THE late Vice-President John Landa Nkomo’s son, Jabulani, yesterday revealed that his father and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were very close friends whose relationship dated back to the days when Nkomo was Labour minister while Tsvangirai was secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
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Addressing mourners during Nkomo’s burial at the National Heroes Acre in Harare, Jabulani said during his father’s stint as Labour minister, he worked very closely with Tsvangirai, who is now the Prime Minister in the coalition government.
Describing his father, Jabulani said: “The John Nkomo we know was loving, caring, hardworking and a unifier.
“You (President Robert Mugabe) appointed him to be Labour minister where ironically he had to deal with one Morgan Tsvangirai, who is here with us as the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.”
Jabulani said Tsvangirai used to refer to Nkomo as “Mdala John” during his days as a labour activist and when Nkomo was elevated to the Vice-Presidency, the MDC-T leader attended the celebrations as a close friend more than anything else.
Tsvangirai and his MDC counterpart Welshman Ncube attended the burial alongside foreign dignitaries who included South Africa’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Tanzanian Vice-President Mohamed Gharib Bilal, Zambian Vice-President Guy Scott, Namibian Prime Minister Hage Geingob and Botswana Vice-President Ponatshego Kegikilwe, among others.
In his graveside speech, Mugabe renewed his calls for peace.
“We derive some solace from the fact that Cde Nkomo died on the day that parties to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) succeeded in narrowing their differences on matters that threatened our national interest,” Mugabe said in reference to last Thursday’s breakthrough during negotiations for a new constitution.
“Peace, unity and harmony should prevail if we are to move forward. Peace begins with you, peace begins with me, peace begins with us. That is what Nkomo used to say,” Mugabe told thousands of mourners who braved the wet weather to witness Nkomo’s burial.
He said the late Nkomo, who chaired the Organ for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration, was an advocate of peace and the best Zimbabweans could do to honour him was through the holding of peaceful elections.
“Principals in our political parties and of government succeeded in narrowing their differences on matters that had threatened our national interest,” Mugabe said.
“In other words, there was a meeting of minds over the need to move the country forward in a united way, and we demonstrated that we can do it on our own as Zimbabweans.
“This, John would have applauded, as his wish was to see the country rising above unnecessary skirmishes and achieve national unity.”
Nkomo died last Thursday at St Anne’s Hospital after a long battle with cancer. He was 79.
Mugabe’s speech was twice disrupted by power outages and heavy rains that fell during the burial.
Meanwhile, there was drama at the Nkomo Milton Park residence when Zanu PF youths, members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Simukai Tiverengane Choir and members of an Apostolic church sect almost fought for space to sing when Nkomo’s body arrived on Sunday night.