The German poet, playwright and Marxist, Bertolt Brecht once wrote that,
“There are men who struggle for a day,
And they are good.
There are others who struggle for a year,
And they are better.
There are some who struggle many years,
And they are better still.
But there are those who struggle all their lives,
And these are the indispensable ones.”
It is without doubt to this last category, the category of “those who struggle all their lives”, that the late Vice President of Zimbabwe, “Father Zimbabwe” as he was affectionately known, Joshua Nkomo belonged.
His life was a continuous struggle: as trade unionist, leader of the short-lived National Democratic Party, founder and leader of ZAPU, prisoner of the racist Smith regime and -after independence- as Minister of Home Affairs and later “dissident” during the dark and regrettable times of Gukurahundi.
The nation was therefore truly robbed when Joshua Nkomo died on the 1st of July 1999. Today marks fourteen years since his death and it is necessary to reflect on the great man’s ideals of independence and freedom and learn from his humility, his love for peace and unity and his unwavering commitment to the attainment of a prosperous, just and free society for all Zimbabweans.
Zimbabwe has produced different kinds of leaders- from the firm and unwavering Robert Mugabe to the capricious Arthur Mutambara and crowd pullers like Morgan Tsvangirai- but none as humble, thoughtful and unifying as Joshua Nkomo.
As the first internationally recognized face of our historic armed struggle against the Rhodesian authorities Joshua Nkomo probably thought he would become the first black President of Zimbabwe. However he accepted the election result of 1980 and the post of Minister of Home Affairs.
When the Gukurahundi troubles began he went into exile and continued to call for peace. Whilst some comrades made it appear as if Gukurahundi was a tribal issue- and thereby sow the seeds of future disharmony- Nkomo refuted those assertions pointing out that it was a political decision that needed a political solution.
To end the persecution of the people of Matebeleland, Nkomo signed the Unity Accord with ZANU PF in 1987, effectively bringing Gukurahundi to an end. The decision was unpopular with some former ZIPRA cadres and some of the residents of Matebeleland who had been wronged. Nkomo, however, being a visionary realised the long term benefits of peace and again accepted a junior post, this time as Vice President. This is in stark contrast to the politicians of today who are always fighting for power and high sounding titles.
Comrade Nkomo was a great visionary and knew the society we risked creating if we entrusted a few people with unbridled power. Speaking at the funeral of former ZIPRA commander Lookout Masuku, Nkomo gave an ominous speech which for the most part remains true, part of which said:
“…We are enveloped in the politics of hate.
The amount of hate that is being preached today in this country is frightful.
What Zimbabwe fought for was peace, progress, love respect, justice, equality, not the opposite.
And one of the worst evils we see today is corruption.
The country bleeds today because of corruption….
There is confusion and corruption and, let us be clear about it, we are seeing racism in reverse under the false mirror of correcting imbalances from the past.
In the process we are creating worse things.
We have created fear in the minds of some in our country….”
His speech could have been written yesterday. Every word relates to our present circumstances. He also spoke against conformism and urged free speech. That way those in power are constantly reminded that they serve the people not the other way round
As we remember a gallant and dedicated son of the soil let us strive to promote his ideals of equality, freedom, peace, justice and prosperity. Let us condemn evil like he did, demand more from our leaders and constantly question them as he did. Let us also defend our right, as Zimbabweans and Africans, to be masters of our own destinies, to be as patriotic as he was and protect our country, not only from externalities who seek to impose and dictate their way of life on us but also from those within our borders who, under the guise of sovereignty, enrich themselves at the expense of the masses.
As we name our schools, airports, hospitals and roads after this most eminent of Zimbabwe’s sons, let us strive to fill those schools, to make the roads safe and the hospitals accessible to all.
There can be no greater honour of Joshua Nkomo’s memory than to live like he did: humble, peaceful, patriotic and principled.
**In memory of Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo, “Father Zimbabwe” (19 June 1917 – 1 July 1999), an ardent patriot, an eloquent orator, a model African, and a true son of our soil**