By Dr Ralf Mguni
July 1, 1999, the man now regarded by friend and foe alike, as ”father of Zimbabwe” passed on.
That was thirteen years ago. I have no doubt that those who wished him gone sighed with relief on that day. Theirs was an expectation that the deeds, the vision and memory of this true national giant would be, as the saying goes “interred with his bones”, covered up with the rest of their crimes against him and the people of Zimbabwe. How wrong they were. The nation remembers. And the questions keep coming, “Why?” “How could they?”
Father Zimbabwe: Joshua Nkomo
The spirit of Joshua Nkomo lives; ZAPU, the brainchild of the vision that this luminary and his like-minded peers conceived will never be eclipsed again. As long as Zimbabwe remains, the name of Joshua Nkomo will be part of it and the party that he helped form will remain the guiding light of the country. For a while he held the baton of leadership of ZAPU that has now been passed on, never ever to be dropped.
The vision” thing” as President Bush Snr. referred, is truly elusive for some to grasp. There are those that still refer to ZAPU as Nkomo’s party, thereby personalizing the struggle. Their aim would be to consign the people’s party to history to regard it as a vision of yester year. The “P” in ZAPU has no reference to personal. “P” refers to the people of Zimbabwe, their hopes and aspirations. The same vision and guiding principles remain now as they were at ZAPU’s birth. Here is what Nkomo had to say about the people’s struggle and by implication, the party:
“The Zimbabwe Revolution is a collective endeavour. The struggle does not belong to any single individual. It is a collective effort in which everyone has a duty to do his best to defeat the enemy, and to carry out the difficult task of the reconstruction of our society. We should continue to organise our movement so that the loss of one, two or three members does not change the course of the revolution. We should be and are able to proclaim with great satisfaction that any one of us could die at any moment, without affecting the revolutionary process. We all can carry out our respective tasks knowing that beyond us the Revolution continues; that the work of the Zimbabwe Revolution is not in the hands of individuals but of the whole Zimbabwean people and their Movement. Individuals die, the Movement lives on; the Revolution must go on."
The flame remains alight. The “nightmare” days are numbered. The party of our fathers, the one that bears Mqabuko’s very signature is alive; it beckons all Zimbabweans to “come home!” To quote from the title of Alan Resnais’s film: Those that had written ZAPU off “ain’t seen nothing yet!”
There is a scramble from so many quarters to claim the legacy of Joshua Nkomo and his vision. During his life some of these claimants rejected him, in death they would wish to assume the mantle of being heirs to the ZAPU vision, to be following in Nkomo’s footsteps. Shameless hypocrites! Dr Nkomo was unequivocal in condemning those who hijacked and tarnished the vision that ZAPU has for an independent Zimbabwe, there was no equivocation in his condemnation of those that had reduced Zimbabwe to the sorry state it was then and which has worsened since he spoke these words. Quoting Fidel Castro he said:
"Our revolution has always been very transparent and very clean. In our revolution torture was never allowed; our revolution never committed crimes; in our revolution no one ever disappeared; in our revolution there was never a state of emergency. No battalion was ever moved into the streets here to battle against workers, peasants or students. The people were always in the streets, yes, they were always in the streets, but with the revolution."
Nkomo then went on to say:
“Can our government say this? Can the ZANU leadership say this? No, they cannot. Their hands are stained with the blood of our people. No genuine revolution spills the blood of the people. No genuine progressive movement recruits members with a bayonet. If the ZANU leadership intend to behave like fascists, we cannot call them anything but fascists.”
Thirty-two years on, what has changed? Don McLean’s lyrics in his song Vincent are quite apt:
“They would not listen they're not listening still,
Perhaps they never will.”
Simply put, the government have been subjected to over the past 32 years was never about people’s aspirations or listening to their anguished voices. We were sold a pig in pork, yes in 1980 we replaced the minority regime but in the words of Joshua Nkomo “with a fascist one.”
On top of the anguish Nkomo felt about the havoc and destruction ZANU wrought on Zimbabwe, perhaps what pained him most were the divide and rule tactics unashamedly employed by ZANU both to assume and to cling on to power. Their thinking went as follows: set one part of the country against the other, sow seeds of suspicion and hatred between the peoples and let ZANU appear as the champion of the majority. Sadly, the cunning deception has for some time now, worked. But what dereliction of responsibility! What a legacy that will haunt our country for many years to come.
The theme of unity among Zimbabweans and its deliberate destruction was one that Dr Nkomo visited and re-visited time and time again. Here is an extract:
"Brick by brick even if it should take many years, ZAPU's political and ideological outlook guides the movement to an irreversible commitment to the unity of people of Zimbabwe and the total independence of Zimbabwe as a single entity. This is why the movement is in a constant struggle to build a broad front against colonialism and imperialism. And it has led the movement also never to mistake the people for the enemy. Differences among the people should not be handled as if they were differences between the people and the enemy. ZAPU upholds the principle that differences among the people should be solved by discussion and persuasion, whereas those between the people and the enemy can only be solved by armed struggle. In line with this principle, there will be no circumstances under which ZAPU will countenance any of its military cadres turning their guns upon the people, whether within the revolutionary army itself or among the Zimbabwe masses. In short, no fascist tactics can ever be a short cut to a revolutionary victory. Only the enemy practises such tactics of coercion and murder because it has lost all support among the people.”
Elsewhere Dr Nkomo says:
“It must be said therefore, that the decision of certain elements to split the movement in 1963, played right into the hands, of the colonial oppressors. Comrades, differences within the liberation movement are bound to occur. The question is how to resolve them. As we have always said, differences between the people must be solved by discussion and persuasion, not by conflict. By splitting the movement, the ZANU leaders threw the people into conflict - a tragic conflict for which we are still paying the ghastly price over 20 years later. Whatever is being said today, history has shown us only too clearly that a terrible and fearful mistake was made in l963.”
This truly intrepid visionary, who dedicated his life, the whole reason of his being to the cause of Zimbabwe was to die a broken, humiliated, denigrated man subjected to all sorts of calumny to which his body succumbed. Even at his committal, with mocking in their minds those that hastened his death hailed “Father Zimbabwe!” yet in the very same breath smirking triumphantly: “the big fat bastard” is gone.
Despite the gloom that continues to envelope our country I know that good will triumph over evil. The six year “moment of madness” left our people traumatised, cowed into submission, fearful, totally bereft of the will to fight.
But evil has had its day. The dark hour of despair is fading. The spirit of Joshua Nkomo, the indomitable desire of people to be free has been re-born. That seed which Dr Nkomo helped plant has sprouted. The party of the people has again raised the flag of freedom, a fire never to be extinguished! The shackles of oppression are slowly but truly being sundered. The children of Zimbabwe are re-grouping to claim what is rightly their own.
“Babethi kayibulawe!” we sing today. To kill a man might be easy but the vision and ideas are beyond reach, untouchable. The blood of the 20 000+ innocents cries out in the wilderness; it will only serve as libation to fan the flames of the vision which the Grand Planners sought to extinguish.
Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, the best President by far that our country never had! In remembering his life, I hope we take time to re-visit his works, to be enriched by the wisdom that he espoused. The quotes I shared here are but a drop as compared to the prophetic wisdom he bequeathed to us. The challenge is to listen again to the words of this truly great leader and thereafter emulate his example.
Maybe, just maybe one day Zimbabwe might take notice of his words and thus avert the impending disaster that awaits us if we continue the language of hate, division, greed, the staple diet being fed to us by our current rulers.
Dr Ralph Mguni is ZAPU's Secretary General.