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Dr Joshua Nkomo and the Calamity of Honesty

18 May 2020 at 09:48hrs | Views
Very few people in the history of mankind and Zimbabwe will match Dr Joshua M.Nkomo's selflessness and tolerance, commitment to equality and love of Zimbabwe.
He was a man whose eyes refused to see the multi-ethnic composition of Africans in Rhodesia, later Zimbabwe. Every voice and sound coming to his ear was monosonic, no matter the accent. He could not, indeed would not, differentiate the multiple accents we have in Zimbabwe. Nkomo was a true patriot and the ultimate symbol of oneness in Zimbabwe. He was a true Nationalist, a proverbial sheep that lived and shared a stable with wolves for more than two decades and survived, only to come out with no fur. Still, he will forever be missed by his many supporters in and outside Zimbabwe.
Rest in peace Commander-in-Chief of ZPRA.

In the past few days, we have read critiques of Joshua Nkomo's leadership of PF-Zapu given by two former ZPRA combatants, Dr Mpiyesizwe Churchill Guduza and General Nandinandi, President and former President of MLF respectively.  
Mr George Mkhwanazi, former President of Imbovane Yamahlabezulu followed them with a more nuanced and balanced piece on Joshua Nkomo's leadership style.
Seasoned journalist  Dumisani Muleya also gave his own account of the trials and tribulations  Nkomo and ZAPU came up against in those early post-independance years and the lead up to the so-called Unity Accord.

We should contextualise the expressions of their grievances so as to avoid unnecessarily ostracising them and branding them as renegades. This piece focuses on one important statement given by Dr Mpiyesizwe Churchill Guduza, a true son of Mthwakazi and  hero to me and my family.
In his submission Dr Guduza states as follows:

"... I had challenged Nkomo about why he was disarming us, and thereby exposing us to be annihilated by ZANLA. His response was that we had not fought for ZAPU to be in power but for Zimbabwe to be independent, and therefore we lay down our arms since it was ZAPU that had got those arms. He then went on to advise us that from Gwayi River Mine Camp, we settle down, start families by getting married or start cooperatives".

The quote above should be enough to answer all  questions people may have about Dr Nkomo. Those of us who know Dr Guduza will concur with me that he is a very factual and brave soldier who is currently misplaced by occupation.
Dr Guduza should be a full General by all standards and commanding an army.
Dr Nkomo was a nationalist who fought for the liberation of Zimbabwe. He fought to usher in a new "one-man one-vote" dispensation where every citizen would have the right to vote and be voted into any political office. He fought for the freedom of Zimbabwe from the minority and colonial settlers. By all standards of meritocracy, Dr Nkomo achieved his task with distinction and hence his answer to Dr Guduza. He never fought for ZIPRA and Zapu to rule Zimbabwe but to break the backbone of the Rhodesian settler minority regime.

We must understand that, despite hailing from Matebeleland and therefore Ndebele, Dr Nkomo was not a political creation of the people of Matebeleland. He owed his leadership of ZAPU to the people of Mashonaland who identified him as the person who could carry their dreams and deliver them. They are the people who approached his father Thomas Nyongolo to ask for his son to lead them. Despite his father's reservations, Joshua Nkomo went on to lead ZAPU and become Commander-in-Chief of the mighty ZPRA.
In the leadership elections in Salisbury, he beat his Shona rival by one vote. We should therefore not be surprised as to why his executive had more Shona people than this own Ndebele people.

Another example is while visiting in London, Nkomo refused to meet Aggrippa Madlela and a group of Ndebele intellectuals studying there because they went to his hotel room without Shonas.  Nkomo asked them why they were coming to see him as Matebeles only without people from Mashonaland. He refused to meet them and told them that he did not tolerate tribal politics. That shows that Dr Nkomo was a committed Zimbabwe Nationalist.

We should endeavour to judge the man by the scope of his assignment and appraise his achievements in light of set objectives of the time. Dr Nkomo never went into the struggle to free Mthwakazi from the settlers. His generational assignment was to defeat the minority Rhodesian settler regime. Dr Nkomo, my father Adam, Makhathini Guduza, Thenjiwe Lesabe and others were  committed to that struggle and gave it their best shot to defeat the racist settler regime of Ian Smith. That was their mandate, we must respect them for that and may their souls rest in peace.

Had ZAPU won the elections in 1980, Dr Nkomo's dream of  "One Nation, One Zimbabwe" could have been realised and we could all be living as proud Zimbabweans today. However, our parents' dreams were dashed as they realised that for the price of their honesty and dedication to the struggle, they had to pay by their lives and that of their children and generations to come.

