Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Humble Giant and Peacemaker
JULY 9, 2017

Last Saturday Zimbabwe marked the 18th anniversary of the death of Vice-President Dr Joshua Nkomo. Tinashe Farawo spoke to a close security detail of the late Father Zimbabwe. Due to the nature of his profession, we publish his remarks under a pseudonym.

Cde Hondo Yeminda

In 1977 I was transferred to work at Dr Nkomo’s house in exile, with his nephew Newsreel in charge of security.

It was during my assignment that I got to find out that he was a committed family man.

During my stint, Father Zimbabwe lost a close family member. He confided his fears of losing another family member to Rhodesians forces, especially after losing a step-brother in the mid 1970s.

Dr Nkomo did not want anything happening to Newsreel, his nephew.

I remember that after Independence in 1980, one of Umdala Wethu’s mission was to go to his rural home where his parents are buried.

He slept in the small round hut like any other villager.

He renovated his house in Pelandaba, Bulawayo and personally took charge of redoing the kitchen for his wife, Mama Mafuyana.

Dr Nkomo always said that was the least he could do for her because she had raised their children alone and Mama Mafuyana deserved the best.

His wife did not want to move from Pelandaba, where most people visited.

The same was with Dr Nkomo’s house in Highfield which was also another meeting place for people from all over the country.

Hence he got his family a private house in Gunhill in Harare where he would have quality time with them.

Dr Nkomo also personally started Blue Lagoon, a small business for the family. He spent his private time at Makwe, a farm in Matebeleland South, enjoying farming with his wife. The man also had a thriving dairy farm in Harare South.

These were his family enterprises.

Dr Nkomo usually spent much time at Nijo Motel in Harare and Mguza projects to mention a few. These were things he enjoyed doing outside of political work.

He always referred to President Mugabe by his first name, but with respect.

Umdala Wethu respected President Mugabe’s attempt to reconcile the nation after elections in 1980, and said “we had fought, people had died so that the people of Zimbabwe could rule themselves. What we had failed to win was Government by our own party, but we should be happy that our colleagues during the liberation war won”.

Father Zimbabwe declined the offer for him to be ceremonial President of the new Zimbabwe and accepted to be a minister.

It is a result of such selflessness that I view Dr Nkomo as a peacemaker, a humble giant who wanted the best for this country.

His views on land was the reorganisation of the people’s way of living both in urban and rural areas.

The late Vice-President’s guidelines were to acquire commercial farms for use by those in communal areas, side-by-side with commercial farmers; that the acquired land for resettlement be used collectively by forming co-operatives, which must be non-racial and non-political.

He hoped that villages coming out of this reorganisation would eventually grow into towns.

Dr Nkomo said this would create the growth of commerce and industry in the villages, generating jobs outside urban areas.

A memorable moment I spent with him was in February 1982 when, in disguise, I took him to Bulawayo from Harare after his failed attempt to meet Prime Minister Mugabe.

In January 1981, Joshua Nkomo was removed from Minister of Home Affairs to Minister of Public Service.

He called for a Zapu central committee meeting, which wanted him to resign but he highlighted the unrest that might arise within Zipra, and convinced his colleagues that it was necessary for him to stay.

The Prime Minister then granted him the post of Minister Without Portfolio assisting the Prime Minister on Defence and Public service and to remain a member of the Cabinet Committee on Security.

In February 1981 fighting between Zanla and Zipra broke out.

Full-scale fighting broke out at Entumbane, the site of previous fighting, where Zanla and Zipra assembly points had been moved.

To stop the fighting Joshua Nkomo literally took over the Brady Barracks Command Centre.

Joshua Nkomo went to Gwayi River Mine Camp where the main Zipra regular army was encamped and told them that it was no longer necessary to keep them as an organised army.

It was not until towards the end of December 1981 that the final dispersal of Zipra fighters at Gwayi took place. They were deeply disillusioned, their future was empty after failing to find places in Zimbabwe’s security forces. At least 3 000 were refusing to leave.

Brigadier-General Mike Reynolds was in charged Gwayi. He asked the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo to help in persuading the men to leave. We drove to Gwayi River Camp where he told them that it was time to go to their respective homes.

I think what made him tick was to give leadership.

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