More importantly, we have conveniently tried to forget that sad and tragic chapter of his life between 1980 to 1986 when Father Zimbabwe was treated like a refugee in the country which he fought for over 50 years.
Surely future generations will judge us for failing to accurately tell the history of this country without outlining the role of Joshua Nkomo, PF Zapu and its armed wing the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army, which at its peak was one of the best guerilla movements in Africa.
If we are to commemorate and remember this great man with the dignity and respect befitting one of Africa’s finest statesman surely we have to record history as it is and not try to alter it to suit our political whims.
With the impending decimation of the people of Matabeleland by the Fifth Brigade he was left with no choice but to save the people through the infamous Unity Accord.
Clearly, the accord, just like the Global Political Agreement, was not ideal but appeared to be the only tenable solution to the problems in Matabeleland and Zimbabwe at that time. Joshua Nkomo was a nationalist at heart and in practice. He truly believed that Zimbabwe belonged to those who lived in it whether Shona, Kalanga, Venda, Suthu or Ndebele, black or white.
He was prepared to even sacrifice his political career and ego in order to maintain the unity of the people of Zimbabwe. His sense of nationalism was a leadership virtue which glued various politicians of diverse backgrounds and ethnic origins together. Zapu was not a Ndebele party as has been popularly postulated by propagandists. It included the likes of Samuel Parirenyatwa, Josiah Chinamano, Joseph Msika, Amon Jirira and Willie Musarurwa.
Joshua Nkomo was one of the greatest statesmen Africa has ever had, who also contributed to the independence of other African countries such as South Africa — as Zipra forces fought side by side with Umkhonto we Sizwe guerillas of South Africa in the late 60s in a demonstration of pan-African solidarity.
He exhibited his statesmanship when he refused to take to the bush after losing the 1980 elections. In addition he had a clear understanding of global politics because at that time Mugabe was the darling of the international community and Zapu would have been isolated and the possibility of support from its traditional partner Russia was not guaranteed. The country would still be embroiled in civil war up to now. In a rare show of magnanimity he refused to take up the post of titular president and chose to be home affairs in a government headed by a man who was a junior in the struggle.
This great man refused to revenge and sought reconciliation at all times. Even when he was in exile in London in 1984, he spoke of his desire to come back to rebuild Zimbabwe in spite of the hate language and violence that his opponents were spewing. Quite correctly The Story of My Life that all too often African leaders confused their personal interests with those of the nation “and subsequently believe this”. In his book he also noted that he believed that “Freedom Lies Ahead” and today as Zimbabweans, we still yearn for freedom as this is not the Zimbabwe he fought for.