via Mugabe’s sincerity questioned as Nkomo statue unveiled | SW Radio Africa by Mthulisi Mathuthu December 23, 2013
President Robert Mugabe’s sincerity has been questioned after he officially opened the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Airport and unveiled a statue in honor of a man he once tried to assassinate.
Authorities chose this year’s Unity Day, which fell on Sunday, to honor Nkomo who was forced to sign an accord with Mugabe’s government to end state-directed massacres in the Midlands and Matabeleland regions.
In a passionate speech Mugabe extolled Nkomo’s values but railed at the opposition MDC whom he accused of ‘treason.’ Mugabe pleaded with ZAPU compatriots who pulled out of the 1987 unity deal to reconsider their move, but told the MDC to ‘go to hell.’
Mugabe also blamed the delay in honoring Nkomo on ‘targeted sanctions’ imposed on him and his inner circle by the western nations.
In an earlier report in the Southern Eye newspaper the MDC had announced that they would not attend the unity day celebrations because ‘that’s the day Mugabe attacks us.
A ZAPU statement said the Unity Day was a ‘nullity’ and accused ZANU PF of ‘failing to uphold the values of the liberation struggle’ through human rights violations, cronyism and corruption.
Dumiso Dabengwa, who led the 2009 ZAPU pull out from ZANU PF, said while the honor of Nkomo was ‘welcome’ the government’ sincerity was questionable.
Dabengwa questioned the delay in honoring Nkomo and the sincerity of bestowing on him the title of ‘Father Zimbabwe.’ Standing between Joshua Nkomo Street and 8th Avenue, the statue is inscribed with the title ‘Father Zimbabwe’ – a stark contradiction with the ‘Father of dissidents’ tag which the former ZAPU leader carried at the height of his persecution.
During the Matabeleland campaign Mugabe said ‘ZAPU and its leader Nkomo are a cobra in the house. The only way to deal effectively with a snake is to strike and destroy its head.’
As a result an estimated 20,000 people were massacred for being ZAPU members and Nkomo himself narrowly escaped assassination and fled to Britain in 1983. He was to return to Zimbabwe a few months later and in 1987 he signed an accord with Mugabe, ending the seven years of massacres.
SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme said while the people were happy with the statue the celebrations were not ‘full throttle’ because there was a feeling that Mugabe was not being genuine.
According to Saungwene ZAPU members said true unity will only be possible if Mugabe returned their properties which he seized at the height of the atrocities. One of the properties, Magnet House, is ironically the regional headquarters of the CIO.
Many people in Matabeleland see Mugabe’s unity day gesture as part of the ZANU PF government’s broader charm offensive in trying to win people to their side.
Through various social media forums residents expressed their dissatisfaction with the Unity Day and the late honor of Nkomo. Journalist Methuseli Moyo said the Unity Accord makes him ‘feel sick.’ It is it is ‘a surrender document pure and simple,’ he said.
Businessman Themba Ndlovu said if Mugabe was sincere, and if Nkomo was indeed a father figure, he would have been long honored and not just in Bulawayo but across the country.
The government provoked fury in 2010 when it attempted to erect Nkomo’s statue at the Karigamombe Building in Harare, a name which loosely translates to ‘Felling the Bull’.
The government backed off following protests from the Nkomo family and ZAPU leaders, who felt that the erection of the statue there was a celebration of Nkomo’s incarceration and defeat by Mugabe.