Nkomo commemoration sparks criticism


BULAWAYO – Political analysts in Bulawayo have censured Zanu PF’s intention to conduct a series of events in honour of the late Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo.

Analysts have described the planned events as a strategy by the party to court the electorate from Matabeleland through aligning themselves to the veteran statesman.

The criticism emerges at a time when Nkomo’s daughter Thandiwe has appealed to the nation to stop disrespecting her late father affectionately known as “Father Zimbabwe”.

Last week, Zanu PF Bulawayo provincial chairman Callistus Ndlovu released a comprehensive programme of a five-day extravaganza to celebrate Joshua Nkomo’s legacy beginning from July 1.

The event is expected to attract Zanu PF members from all the 10 provinces.

Photographic and other material exhibition of the late “Father Zimbabwe”, a series of lectures and entertainment by cultural groups will form part of the “special” event.

But the extravaganza slated for various venues including schools, Bulawayo Polytechnic, Stanley Square and the Large City Hall has unruffled feathers as some political analysts feel it is “an outright oblique political game” to attract public sympathy and garner support ahead of the watershed polls.

Analysts queried Zanu PF’s monopolisation of the late vice president yet the same party has previously dragged its feet and blocked the completion of a myriad of his ideas and projects.

Political analyst, Dumisani Nkomo told the Daily News it was a pity that the name of the larger-than-life Joshua Nkomo has become a subject of Zanu PF’s campaigning manifesto.

“This is obvious, and it is clear politics is at play here. Remember ever since he died Zanu PF has not done anything of this nature save for the Umdala Wethu national galas which have also since stopped,” Nkomo said.

“It is clear they want to use him as a political fodder or campaign tool. It is a sad development. Talk of the Main Street to be named after him, the erection of the statue and the first of July holiday, yet nothing has come to fruition.

“So it is outright hypocrisy for Zanu PF to be holding a series of events honouring him today. The same time last year they blocked the Daily News in partnership with the Joshua Nkomo National Foundation from hosting similar lectures but now they have hijacked the idea.”

Nkomo who is a family member said: “This is sheer hypocrisy. If they really wanted to honour him they should start taking concrete steps towards completing such basic things as naming Main Street here in Bulawayo after him as well as completing his statue, not all these lectures and exhibitions.”

“Of course there are some former Zapu members in Zanu PF who are genuine about honouring Dr Nkomo but unfortunately the system does not allow them.”

Plumtree-based political analyst Thomas Sithole described Zanu PF’s action as nothing but well-calculated tokenism to reach out to the marginalised electorate of Matabeleland who have rejected them for several years now.

“The reason why Zanu PF has returned to Matabeleland is for them to gain political mileage considering that this is coming at a time when the nation gears up for the crunch election,” Sithole told the Daily News.

“So using Nkomo’s name is an advantage because it’s a way of appealing to the people of Matabeleland. But who does not know this?

“People are no longer that daft. What Zanu PF does is weigh the political profit they gain. This is the reason why they have assumed ownership of all Nkomo projects and it helps them to score cheap political points,” Sithole added.

He said Zanu PF knows Nkomo was a fatherly figure who was loved by everyone particularly the people from this region. “They want to capitalise on his popularity to such an extent that if they had the option, they would resurrect him.”

Playwright Cont Mhlanga said Zanu PF was never ashamed of undermining the legacy of the late veteran nationalist.

“What Zanu PF has done is to undermine the legacy of Joshua Nkomo. For the past years since Nkomo died, Zanu PF has not done anything meaningful to recognise the work he did for the nation,” Mhlanga said.

He said he was worried about the former ruling party’s apparent unwavering standpoint to “own a dead body.”

“What they are planning to do now is acceptable in as far as it is important to recognise his legacy and there is nothing wrong with that. But they must not make it a Zanu PF event. They don’t own him, so they should involve everyone,” he said.

“The two memorial lectures organised by Daily News last year were blocked simply because that was unacceptable to Zanu PF.

“What it meant is the publication was obviously going to steal the limelight from them.”

Mhlanga cautioned Zanu PF, to bear in mind that while Nkomo died in the party, he was above politics.

“It is grossly unfair for Zanu PF to be politicking with Nkomo’s name given that he was a liberator, a unifier and as a result he was above narrow party politics.

“At this point, Zanu PF should know very well that he should be celebrated in a better way than reducing him to a politician,” he explained.

Mhlanga appealed to the party to at least honour him by completing his statue and renaming Main Street after him this year.

Nkomo died on July 1, 1999 after a long battle with cancer.

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