ZANU PF has hijacked plans by the late vice-president Joshua Nkomo’s family and other organisations in Matabeleland to declare July 1 a Joshua Nkomo and Liberators’ Day in honour of the late veteran nationalist’s immense contribution towards nation-building.
Report by Brian Chitemba
The son of the late vice-president, Sibangilizwe Nkomo, has been at the forefront of pushing government to declare July 1 a national holiday from this year onwards, as the country marks the 14th commemoration of Nkomo’s death. Nkomo died on July 1, 1999 after a long battle with cancer.
This year’s commemorations will be held at Stanely Square in Bulawayo’s sprawling suburb of Makokoba, where several liberation icons and civil rights activists lived prior to Independence.
As part of the commemorations, there will be a march from Nkomo’s retail outlet Blue Lagoon to Stanley Square.
Having written several times to the Home Affairs ministry to have July 1 declared a national holiday without getting a response, the Nkomo family remains undeterred. However, the family’s idea has now been appropriated by Zanu PF bigwigs in Matabeleland who allegedly want to gain political mileage before the forthcoming elections.
Party insiders told the Zimbabwe Independent this week politburo and central committee members in Matabeleland met last weekend at Davies Hall — the party’s Bulawayo provincial headquarters — where they unanimously agreed to take over the idea to declare July 1 a holiday and score political points.
The central committee members met for several hours to deliberate on Nkomo Day at a gathering chaired by Matabeleland South governor and politburo member, Angeline Masuku.
After the endorsement of Nkomo Day, the politburo members promised to push government to ensure July 1 is declared a holiday.
“We were surprised that central committee and politburo members are planning to hijack the Nkomo Day idea which was initiated by the Nkomo family and some members of Zapu. It’s an election strategy just to gain sympathy and garner votes,” said a party official.
With shambolic structures and dwindling support in the Matabeleland region, Zanu PF hopes to lure the electorate and regain popularity ahead of polls through association with the Nkomo brand.
Plans to honour Nkomo through the erection of a life-size statue in Bulawayo along Main Street flopped due to lack of funding after an initial attempt was reversed as the Nkomo family complained over government’s unilateral decision without consulting other stakeholders.
Main Street, one of the major roads in Bulawayo, was also supposed to be renamed after Nkomo, but this is yet to be done.
A radical Matabeleland-based traditional and cultural group, Matojeni Cultural Society “Isifiso Sikazulu”, has already declared July 1 a public holiday without government’s consent.
Zanu PF’s push to honour Nkomo is widely viewed as hypocritical given that the nationalist was persecuted by President Robert Mugabe’s regime in the 1980s during the Gukurahundi massacres which left more than 20 000 dead in Matabeleland and the Midlands.
Nkomo, affectionately known as uMdala Wethu, only managed to stop the killings and abuse after he agreed to a controversial December 22 1987 Unity Accord, which critics saw as “the swallowing of PF Zapu by Zanu PF”.