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Joshua Nkomo's ethics of liberation

25 Jun 2017 at 12:18hrs | Views
Since his sad passing away on 1 July 1999 Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo's name and life have continued to arrest public attention and imagination at a world scale.

As I write the Zimbabwean historian and leading decoloniality theorist Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni has published with a leading world publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, a volume of essays on the life and thought of Joshua Nkomo in which a multiplicity of scholars offer their reflections. Under the theme of African Histories and Modernities Palgrave Macmillan publish on a select African lives and minds of the present century.

On 17 June the University of the Witwatersrand's Centre for Graduate Studies in South Africa joined with corporations such as Big Time Strategic Group, M. Tapela Incorporated Development Practitioners and Cradles of Influence leadership Institute to host a public lecture on the political ethics of Joshua Nkomo, a lecture in which multitudes of scholars and students from across Africa gathered in a meeting of minds and voices on uMdala Wethu's legacy.

As Zimbabweans and Africans, our justifiable and important enchantment with our histories, with the men and women that have produced these histories and have been produced by the histories in turn can be exhilarating. For a regular Zimbabwean it was an emotive and a deeply philosophical Pan-African historical moment to experience such an assortment of Africans gathered in one place in the name of Joshua Nkomo, his life and his ethics of liberation.

No doubt, dissertations and thesis on Joshua Nkomo will be in flourish in the history, philosophy and politics departments of South African universities in the coming months and years. In death as he was in life, Umdala Wethu brought together individuals and groups that ordinarily would not meet for political and other reasons of our times, historical times where little ants of politics and history are blown into elephants and personality pebbles magnified into mountains and true obstacles to important causes.

Leading South Africa-based Zimbabwean business mogul and philanthropist, Mr Justice Maphosa of Big Time Strategic Group lived up to the name of his corporation and that of Big Josh himself when he pleaded with Zimbabweans to resurrect big thinking and visions of unity and development that were personified by Joshua Nkomo.

The joke that the Zimbabwean historical, economic and political challenge has turned even businessmen and businesswomen into brooding philosophers came to life when the otherwise shy Maphosa eclipsed politicians and scholars in pleading the case of a revival of Nkomoism. The challenge, Maphosa opined, is to take the celebrations and commemorations of Nkomo further from being annual events to being a daily business and political culture in Zimbabwe.

More than a lecture

Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Nomthandazo Eunice Moyo reminded the crowd of the importance and seriousness with which Joshua Nkomo regarded the land issue and agriculture. Veteran journalist Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu dropped enchanting historical anecdotes about the enigmatic Joshua Nkomo who combined a forceful drive for liberation with the self-minimising humility of a true gentle giant. Struggle icon Dumiso Dabengwa told of how Umdala Wethu, even in the depths and heights of a bitter struggle, wanted to see happiness and smiles in the faces of guerrillas and combatants in the bush. For Joshua Nkomo, the bloody and costly liberation war was such sacrifice of life to which the Rhodesian regime forced peace loving Zimbabweans with their racist laws and governance.

Nkomo the family man and the man of the people was represented and narrated by his son Sibangilizwe Michael Nkomo who used the event of the public lecture to heartily thank the organisers and the whole of Africa, scholars and journalists for keeping the heritage and the legacy of Joshua Nkomo alive.

The joint singing of the South African and Zimbabwean national anthems and the presentation of a solidarity speech by a representative of the Umkhonto Wesizwe veterans of the South African struggle for liberation transported the curious crowd to the moments of reckoning with our common histories and destinies as Africans. More than the usual public lecture, this event became a performance of history and a celebration of a powerful life that was well lived for others more than for the self.

That Public Lecture was that Caesarian moment of exactly, upon what meat did Nkomo feed on and in what winter did his body freeze, in what summer did he sweat, to earn such respect. The truth is probably that he gave his life to others and to the cause of liberation.

What is Nkomoism?

Most of us have relied on Joshua Nkomo's Story of My Life autobiography for nuggets on the life and mind of the politician and leader. I draw my impressions of Nkomo's philosophical mind from his 1966 article, Rhodesia: The Case for Majority rule, which was later expanded to a book with Julius Nyerere.

More than anything, Joshua Nkomo was a studious respecter of historical facts. He carefully traced the Zimbabwean problem from its historical genesis in the Charter given to Cecil John Rhodes by Queen Victoria in 1889, Nkomo insisted that the world should know that Africans had their own life and history before they were colonised.

The capital violence that was inflicted by the British and the Rhodesian regimes on Africans in what is now called Zimbabwe, in the view of Joshua Nkomo, was the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 that turned whites into masters of the land and blacks into servants and slaves, disposable lives. The dispossession and displacement of Africans of and from their land was, to Nkomo, a capital crime against humanity and the entire reason for armed struggle. Nkomo bemoaned the absentee landlords; rich white people who lived far away in other continents, who were not even Rhodesians, but owned large tracks of land that remained unutilised while native Africans were forcibly pushed to dusty lands and to poverty.

For that capital injustice Joshua Nkomo challenged the Christian church to live up to social justice as a Christian ideal and confront colonialism. If the Christians could not take the stand against colonialism then they should not blame communists for doing the work that they, in treachery to Christ, were not going to do. The colonisation of one person by another was, in the philosophy of Joshua Nkomo, "morally and politically" unjust and for that reason, the armed struggle against colonialism became a just war that all human beings black and white were supposed to support.

"Our enemy in Zimbabwe" Nkomo emphasised; "is not the white man but political, economic and social domination of a majority by a small minority" in the country. It is that statement that Nkomoism, the political humanism of Joshua Nkomo is summarised.

The struggle for liberation was aimed at liberating all human beings, the oppressors and the oppressed, from entrapment in domination and oppression. The struggle, in the rich vision of Umdala Wethu was supposed to be "without malice" and hatred. For that reason true Nkomoism, the political philosophy of Joshua Nkomo, was made out of love for human beings even those that became oppressors and exploiters of others. Politically and philosophically, such fighters and leaders as Joshua Nkomo become moral rather than military warriors.

One can argue that the kingdom of such thinkers and leaders is not of this world but of another world where politics is not a dirty game and where power is jostled for in the absence of dirty tricks, deception and violence. It is for that reason that many thinkers believe that in mind and in heart, Joshua Nkomo was possibly too good for politics as we know and experience it in this world. Now and in the future, songs will be sung, lectures and rallies conducted, books will be written and even movies produced on the life and times of Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo.

Articles and stories will be written in celebration and condemnation alike, what is important however, is to reflect on the kind of historical, economic and political world that Nkomo envisioned. What exactly, our teachers in the schools should think, are the pieces of Nkomo's life and mind that need to be inherited by the toddlers of Zimbabwe and Africa today? In such monumental figures as Joshua Nkomo there can never be one person, there are many Nkomos in the archive and canonical life of uMdala wezwe lonke, the healer, priest, politician, humanist philosopher and lots more, all rolled in one.

Cetshwayo Zindabazezwe Mabhena writes from South Africa: decoloniality2016@gmail.com

Source - zimpapers
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