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Preserve Joshua Nkomo legacy

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12 years ago the nation lost a political father figure, aptly named Father Zimbabwe, former Vice-President Joshua Nkomo.

That the late Nkomo was a towering figure with inborn fatherly instincts of a great unifier cannot be underestimated.

His emotive speeches at the birth of the liberation struggle drove many young people out of school and formal employment into the bush to fight for their birthright, living independently in their own country.

After independence, Nkomo went a step further and unified the nation despite his election defeat and subsequent dark period of the dissident era which almost blighted his image.

Sadly that legacy, which made Nkomo a hero of all heroes, seems to be fast waning with the passage of time.

So many of the projects initiated in his honour are still at their infancy, 12 years on, and there is a great likelihood future generations might not unlock value from this late great statesman’s contribution.

To generations that witnessed the liberation struggle, the late nationalist was like what Martin Luther King (Junior) was to Americans.

They revered him as a demi-god and only fell short of worshipping the soil he walked on.

However, to those born after the December 22 1987 Unity Accord, Nkomo’s history could easily pass for just one of the liberation history actors if not an outright traitor, coward, considering the blackmail that he endured during the dark era of Gukurahundi massacres.

Chances are future generations could view him with disdain, ambivalence and total disregard if his contributions remain confined to archival records.

In September 2010, one underground writer Dinuzulu Macaphulana spoke for an entire generation when he wrote on his Facebook wall:

“The tragedy or else the comedy, depending on where the observer stands, of Joshua Nkomo’s political leadership and historical legacy lies squarely on the criminal falsehood of the title ‘Father Zimbabwe’.”

The young people’s estimation of him is more of sympathy than genuine appreciation, and for the older generation, it is betrayal; pure and simple as his dreams are rotting in storehouses and white hospital walls, yet his name is always dusted from the archives for political expediency.

Nkomo himself saw a glimpse of this betrayal on the eve of Independence Day in April 1980 and on page 215 of his autobiography, The Story of My Life, he puts it well.

“Behind the saluting base, were the benches for junior ministers, the party officials and the supporting cast. At the back of those rows, in the dark by the radio commentator’s box, where the television cameras could not see us and our supporters in the crowd could not single us out for their applause, places were reserved for MaFuyana and myself,” he wrote.

In the days of Gukurahundi he was demonised as the head of “a cobra in the house” and “the father of the dissidents”.

And yet today, he is celebrated as the architect of unity, and not the man who suffered insults and threats to his life with the Ndebele people during Gukurahundi.

It is the silence on that aspect of his history, on his long letter in exile to then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe that has succeeded in turning the young people of Matabeleland against a great man who tried in vain to fight so that they could also be regarded as legitimate citizens of Zimbabwe.

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