 This is the tragedy we face as Matebeles today. I do not blame General Nandinandi and Dr Guduza for feeling angry, but I do not think that it is correct or fair for anyone to label Dr Nkomo a traitor or accuse him of having betrayed the struggle. He fought his struggle and fulfilled his generational mandate. As he stated, winning the struggle was not a guarantee that you will rule. The majority decided and he accepted the outcome.

Sometime around 1996 after a number of trips to Dr Nkomo's residence, I was left depressed every time after our meetings.  I wish to highlight two of those trips. The first trip to meet Dr Nkomo I was with Mr Mkhanyeli Khumalo, currently in South Africa. I am not sure what Khumalo made of that trip but we both recognised that Dr Nkomo was very much disturbed by the political state of affairs in the country. He was now a sheep without fur.  The second trip l was with Khumalo again, Cont Mhlanga, the late Chief Nyangazonke, Edward Phikelela Mhlanga and a couple of other Imbovane leaders. It was during that meeting that Dr Nkomo would repeat several times that what he fought for is not what Zimbabwe turned out to be. At that time he had been incapacitated, with very few friends and without the once mighty ZIPRA army. To add to his total humiliation, he was now guarded by an all- Shona security detail.   

Dr Nkomo was sold a dummy of Zimbabwe Nationalism. Just like Dr Guduza and General Nandinandi, he unknowingly fought so hard for the attainment of Shona ethno-nationalism which had disguised itself as Zimbabwe nationalism. All of them discovered this when it was too late to turn back. They were all abused. The bitterness over Dr Nkomo's leadership is centred around independence time when no country was prepared to host a liberation movement anymore. Had the ZPRA forces been instructed to fight for the control of Matebeleland defined borders, they would have achieved that with easy. That is the benefit of hindsight.
General Nandinandi, Mr George Mkhwanazi and Dr Guduza all agree on that Dr Nkomo was chasing unity of the people of Zimbabwe at all costs despite the overwhelming evidence of Shona tribes busy scheming against his leadership. This leads to a sober conclusion; that Shona ethno-nationalism,  which cannot accommodate non-Shona people has killed Joshua Nkomo's concept of Zimbabwean Nationalism.

 Considering that Zimbabwe is a two- nation state, Zimbabwean Nationalism was meant to be an embodiment of the social, political, economical and cultural aspirations of these two nations of Matebeleland and Mashonaland. Now that the racist ‘white' settler has been replaced by a new class of Shona tribalists, what then is the way forward? This becomes another generational challenge different from the one faced by Dr Nkomo and his colleagues.

In conclusion, it is clear that it is the people of Matebeleland who seem to be trying to foist unity, as desired by the late ZAPU leader, on the people of Zimbabwe.
We seem not to realise that the curtains are drawn. We are languishing in the vanquished aspirations of our parents and yet the environment has changed completely. We have come a long way as a tolerant people and we should embrace anyone who identifies with us and shares our aspirations.

I believe that we should pursue Dr Nkomo's dream of economic freedom, social freedom, cultural freedom as well as political freedom and a non-tribal society with respect for human rights as defined by us Africans and the rule of law as well as tolerance for different opinions.  We should pursue his dream of a united people in our nation and spread it to the other nation as and when there is appetite for it. Dual-Nationalism as pursued by Dr Nkomo is no longer possible under the current circumstances. It can only be achieved by the barrel of a gun. Those of us with no capacity for the barrel, find it appropriate to consider marshalling all forces peaceful, as defined by Dr Samukele Hadebe, and reclaim the political space in our Matebeleland nation. Should an opportunity avail itself in other places in Mashonaland, which is very likely, we should grab it and spread the values of ZAPU there. In the fullness of time, we shall realise the dream of our fathers and mothers but only if ZAPU gets into power or by other means. My challenge to Dr Mpiyesizwe Churchill Guduza, General Nandinandi and Mr Paul Siwela is that they should step up onto the platform with their programmes. Both MLO and MLF are now more than a decade old and there is nothing on the ground to show for their age. This is their generational challenge not that of Dr Nkomo. When we look back in history we shall be measured by our achievements in the face of the challenges we are faced with.
We must be brave enough and be counted. I have chosen my path because i know I can be effective in that regard. Can you say the same about yourself too?

Rest in peace Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo and your generation of gallant fighters.

Mqondobanzi Nduna Magonya
17 May 2020

Source - Mqondobanzi Nduna Magonya
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