via Bulawayo24 NEWS | Joshua Nkomo: Thin line between honour and dishonour by Bantubenkosi Sithole 11 January 2014
There is no doubting that Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo is a large political and historical figure whose name and legacy remains available for use or abuse by those who remain behind. The avalanche of honours recently bestowed on Nkomo, the naming of the airport after him, erection of his gigantic statue and the renaming of Main Street after Nkomo, should all be read as political activities by the present government. The crowning question of my argument in this article is that in whose interest are these belated illustrious honours of Joshua Nkomo being done? I also seek to argue that the name and legacy of Joshua can still be mobilised towards building that ideal Zimbabwe which Nkomo represented, and which his enemies now turned admirers and friends evidently betrayed.
Recently Dumiso Dabengwa argued correctly that these honours that have been bestowed on Nkomo must not be seen as generous favours from the present government but as highly deserved and belated recognition of the liberation war and nationalist icon. Nkomos’ contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe and his legendary envisioning of a united Zimbabwean nation are not negotiable achievements but indisputable marks of his heroism. The title “father Zimbabwe” is not just a loose label but it fits the description of Nkomo’s contribution to the birth of Zimbabwe.
My first observation in this article is that Joshua Nkomo is now curiously being honoured not just belatedly but as a lone iconic figure of history. The fact that Nkomo was produced by ZAPU and ZIPRA has been conveniently forgotten. This convenient and deliberate loss of memory betrays the sinister intentions of the present political actors who seek to benefit from Nkomo’s good name and still manage to conceal the great contribution of ZAPU and ZIPRA to the liberation of Zimbabwe. There is no true and honest remembrance of Nkomo that will fail to recognise the presence of ZAPU and ZIPRA in the production of Nkomo as a hero and in the liberation of Zimbabwe as a country. The attempt by the present establishment in Zimbabwe to delete ZAPU and ZIPRA from history must be seen as continuing violence against Nkomo and his illustrious legacy.
My second observation, dear readers, is that certain small pieces of the very large legacy of Joshua Nkomo are being honoured while others are conveniently concealed behind sweet political language. Nkomo’s personal contribution to the liberation struggle and his contribution to national unity are being recognised while his suffering and exile as the man once called “the Father of dissidents” have been shoved behind the scenes as the history that never happened. An honest honour to Nkomo would include a sincere acknowledgement by the present regime that Nkomo suffered under white rule and other black rule in the country of his birth. To honour Nkomo and conveniently ignore the high price that he paid in the struggle for Zimbabwe is equal to exploiting his good name and then laughing at his bleeding wounds.
My third observation is that the thousands of people who died, and those who were exiled for being supporters and followers of Joshua Nkomo cannot be honestly alienated from Nkomo’s glory. If the present Zimbabwean political establishment honestly wishes to recognise and honour Nkomo, the many victims and survivors of Gukurahundi ought to be put into the picture. It must be within the power of the current regime in Zimbabwe to come clean and condemn Gukurahundi and express remorse and regret for the suffering and the lose that ZAPU supporters and followers of Joshua Nkomo were put through.
For a government such as that of Zimbabwe that has presented itself as an Africanist government, it is a damning indictment that victims of Gukurahundi still lie in shallow mass graves, and the heavy rainscontinue to wash open some of the graves. It is such an irony to be erecting a statue to the memory of Joshua Nkomo while those who died following him have their bones scattered in the wilderness together with those of wild animals. Those organisations and individuals who have raised alarm over these bones have been arrested and harassed in what points to continuing determination of the current establishment in Zimbabwe to deny justice and dignity to ZAPU and by extension to the same Joshua Nkomo whose name they seek to profit from.
The building of the Zimbabwe that Nkomo fought for will not be easy as long as those who claim to value and honour his legacy continue to deny part of the painful history of the country. Zimbabwe will remain divided between victims and victimisers as long the leadership does not grow up to the responsibility of owning up to its mistakes and working hard to promote truth-telling and national healing in Zimbabwe. The process of national healing will not be possible without the honest work of correcting the narrative of Zimbabwean history that has suppressed the truth about ZAPU and ZIPRA as factors in the liberation of Zimbabwe and the production of Joshua Nkomo as a nationalist icon.
In my humble view, all the honours that have been bestowed upon Joshua Nkomo will constitute a mockery and dishonour if they don’t include a clear recognition of ZIPRA and ZAPU as the organisations that produced Nkomo as the hero that we have all come to know. More still, a genuine recognition and honour of Joshua Nkomo must include recognition not only of his personal suffering but also the death and suffering of those that followed Nkomo. Any attempt to isolate Nkomo from the people who suffered and died pursuing his vision is a criminal attempt to short-circuit history and fraudulently absolve the present Zimbabwean leadership of its heinous crimes against humanity.
It is my argument in this article that Joshua Nkomo’s name and legacy can still be used to build an ideal Zimbabwe; however, it will take the present political establishment in Zimbabwe to accept its responsibility for the crimes that punished Nkomo in his lifetime and perished many of his supporters. An irony that should trouble all the right thinking people, and draw our attention to the real crime of the present Zimbabwean government is how this new statue of Joshua Nkomo towers in an impoverished city that government neglect and deliberate underdevelopment has turned into a ghost town. The economic and political marginalisation of Matabeleland itself stands as an indictment to a regime that pretends to care for the people when its actual goal is to keep power by all means necessary.
Bantubenkosi Sithole Is a Telecommunications Engineer based in South Africa. He is reachable on firstname.lastname@example.org