Vice President John Landa Nkomo died in Harare on Thursday after a long battle with cancer.
President Robert Mugabe announced the death of one of his deputies at a press conference at State House.
The deceased’s brother and family spokesman, Water Resources Minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, said his family was saddened by the death of the vice president at the age of 78.
Nkomo said the deputy president was admitted to St. Annes Hospital on Wednesday night after experiencing breathing problems. Doctors declared the vice president dead at 11 o'clock Thursday.
John Nkomo is the fourth deputy head of state to die in office, due to poor health. The others were Joshua Nkomo, Simon Muzenda and Joseph Msika.
Minister Nkomo said relatives will gather in Harare on Friday evening to discuss burial arrangements. Planning will be done in consultation with the government because the deceased was a member of the executive.
The late vice president was born on August 22, 1934, and was a member of the African National Congress between 1958 and 1959. In 1960, he joined the National Democratic Party and in 1961, he also joined the Zimbabwe Africa People's Union (ZAPU) when the party was founded.
Like many freedom fighters at the time, he was arrested and detained, spending 1966 to 1968 at Gonakudzingwa Prison.
In 1971, he joined the African National Council and became the deputy secretary general. He went to Switzerland for liberation talks, dubbed the Geneva Conference, in 1976.
Mr. Nkomo was then injured in a parcel bomb attack that killed liberation hero Jason Ziyapapa Moyo in Zambia in 1977.
After independence in 1980, John Nkomo went on to serve in a number of senior positions. He was the legislator for Matabeleland North between 1980 and 1985.
His party was kicked out of the first black government a few years after independence following some political clashes between Zanu PF and ZAPU then led by the late Vice President Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo.
Scores of ZAPU supporters were allegedly killed by the North Korean trained Five Brigade deployed by the government in Matabeleland and the Midlands region to crash so-called dissidents which were linked to Nkomo's party.
In 1981, he was appointed deputy minister of Industry and Energy before becoming the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, responsible for the deputy premier between 1982 and 1984.
From 1985 to 1990, Mr. Nkomo was the Member of Parliament for Tsholotsho constituency and then between 1990 and 1995, he again represented Bulawayo North as a lawmaker. From 1988 to 1995, he served as the Minister of Labour, Manpower Planning and Social Welfare.
In 1995, he was re-elected to represent Bulawayo North in the august house and he was appointed minister of Local Government and Rural Development. In 1997, he was appointed to the renamed Ministry of Local Government and National Housing before becoming the minister of Home Affairs in 2000.
In 2002, he was appointed the minister of State in the President’s Office responsible for Special Affairs and was the Speaker of parliament between 2005 and 2008.
Following the disputed 2008 elections, Mr. Nkomo was appointed to the post of Minister of State in the President’s Office responsible for national healing, reconciliation and integration and also became the vice president in the same year, a position he held until his death.
For perspective on his legacy VOA turned to his former colleagues in PF ZAPU, Paul Themba Nyathi, currently the treasurer of the MDC formation led by Industry Minister Welshman ncube and Alderman Charles Mpofu of Bulawayo.
Nyathi said Nkomo was a good and reliable leader during their ZAPU days. Mpofu noted that Nkomo was well-respected as a father figure but thinks he could have done more in pushing for the development of the Matabeleland region.