Today marks 23 years since the late veteran nationalist and Vice President, Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo died, and the nation still cherishes his lifetime legacy of selfless sacrifice, peace, unity and developmental vision.
Popularly known as Father Zimbabwe, the fearless freedom fighter, Dr Nkomo, succumbed to prostate cancer on July 1, 1999 at the age of 82, and was buried at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.
Since then, Zimbabweans commemorate Dr Nkomo’s life on this day, amid increased calls for the day to be declared a national holiday.
The late Vice President had a strong vision anchored on equality for all and a determined drive to develop all parts of the country, which the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa, has magnified in a big way through its philosophy of “leaving no one and no place behind”, says Dr Sithembiso Nyoni, the Minister of Women Affairs, Community and Small to Medium Enterprises Development.
She said the New Dispensation was moving in Big Josh’s footsteps by championing the upliftment of marginalised communities through robust economic transformation.
Having worked as a Minister of State in the Office of Vice President Joshua Nkomo, Dr Nyoni said she tapped immense wisdom from “Big Josh” as she was tasked to head the economic departments and learnt a lot under his guardianship.
“I went with him to Italy where we sourced equipment to establish manufacturing plants. We are now talking about Muzarabani, Tsholotsho, Lupane and Nkayi where manufacturing plants were established and this is a result of his vision,” she said.
“Government is talking about the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project; it was part of his vision. There is a tomato processing plant in Norton, all these things are being implemented by the Second Republic and were part of his vision.”
Guided by the devolution policy, the Second Republic is developing all communities indiscriminately, which fulfils Dr Nkomo’s development trajectory, said Dr Nyoni.
“It’s assisting us a lot because his legacy must live on. I was in charge of the economic ministries in his office and Mqabuko emphasised the need for unity and that no one should be left behind and this is being pursued by the Second Republic,” she said.
“However, we should take his message seriously and we need to implement it in earnest because there are still communities that are lagging behind in development,” said Dr Nyoni.
For instance, the minister said roads such as Bulawayo-Nkayi, Bulawayo-Tsholotsho and Bulawayo-Kezi, need urgent attention as well as building of bridges that connect communities in remote areas.
Dr Nyoni said those tasked to lead the transformation of communities should do it with due diligence and fully comply with the strong messaging from President Mnangagwa.
Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Judith Ncube, said President Mnangagwa’s has particularly fulfilled Dr Nkomo’s vision of uplifting communities through agriculture.
“Father Zimbabwe was very passionate about farming. You’ll hear a lot of people remembering his statement that ‘nxa ufuna imali, lima’ (if you want money, be involved in agriculture).
“So, the Second Republic is building water bodies so that the country achieves food security and secondly job opportunities. This will address the issue of food security,” said Minister Ncube.
She said the completion of Lake Gwayi Shangani will also transform Matabeleland region while ensuring Bulawayo has adequate water supplies.
Minister Ncube said the transformation of Ekusileni Medical Centre, which is already admitting Covid-19 patients, shows that Government its fulfilling Dr Nkomo’s vision as he believed in quality health care for all.
“We have hospitals that were seriously dilapidated, for instance, Thorngrove Hospital. It has been revamped and this speaks to Dr Nkomo’s vision where he was saying that there should be no difference between someone admitted at a private hospital and a public hospital as all the patients require health care,” she said.
“So, the Second Republic is slowly fulfilling the vision kaMdala,” said Minister Ncube.
She said the desire that children should not walk long distances to school is part of the vision that Father Zimbabwe had for the country.
In that regard, Minister Ncube said the proposed plan to construct 3 000 schools also validates Father Zimbabwe’s vision of ensuring schools are accessible to all.
“So, as we remember Umdala, it is pleasing to see that part of his vision is being fulfilled by the Second Republic.
“He spoke about improving the national herd so that the cattle rakes improved money when being sold. We are seeing all this being implemented by Government,” said Minister Ncube.
She said the nation should also aspire to fulfil his aspirations for peace and development.
Zanu PF Second Secretary Cde Kembo Mohadi has urged the nation to cherish the values of unity, freedom and peace that Dr Nkomo strived and stood for.
In an interview on Wednesday, Cde Mohadi, one of the people who worked closely with the late Father Zimbabwe both during and after the liberation struggle, said Dr Nkomo fought for black economic empowerment and equal distribution of natural resources.
“The 1st of July is a very important day for us as we commemorate the death of Father Zimbabwe, Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, a man who played a critical role in uniting Zimbabweans,” said Cde Mohadi.
“On his deathbed, Dr Nkomo confided in the late former President Mugabe that his time was up and subsequently advised him to continue uniting Zimbabweans,” he said.
“Most importantly, Father Zimbabwe also reminded him (Cde Mugabe) about the need to correct the crooked land ownership issue.”
Cde Mohadi said the first part of Dr Nkomo’s struggle of ensuring that the landless blacks were allocated land, has been fulfilled, adding that the challenge now is to ensure the land is put to good use.
“As we remember Dr Nkomo, we also urge our people to utilise this land productively in line with his vision. He would occasionally say the issue of land was the main reason why Zimbabwe’s sons and daughters took up arms to fight the settler regime,” he said.
Dr Nkomo always emphasised the need to be productive saying the land should sustain the livelihoods of all Zimbabweans.
During his lifetime, Dr Nkomo spoke passionately about the need to correct the skewed land ownership and at many fora he warned whites who wanted to continue clinging onto the land that they risked igniting another revolution.
More than 300 000 families have been allocated land in areas that used to be a preserve of white commercial farmers.
Cde Mohadi said Father Zimbabwe was the champion of unity such that even at his death bed was preaching unity.
The ex-Zipra freedom fighter, said Dr Nkomo detested tribalism and regionalism.
“Dr Nkomo’s wish was to see Zimbabweans of all races united and this desire for a united Zimbabwe saw him leading the then PF Zapu to sign the 1987 Unity Accord with Zanu PF,” he said.
“This unity between former PF-Zapu and Zanu was at his behest and for us former PF-Zapu cadres, Father Zimbabwe is the one who left us united and we continue clinging onto that unity,” he said.
Cde Mohadi said since the days of the liberation struggle, Zimbabweans have always been a united people.
“In fact, when the ANC was banned, the National Democratic Party (NDP) was formed and it got banned in 1961, Zapu was formed.
“So, clearly the December 22 Unity Accord was simply going back to the roots because as Zimbabweans we have always wanted one party,” he said.
Cde Mohadi said the successful implementation of the land reform programme is a true reflection that the country is on the right path to fulfilling Dr Nkomo’s vision.
He said for Dr Nkomo’s holistic vision of economically empowering Zimbabweans to be achieved, it was important to ensure that the country fully benefits from its natural resources besides land.