, I used to pride and say I am beautiful.

I swear to you I was. But despite the possible attention I would get from men, I was never abused.

If someone had interest in me, that person would come out clear and say it. If I agreed, that would be it, if I didn’t, again that was it.

But amongst the ones I worked with, I was a sister to them. I was well protected from any sexual abuse.

The child I had after my divorce is not from anyone who was in Zapu leadership. The man I had my last and only surviving child with, was not active in politics.

I remember my other comrades joking with me that as a leader I was not supposed to fall for a ‘mere person in politics’.

I like your question because a lot was said about me and it gives me an opportunity to set the record straight. They said I was Nkomo’s mistress, they said I would also see Mugabe behind Sally’s back and some even called me a prostitute.

At one time I was the only woman working with about 64 men.

Honestly if anyone would want to date me there could have been rifts and serious fights among these men. We might be educated and wise people, but we have a lot of cheap gossipers.

I remained resolute and fought on.

Today some of the women who despised and slandered me are enjoying the freedom I fought for.

Question: Finally, with all the name calling you speak of, do you feel your contribution to the liberation struggle is appreciated today?

Answer: You wouldn’t be here interviewing me if I was not appreciated. The Zimbabwean people appreciate the role I played.

Even the former President, Mugabe, did too, that is why he appointed me as deputy minister. The people who later came into Mugabe’s Government did not appreciate my role because they didn’t know of it.

I fought for the liberation of Zimbabwe, and I will be happy to be buried at the National Hero’s Acre.

My record speaks volume, but as you know we have seen some deserving heroes and heroines being denied that recognition.

If the same happens for me, then it is okay. But true heroes and heroines never die.


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