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Unity agenda, issues of substance should inform discourse on succession

YOUR article “Nkomo’s presidential ambitions rattle rivals”, (Zimbabwe Independent, December 1) spoke to a very topical issue and deserves comment.

Nkomo’s candidature for the presidency is the most refreshing

development since the Unity Accord of December 1987 between Zanu PF and PF Zapu. Undoubtedly, it stirred a hornet’s nest because it forced people to think outside the box — the tribal mindset.

It challenges conventional wisdom that seems to confine former PF Zapu stalwarts to the vice-presidency in the context of the succession debate. Unfortunately, reduced to its bare minimum, this mindset seems to suggest that a Ndebele can only dream of being the vice-president of Zimbabwe, the presidency is out of bounds.

In short, to these tribalists it is sacrilegious for a former PF Zapu or Ndebele to think of being at the pinnacle of any strategic state institution. This tribal mindset seems to inform appointments to key positions in government and parastatals.

As is the norm, there is nothing wrong with an all-Shona senior management team at the GMB or Arda, but can we imagine an all-Ndebele team at the helm of Tel*One or the NRZ?

I am sure a “tribal” audit of the key managers in our key institutions would produce damning results in this regard.

Another fallacy that is being peddled without challenge is that the Unity Accord between Zanu PF and PF Zapu brought unity between the Shona and the Ndebele. As far as I know, PF Zapu’s membership had the widest tribal spread and mix compared to Zanu PF’s. In essence, the majority of Ndebele were PF Zapu supporters whilst the majority of PF Zapu supporters were Shona, given the population patterns of our tribal groups. I am sure the results of the 1980 elections clearly underlined this fact.

It is also a historical fact, despite efforts to expunge that from our memories, that Mashonaland West was Zipra’s key operational theatre during our liberation struggle due to its proximity to the Zambian border. I leave to anybody’s imagination as to who in the past, present and future, have benefited and stand to benefit from playing the tribal card at the expense of the nation-building project.

The article indicated that Nkomo’s candidature had provoked “mixed feelings” among political analysts but went on to solicit comments coincidentally only from those who seemed hostile to his candidature.

The comments by John Makumbe and Ibbo Mandaza should be viewed in the context of their well-documented rabidly anti-PF Zapu and robustly pro-Zanu PF postures prior to the Unity Accord, and we do not blame them for that.

However, in this connection, it is pertinent to observe that Mandaza was “tormentor-in-chief” of Zapu cadres during his stint as director of manpower planning in the early years of Independence.

Jabulani Sibanda’s acrimonious dismissal from Zanu PF and his renegade tendencies are too fresh to escape the people’s attention while Max Mkandla’s Zimbabwe Liberators Peace Initiative is known for its parochial and anti-unity agenda. Would you therefore expect positive comment from such interested parties who have an axe to grind?

It is interesting to note how they focused on Nkomo’s persona and totally ignored the symbolism that his candidature represents. It has definitely upset the status quo in the context of the broader body politic — a former PF Zapu member and Ndebele thinking of being president of Zimbabwe! This is anathema and unacceptable to adherents of village politics. Zimbabwe begins in their village and ends at Shangani. He has to be punished for thinking the unthinkable!

We salute Nkomo for refusing to be intimidated and rejecting to be rendered a second-class citizen in his own country that he fought for with distinction. True to his patriotic credentials, his candidature confirms that we are all Zimbabweans and equal.

To suggest that Nkomo, a well-known freedom fighter who joined the liberation struggle in the 1950s and was co-secretary for adminstration of the ANC (1974-75) with the late Simon Muzenda, is less known than Amai Joice Mujuru who joined the liberation struggle in 1973, is disingenuous and exposes the reactionary nature of this postulation.

While it is acknowledged that the late Eddison Zvobgo was one of the finest legal brains in the country, to suggest that he had more national stature than Nkomo is also mischievous and illogical.

Are we not again witnessing frantic attempts to rewrite history in the mould of past and present futile machinations to marginalise or obliterate PF Zapu’s and Zipra’s role in the liberation struggle? Are not these the same old people who accused Zvobgo of being a die-hard Karanga tribalist after he had made known his intention to ascend to the presidency?

To further suggest that Nkomo does not have “the capacity to marshal support in Zimbabwe” and lacks the political stature of other national leaders is ample testimony of unfettered hostility not buttressed by substance. Who are these “national leaders” being referred to here?

Nkomo was elected Zanu PF national chairman in 1999 and was re-elected at the 2004 congress, winning against a formidable opposition.

Which elections did Nkomo lose in 2000? Nkomo did not stand in the 2000 and 2005 parliamentary elections, arguing that as Zanu PF national chairman, he would not confine himself to a single constituency.

Makumbe further stated that Nkomo “has not demonstrated a capacity to run bigger thins than parliament and he does not have the capacity to mobilise support in Zimbabwe”.

Who else in the running for the presidency ran bigger things than parliament, a critical organ of the state? Nkomo’s administrative capabilities date back to the liberation struggle. He was in the leadership of the liberation movement as opposed to some of his fellow contenders who were either students or ordinary soldiers.

Makumbe’s outburst is unhelpful and only serves to expose his dislike for Nkomo and what he stands for.

Since when did closeness to President Mugabe become a liability in the context of Zanu PF politics and the succession issue? Recently, we were made to believe that Emmerson Mnangagwa was a front- runner because he was President Mugabe’s blue-eyed boy. Currently, Amai Mujuru is touted as a definite winner because she is Mugabe’s anointed successor.

Closeness to Mugabe is only injurious to Nkomo in this game! Furthermore, we are told that Nkomo (a Ndebele) is related to Mugabe, (a Zezuru) and on the other hand we are told that Zezurus would not countenance a Ndebele president. The confusion is total but the message is clear — non-Shonas should be mere spectators whilst the destiny of this country is being decided. Nkomo is an unwelcome gatecrasher! What are we telling our children? Are we sure that this route is sustainable in the long-term?

All progressive Zimbabweans hope that issues of substance and the agenda for national unity and cohesion will inform discourse on the succession debate. We are all Zimbabweans and hold supreme the ideals that guided our struggle for freedom and Independence. Go! Nkomo! Go!

Joel Knox Matara,


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