Nkala, who has been a fierce critic of President Robert Mugabe since the 1990s after unceremoniously leaving government following his implication in the Willowgate scandal, met his former confidant and comrade-in-arms in Bulawayo over a week ago.
Following the 45-minute meeting, Nkala has since made a u- turn and is now full of praise for Mugabe who he says should remain in power describing him as “the glue that has been holding this country”.
But historian and author, Pathisa Nyathi said Nkala has always wanted to be in the limelight; hence it was not surprising that he made an about turn after meeting Mugabe.
“It’s as if the meeting with Mugabe was miraculous,” he said. “He has been out in the cold and now that he has the attention of Mugabe, there is no longer any problem.”
Nyathi said Nkala’s previous relentless blame of Gukurahundi atrocities on Mugabe alone was part of his strategy to get the limelight. “He has been criticising Mugabe as the main architect of Gukurahundi, but at the same time removing himself from the era,” he said.
Nyathi said Nkala had a collective responsibility for Gukurahundi as he was part of the establishment being a senior member of cabinet. He said there was no record of Nkala objecting to Gukurahundi.
“Nkala did not resign from government to show that he was against what was going on,” Nyathi said. “Had the whole cabinet objected, Gukurahundi was not going to happen.”
Nyathi said Nkala was an orator who was capable of inflammatory speeches. He said had there been responsible leaders, incidences such as the two Entumbane battles between Zipra and Zanla forces awaiting demobilisation and integration would not have happened. The Entumbane clashes were the precursor to Gukurahundi which saw the killing of thousands of people in Midlands and Matabeleland provinces during an army crackdown.
Nyathi said he has strong doubts that Zanu PF would take Nkala seriously as he was no longer influential, having been in the political wilderness for many years now.
Journalist, Geoffrey Nyarota in his book Against The Grain – Memoirs of a Zimbabwean Newsman,wrote that Nkala was the most feared politician in Zimbabwe at that time, often exuding more power than Mugabe himself who was Prime Minister then.
Nyarota, a former editor of the Bulawayo-based Chronicle newspaper said Nkala and Maurice Nyagumbo were the only Zanu PF leaders who addressed Mugabe by his first name.
The book says at the height of Gukurahundi, Nkala had become the “self-anointed emperor of Matabeleland, with an idiosyncratic and relentless determination to wrench the region from (Joshua) Nkomo’s control and deliver it to Mugabe.”
Nyarota and his then deputy, Davison Maruziva, nearly earned the wrath of Nkala when the two were investigating him and other Zanu PF officials who abused the Willowvale motor vehicle purchase scheme.
In his book, Nyarota said when Maruziva phoned Nkala to seek his comment, he ordered the two journalists to present themselves at his Harare offices the following morning, failure of which he would dispatch solders from One Brigade in Bulawayo or the Police to arrest them.
“Where did you get that information? Nkala demanded when Maruziva answered the telephone. That information is supposed to be with the police and the president. I want that information here in my office. Who do you think you are? If you do not travel here I will teach you a lesson. I will use the army to pick you up; then you can ask questions. I do not care. I can instruct the commissioner of police to pick you up. Do not play that kind of game with me; I am not Ndlovu.”
But Nkala, a former Defence, Home Affairs and Finance minister, has always insisted that he had no part in Gukurahundi, heaping the blame on Mugabe. Nkala claimed that at the time of the 5th brigade atrocities, he was in charge of Finance, while the late Ernest Kadungure was minister of defence.