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Nkomo rejected presidency — Mugabe

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President Robert Mugabe yesterday said he made several efforts to get Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo to become President of Zimbabwe at independence in 1980, but the late nationalist flatly rejected the offer.

BY STAFF REPORTERS

The rejection, he said, was a sign of Nkomo’s humility. The presidency, at that time was ceremonial. Mugabe was then Prime Minister, the most powerful position in the country.

Speaking at the unveiling of the statue of the late nationalist who died in 1999 and the renaming of Bulawayo’s Main Street in the late veteran nationalist’s honour, Mugabe said he sent three delegations to convince Nkomo to take up the post of president, but he declined.

The post was eventually taken by the late Canaan Sodindo Banana.

Mugabe was in Bulawayo where he officially opened JN Nkomo International Airport, unveiled the Nkomo statue and officially renamed Main Street.

Mugabe said he offered the ceremonial presidency to Nkomo, but due to his (Nkomo’s) humility, he declined to take up the post.

“I personally asked Dr Nkomo to be president, but he said no,” Mugabe said.

“I sent another delegation, but again he said no. I sent a third delegation to plead with him, but he said no — such was his humility. Perhaps you didn’t know.”

“That’s when we had to ask the late Canaan Banana to be President. So you see, this is how humble Cde Nkomo was.”

Mugabe became Executive President in 1987 after he signed a peace pact with the former PF Zapu leader following about five years of political hostilities during which time about 20 000 people mostly in Matabeleland are believed to have been killed during the Gukurahundi disturbances.

Mugabe yesterday said he believed in peace, which was the reason why he forgave the white colonial masters for the atrocities they committed against the black majority before and during the liberation struggle.

The President pleaded with the veterans of the liberation struggle to respect the peace pact he penned with Nkomo as the best way of honouring the late nationalist.

“I am not talking about (Morgan) Tsvangirai and the MDC; those ones can go to hell,” Mugabe said.

He blasted the opposition leader accusing him of working with the former colonial masters.

“So we say to those (war veterans) who are working with the enemy, can’t you realise the suffering that the people had to bear. The death and injuries visited upon them as they were in the struggle and you dare to work with the enemy against your own people?

“I am speaking about the stance of the opposition to be Aon this day running to Britain and America in order to stand against us. We don’t mind an opposition within the country. But an opposition that begs the enemy, the very country that oppressed us, that’s a bit too much. Its treason . . . It’s treason of the worst kind.”

Mugabe pleaded with former combatants who had walked away from the party to respect the unity and return to the party as a way of honouring Nkomo.

“Yesterday he was telling you to go to this area. So now that he is gone, you think as he is in the grave, he can now be disobeyed? So I am saying the war veterans, you fought one war against the enemy, whether you are Zipra or Zanla, come back and be where you belong, don’t get lost,” said Mugabe.

“Those (war veterans) are the ones who really make me cry because they were under us, under our command. They should never be disunited, they should be united, because the ideology that we based our struggle, whether we were friends with the Soviet Union or China it was the same. You settle your contradictions by sitting down and discussing.”

Mugabe promised better benefits for the war veterans since Zanu PF was “back in control” of the government.

Zanu PF chairman and senior minister in cabinet Simon Khaya Moyo said Nkomo hated regionalism, tribalism, hated oppression and suppression.
Moyo said Nkomo left a “free and united country”.

“Such a man never dies, but only departs to higher responsibility. From the womb to tomb, he excelled and his legacy will live forever,” said Moyo.

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