THIS week Zimbabwe commemorated the 14th anniversary of the death of one of its greatest heroes of the liberation struggle, Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo.
Opinion by Dumisani Nkomo
As years go by, Nkomo proves through his legacy way after his death that he was indeed a hero.
A hero leaves a lasting legacy which impacts posterity and shapes collective destinies of generations to come.
Sadly, the contribution of the late mercurial Father of Zimbabwean nationalism and independence has been blighted by propaganda, distortions and outright omissions.
More importantly, we have conveniently tried to forget that sad and tragic chapter of his life between 1980 to 1987 when he was treated like a refugee in the country which he fought for over 50 years.
Surely, future generations will judge us for failing to accurately tell the history of this country without outlining the role of Nkomo, PF Zapu and its armed wing the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra), which at its peak was one of the best guerilla movements in Africa.
If we are to commemorate and remember this great man with the dignity and respect befitting one of Africa’s finest nationalists, surely, we have to record history as it is and not try to alter it to suit our political whims.
With the impending decimation of the people of Matabeleland by the 5th Brigade, he was left with no choice, but to save the people through the 1987 Unity Accord.
Clearly, the accord, just like the Global Political Agreement, was not ideal, but appeared to be the only tenable solution to the problems in Matabeleland and Zimbabwe at that time.
He was a nationalist at heart and in practice. He truly believed that Zimbabwe belonged to those who lived in it whether Shona, Kalanga, Venda, Sotho or Ndebele, black or white.
He was prepared to even sacrifice his political career and ego in order to maintain the unity of the people of Zimbabwe. His sense of nationalism was a leadership virtue which glued various politicians of diverse backgrounds and ethnic origins together.
PF Zapu was not a Ndebele party as has been popularly postulated by old Zanu propagandists. It included the likes of Samuel Parirenyatwa, Josiah Chinamano, Joseph Msika, Amon Jirira and Willie Musarurwa.
Nkomo was one of the greatest nationalists Africa has ever had, who also contributed to the independence of other African countries such as South Africa and Angola — as Zipra forces fought side by side with Umkhonto weSizwe and MPLA guerillas in the late 1960s and 1970s in a demonstration of pan-African solidarity.
He exhibited his statesmanship when he refused to take to the bush after losing the 1980 elections. In addition, he had a clear understanding of global politics because at that time Mugabe was the darling of the international community and the Soviet-backed PF Zapu would have been isolated and the possibility of support from its traditional partner, Russia, was not guaranteed.
The country would still be embroiled in a deadly civil war up to now.
In a rare show of magnanimity, he refused to take up the post of titular president and chose to be home affairs minister in a government headed by a man who was a junior in the struggle.
Nkomo refused to revenge and sought reconciliation at all times. Even when he was in exile in London in 1984, he spoke of his desire to come back to rebuild Zimbabwe in spite of the hate language and violence that his opponents were spewing.
Quite correctly, in The Story of My Life he all too often referred to African leaders who confused their personal interests with those of the nation “and subsequently believe this”.
In the book, Nkomo also noted that he believed that “freedom lies ahead” and today, as Zimbabweans, we still yearn for freedom as this is not the Zimbabwe he and others fought for.
Nkomo is Habakkuk Trust CEO and spokesperson of the Matabeleland Civil Society Forum. He writes in his personal capacity. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org