The son of the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo, who died 16 years ago, says most Zimbabwean leaders are too self-centered, a situation that has led to the current social, economic and political problems in the country.
Michael Sibangilizwe Nkomo believes that Zimbabwe could be different today if most leaders followed his father’s footsteps.
Sibangilizwe Nkomo says his father was a selfless man, who had time even for ordinary people. He says despite having little material possessions, the late Father Zimbabwe, as the late nationalist was popularly known, would always try to help people in every way possible.
He says such humility and generosity are lacking in most of today’s leaders, noting that their self-centeredness is partly to blame for some of the problems the country is currently facing.
“The crop of leaders we have today they like money, they don’t like people … Umdala, that’s the difference between him and the crop of leadership now. They like money; they are for themselves not for the people. Mdala went out of his way to do things for the people. You didn’t need an appointment to see UMdala -ordinary people, anybody could come and knock at the door any time of the day and he would welcome them and help them, whichever way he could. But with the current crop of leadership you can’t.
“They don’t answer telephones; I have tried it myself and they don’t even answer their telephones, so, how do you expect to work for the people if you can’t answer telephones. I’m sure wherever my father is, he must be shaking his head.”
Sibangilizwe Nkomo says although it has been sixteen years since his father’s death, it still feels like yesterday as the nationalist’s name gets constant mention in the media.
Nkomo says rather than being sorrowful on such a day, his family normally celebrates the late vice president’s death with joy and inspiration from his monumental achievements.
“Instead of this day bringing sorrow and pain, it brings a lot of joy to think that the Old man accomplished what he had set out to do; what his God had assigned him to do. It brings joy, it brings vigour into my life personally, to say no, something has to happen to better our lives because the old man was committed to this nation so much that you can’t help but feel good about it. You don’t have time to cry; you can’t cry over that you lost such a good man,” he says.
Nkomo equally praises President Robert Mugabe for being able to unite former liberation parties, PF Zapu that was led by his father and Zanu PF.
Some Bulawayo residents still vividly remember the later nationalist with most of them saying Nkomo left the nation a proud legacy.
Gift Mutizwa says to him the late vice president’s most important achievement was that of being a peace maker and a nation-builder, a view shared by another resident who only wants to be identified as Sthembile.
Sthembile says although she was rather young when Nkomo died, she has over the years realized the huge role he played in the history of the nation.
Chairman Max Mkandla of the Zimbabwe Liberators Forum echoes the same sentiments, saying Nkomo was passionate about empowering people and believed that it was important for indigenous blacks to own their land.
While agreeing that the land reform programme, which started a few years ago in Zimbabwe, has helped towards the realization of this goal, Mkandla laments the way in which it was carried out by the ruling Zanu PF party, which resulted in some people getting multiple farms.
Former war veterans leader, Jabulani Sibanda, who was recently expelled from Zanu PF for allegedly teaming up with some senior officials to allegedly try to remove Mr. Mugabe from power, says if Nkomo was alive today, he would be sad about what is happening in the country where corruption and greediness are the order of the day.
For Mkandla, Nkomo was a statesman, who was broad-minded and would not approve of the situation in which Zimbabwe has made enemies with other countries.
He says Zimbabwe needs to mend its relations with the international community as this would help revive the economy. And he believes that this is exactly what Nkomo fought for in the liberation struggle of the 1970s.
A march known as the “Joshua Mqabuko Legacy Walk” is often held as part of commemorations to mark the death of the late Nkomo, has been moved to a date yet to be set by the organizers of the event.
In his book, The Story of My Life, Nkomo claimed that he fled Zimbabwe after the country’s North Korean-trained Five Brigade allegedly attempted to assassinate him when he was linked to some so-called dissident activities in Matabeleland and Midlands regions.
More than 20,000 people in the two regions, who were mostly PF Zapu supporters, were reportedly killed by the Brigade resulting in a peace treaty in 1997 that was signed by Nkomo and President Mugabe.
The late vice president remains loved by many who still cherish the moments they used to call him Chibwechitedza, Umdlala Wethu and Father Zimbabwe.