The late PF Zapu leader and Zimbabwe's former Vice President Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo crafted and attempted to implement a comprehensive black economic empowerment program at independence in 1980 as his party bought houses, office buildings and farms in an effort to transfer wealth from white colonial rulers to indigenous blacks.
This was part of a grand plan to ensure that former freedom fighters and the masses benefited from the liberation struggle following a brutal war that claimed thousands of lives.
Some Zimbabweans say Nkomo's vision on black economic empowerment, including the transfer of land to local people, has been largely distorted by President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party.
When Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980, the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu), which was led by Nkomo, purchased farms, several upmarket buildings like Magnet House currently housing the Central Intelligence Organization in Bulawayo, the Castle Arms Motel, and had some cattle and chicken projects in most parts of the country that were supposed to be run under a company called Nitram Properties.
Members of his party's armed wing, the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (Zipra), were asked to contribute at least $50 each towards these projects. All this went up in smoke after Nkomo was accused by Mr. Mugabe of attempting to topple him. The government seized all the properties claiming that they were being used for caching arms. Nkomo dismissed the allegations as wishful thinking.
DEVELOPMENT TRUST OF ZIMBABWE
A couple of years after independence and following a peace accord he signed with the then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, Nkomo championed the formation of the Development Trust of Zimbabwe, which was supposed to benefit Zimbabweans through supplying beef and some farm produce to local and international markets.
Apart from that, Nkomo’s party bought lumbering equipment worth billions of dollars from Britain, meat processing machines for a proposed beef processing plant and medical equipment for Ekusileni Hospital in Bulawayo. Indications are that the lumbering equipment “vanished” at the Customs Department while Ekusileni Hospital and most of the entities he set up are now lying idle.
Some Masvingo residents say Nkomo’s vision in empowering blacks appears to have been a victim of political clashes between PF Zapu and Zanu PF and greediness among some top ruling party officials.
One of the critics is Zivanai Muzorodzi, a local resident, who says Nkomo’s vision was derailed through the sidelining of the former vice president by the ruling elite. Muzorodzi says this had a negative impact on youth, women and other groups in Zimbabwe.
“Dr. Nkomo’s vision was not achieved due to greediness by politicians and war veterans who grabbed land during the redistribution programme. The land was not fairly distributed as young people women and the disabled were left out.”
DEJECTED FORMER POLITICAL PRISONER
Veteran Masvingo nationalist and former Zanu PF provincial leader, Alderman Antony Pedzisa, who was detained for close to 10 years together with Mr. Mugabe and the late national hero, says Nkomo died a bitter man as the Zanu PF government even grabbed his properties while he was still alive.
“Before I go to individuals you must also remember that his farms were also taken by Zanu when he was still alive. When Joshua Nkomo was talking about land he was not just talking about land but the natural resources in the land and equitable distribution but this was not done. The intention was not to serve the interest of individuals but the national interest and that was never done. In my case, I don’t have a farm but I suffered and nearly got hanged.”
Brighton Ramusi echoes the same sentiments, noting that he is not happy with the way the land was grabbed from white commercial farmers and parceled out to staunch Zanu PF supporters.
“I am not happy at all about how the land reform programme was fast tracked. The way it was done left devastating effects. The ordinary citizens never benefited and it is the fat cats in politics and government who benefited and some have multiple farms.”
He says the land reform program, which started in 2000, was not conducted in a manner that could have been liked by the late vice president who was always fighting for the empowerment of all indigenous people.
Historian and government critic, Dr. Takavafira Zhou, says Father Zimbabwe may be turning in his grave over the manner in which the land reform program was conducted in the country.
“The point must be clear that the land reform idea was noble but the manner it was carried out leaves a lot to be desire. The whole concept of the land reform was now a political gimmick as Zanu PF used it to get votes. The land was parceled to Zanu PF supporters which was contrary to the vision of Nkomo of equitable and fair distribution of land.”
But Zanu PF activist, Talent Chivange, says the late Nkomo is resting peacefully following the transfer of land from white commercial farmers.
“Well, I think from an objective perceptive you would agree with me that over 350,000 households have benefited from the land reform and for people to say things in that manner its misinformation. I think that Dr. Nkomo is a happy man to note that close to half a million people benefited.”
But most residents maintain that the land reform program was not conducted in a fair manner as proposed by the late vice president, who would have wanted to see the redistribution of land without discriminating people along political lines.