BY SILAS NKALA
THE Opposition Zapu yesterday mourned the death of Mafela Trust national director Zephaniah Nkomo, who passed away on Sunday after suffering from a respiratory ailment.
He was 70, and he died at a private hospital in Bulawayo.
Zapu spokesperson, Iphithule Maphosa described Nkomo as a distinguished cadre who refused to be abused by the late former President Robert Mugabe, who tried to draft him into the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) after independence, but he refused.
Before his death, Nkomo was the author of the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) and Zapu memoirs. Maphosa said the party was saddened by Nkomo’s death.
He described Nkomo as the people’s finest soldier during the liberation struggle, adding that he was affectionately known as comrade (Cde) Zwe.
“Nkomo was a Russia-trained intelligence officer of the National Security and Order (NSO), who offered distinguished service to Zapu and Zipra during the liberation struggle.
“After independence, Cde Zwe continued as head of the Zapu security department.
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“Like the rest of Zipra fighters his immense contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe was never acknowledged or recognised by the powers that took over after the war,” Maphosa said.
“A humble man by nature, he never went about boasting about his contribution to the armed liberation struggle.
“However, his closeness to, and trust bestowed upon him by the late Zapu president Dumiso Dabengwa spoke volumes about how highly regarded he was in the intelligence circles of Zipra’s NSO.
“His selection to head Mafela Trust, whose role is to document Zapu and Zipra history gave further evidence of the trust that Zapu and Zipra had in him.”
Maphosa said Nkomo’s unquestionable character was proved when he refused to be drafted into Zimbabwe’s CIO by Mugabe, whom he accused of wanting to abuse his skills for the purpose of persecuting Zapu and Zipra.
He said Nkomo spent four years in detention without trial for allegedly trying to assassinate Mugabe.
“He was tortured but upon release, there was no reason given for his incarceration or apology for the wrongful arrest and the terrible treatment he received.
“The words of the late Zapu President Joshua Nkomo apply equally to Cde Zwe as they did to Cde Lookout Masuku when he said: ‘You don’t give a man the status of a hero. All you can do is to recognise it. It is his.’
“His deeds and choices made during his tumultuous life entitled him to the status of the best among the brave,” Maphosa said.
A family spokesperson, Mandla Nkomo on Monday told the media that Nkomo died of respiratory complications despite having tested COVID-19 negative, adding that they suspected that he died of pneumonia.
Nkomo, who joined the liberation struggle in 1977, is survived by wife Thoko and five children.