SIBANGILIZWE Nkomo, son of the late Father Zimbabwe Joshua Nkomo says the country needs new leaders who can rescue it from Zanu PF’s ruinous rule and fulfil his father’s vision of a free, just and prosperous nation.
The elder Nkomo, a towering nationalist hailed for contributing immensely to Zimbabwe’s liberation, was born on 19 June 1917 and died on 1 July 1999 aged 82.
As the country on Wednesday marked 22 years since his death, Sibangilizwe said the late President Robert Mugabe and his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa have destroyed all that his father believed in to better the lives of long-suffering Zimbabweans.
Sibangilizwe, who is running for the presidency of the opposition Zapu, a party once led by Joshua, said Mugabe and Mnangagwa have only succeeded in dividing the country along tribal lines starting from the Gukurahundi genocide in the 1980s that left an estimated 20 000 people dead.
“We need an overhaul of the whole leadership. Zimbabwe needs new leaders in the calibre of Father Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe needs leaders who will drive this country in the right direction,” Sibangilizwe said in an interview.
“The whole country is in a mess because of the kind of leaders it has had since 1980. We need an overhaul (of leadership) yesterday not tomorrow for the country to move forward.”
Zimbabwe is in the midst of a socio-economic crisis characterised by widespread poverty, unemployment, rising crime and company closures, a situation further worsened by the Covid-19-induced economic shocks taking a toll on industry.
“We have been led by people who have no vision. We are led by selfish people, people who are better at dividing than uniting people. The major problem that we have as a country is poor leadership. We are in reverse gear and not moving forward,” Sibangilizwe said.
“Everything that Father Zimbabwe stood for has been destroyed. We have regressed a lot as a country since July 1, 1999 when he passed away. We are not implementing and listening to what he (Nkomo) is saying because he is still saying the same thing to put this country on the right path. We are fighting against what he is saying.”
Mnangagwa, through his Twitter account, on Wednesday said Zimbabwe lost a “great man” in Nkomo, describing him as a “hero of the liberation struggle, a man of the people, and a visionary who built a better Zimbabwe.”
While Nkomo, who spent two decades in prison or exile fighting racist settler rule is being celebrated in death, he was tormented by Zanu PF in life to the extent of fleeing into exile in London on 7 March 1983, claiming that his life was in danger under Mugabe.
In 1979, Nkomo and Mugabe came together to negotiate Zimbabwe’s Independence at Lancaster House in London. The country’s first “free” elections in 1980, largely split along the Shona-Ndebele ethnic divide, saw Nkomo losing to Mugabe.
Nkomo was appointed Home Affairs minister in a government of national unity.
But in 1982 Mugabe charged that Nkomo had plotted a coup and sacked him from cabinet alongside the late Josiah Chinamano and Joseph Msika, Transport minister and Natural Resources minister respectively.
Mugabe claimed arms caches had been uncovered on farms owned by Zapu and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army – the party’s military wing – to be used to overthrow his government.
Mugabe responded by sending in the army’s 5 Brigade, which is blamed for the deaths of more than 20 000 civilians, mostly supporters of Nkomo’s party, in the Midlands and Matabeleland.
Nkomo fled the country through Botswana and went to England where he wrote his autobiography, The Story Of My Life.
The massacres continued until Nkomo and Mugabe signed a Unity Accord in December 1987, in which Nkomo agreed to merge his Zapu party with Mugabe’s Zanu PF.
The violence stopped and Nkomo became one of Zimbabwe’s two vice-presidents, but his political role was reduced to that of a mere tribal-balancing figurehead.
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