Sunday, January 20, 2013

Farwell Comrade Nkomo of Zimbabwe

Farwell Comrade Nkomo

Sunday, 20 January 2013
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

“The Revolution is not a dinner party.” These words from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book still ring in my ears nearly four decades later after my political instructor turned me from a university-fleeing rookie into a seasoned freedom fighter. Yet, among the many illustrious sons and daughters of Zimbabwe who gave to fate their life and limb in the struggle for freedom and subsequent nation-building, the late Vice-President John Landa Nkomo holds a very special and cherished place in all our national hearts.

John Landa Nkomo took to the struggle as a youthful member of the then budding national liberation movement that was sweeping Africa and also gripping the country as it dawned on our continent that the colonial yoke could be shaken off.

Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana had shown that this was indeed possible through winning independence in 1957.

John Nkomo joined the ANC-Zimbabwe at its inception in 1958. He never looked back till independence in 1980.

Yet nothing at the time could have prepared the young Nkomo and many of his peers for the long and arduous path Zimbabwe and the sub-region would have to traverse as they sought ways and means to overthrow entrenched colonial, racist, apartheid minorities that held sway in Southern Africa.

But the seed was being sown for what would become a whirlwind that would sweep the racist colonial settler order out of Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and finally apartheid South Africa out of power.

John Landa Nkomo had the vision, the guts, the grit to scale to each new stage of the revolutionary challenge as the situation evolved in response to the cruel tenacity of a determined enemy. He languished in the prisons and detention camps of Southern Rhodesia after the political party was banned in the vain attempt by the white settler colonial regime to smother the fledgling flame of freedom and independence.

The persecution of nationalists attained new heights of ferocity after Ian Smith and his Rhodesia Front defiantly declared their Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965.

The stark message to the black majority was that it was at the utter mercy of these cruel racists— who by history and tradition would continue to kill, torture and maim at will — to the utter disregard of world opinion including their embarrassed kith and kin in the Anglo-Saxon world of Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the complicit United States of America.

A defiant national liberation movement responded to the trials and tribulations of the times by resorting to armed struggle that was supported by Zambia, Tanzania and the Organisation of African Unity, among others.

At home, it sought to close ranks by fostering and forging ever more unity in its ranks.

Unity was the weapon of choice as they had to overcome the divisions that emanated from years of divide-and-rule machinations by a cunning and unrelenting enemy.

At the same time, willing youths were being spirited across the borders, especially through free Botswana, to go and train to be freedom fighters.

The 1971 Pearce Commission would see John Nkomo re-join hands with fellow nationalists under the leadership of the undependable Bishop Abel Muzorewa to successfully thwart the adoption of a constitution that was meant to abort the cause of freedom and frustrate genuine independence.

“No independence before majority rule” remained the call of the nationalists as they carried the entire nation to a sound and decisive defeat of this neo-colonial initiative.

The rebuff of the Pearce Commission further deepened the chasm between the defiant racist minority rulers and the oppressed black majority.

The exiled liberation movement sharpened its guerilla strategy and began to embed its cadres into the supportive rural populace and launching ever-bolder military attacks.

The north-east military front got a shot in the arm through the alliance with a winning Frelimo under the leadership of Samora Machel.

By 1974, a coup in Lisbon that had been carried out by a disillusioned imperial army had knocked Portugal out of the sub-regional fight against minority racist apartheid forces.
White Rhodesia was now the frontline against the emboldened forces of freedom.

The gathering momentum of the national liberation movement in Southern Africa did not go unnoticed in the corridors of the superpower America.

The scope of the crisis was now clearly beyond the scope of Britain as the imperial power to contain.

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger got sufficiently alarmed to embark on yet a new diplomatic initiative aimed at forestalling the day of reckoning of racist and apartheid white minority rulers of the sub-region.

The Kissinger d├ętente exercise, relying on support of John Vorster of apartheid South Africa, went on to lean upon Ian Smith to free the detained nationalist leaders for another conference, this time at Victoria Falls.
The goal was to tame the march of the gathering strength of the armed struggle.

The collapse of the Victoria Falls talks saw John Landa Nkomo not returning to Rhodesia.

He skipped into exile in Zambia to bolster the efforts of Jason Ziyapapa Moyo in a new role of jointly directing the war effort of Zipra, the armed wing of Zapu in Lusaka.

The national mood had swung towards the inevitability of the triumph of the forces of progress as both wings of the guerilla army swelled with ranks of thousands of recruits eager to finally confront the Rhodesian racists on equal terms, gun for gun.

In this new assignment, John Landa Nkomo also pursued the role of joint military effort with the Zanla forces operating from the broad front that was the Mozambique border with Rhodesia as consultations led to the formation of the Patriotic Front.

All these initiatives got the attention of the enemy intelligence agencies, who turned to the underhand weapon of assassination in the hope that the elimination of the top military command would cripple the ability to wage the guerilla war.

John Landa Nkomo was lucky to escape with his life in a parcel bomb that claimed the life of his colleague JZ Moyo in Lusaka in 1977.

He would spend months recuperating from the wounds of this act of evil.

Cde John Nkomo recovered to become part of the diplomacy that culminated in the Lancaster House Conference when the Western powers prevailed upon their losing Rhodesian cat’s paw to talk peace in the face of imminent military defeat.

The long-cherished goal came with elections which were resoundingly won by the Patriotic Front in clear testimony that the military effort had resonated with the totality of the black majority population of Zimbabwe.

Independence brought new challenges to the tried and tested cadre that was John Nkomo.
Nation-building entailed rebuilding the nation by reconciling erstwhile enemies and adversaries while striving to meet the long-suppressed aspirations of an expectant free people.

The threat of sub-regional and tribal schisms hovered over the new nation as it also confronted the potential mischief of the still powerful apartheid war machinery across the Limpopo.

John Landa Nkomo showed his mettle in the various assignments that covered many aspects of Government and legislative work.

He was always the nation-builder at home and the impeccable diplomat abroad, defending the interests of his beloved Zimbabwe at international fora on labour and parliamentary issues.

Remaining true to the original agenda of the national liberation movement, he took an active role in the restitution of the natural resources of the people of Zimbabwe, especially after 2000.

This invited the total wrath of the post-imperialists, who responded with measures that aimed at regime change through economic strangulation of the Zimbabwe Republic.

This was coupled with subversion of the internal democratic processes through creating the puppet opposition agenda. Again John Landa Nkomo rose to the new political challenge, responding with a tried and tested weapon; the pursuit and forging of a united national agenda.

It is befitting that he has died at a time when the inter-party political environment in Zimbabwe has moved from the outright polarisation of 2007-8 to the congenial conviviality that can announce a successful outcome of the constitution-drafting effort.

His is perhaps the best tribute our political parties and leaders can give to a life that has known nothing other than fulfilling the cause of the nation through the potent weapon of national unity in every national endeavour.
His scintillating role in the Organ on National Healing and Reconciliation was also clear for all to see.

John Landa Nkomo discharged this noble role with pleasant charm, disarming humility, earnest commitment and a single-minded pursuit of that which unites rather than divides.

He was singularly blind to the temptations that visit those who wield power and influence.
His bravery in both war and peace knew no

bounds. His integrity was not compromised by even those of close friends who went on to abandon the cardinal cause of nation-building to ensconce with the enemy.

He was ever alert to the threats of irredentism and the mortal danger they would pose to the national body politic.

All in all, he left a legacy where the onerous and arduous task of nation-building was discharged with such an honest and an indefatigable energy.

Notwithstanding, his death is an occasion to pause and ponder the enormity of his many achievements over such a long span of commitment to the cause of people and country.

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