|Mdala Wethu: larger than life|
|Thursday, 28 June 2012 10:14|
By Mhlomuli Ncube
Father Zimbabwe has lived in the hearts and minds of all people locally and well beyond the continental boundaries of Africa. He is one art lovers and critics would refer to as “a larger than life character,” and any recalling of this great nationalist’s valuable contribution to history is an intricate journey. One comes across so much that they begin to wonder how one individual could be embodied in such great encounters. And so even those that delve into this iconic man’s life feel they can never tell the great man’s story in full.
The old saying comes to mind – “Some make things happen; some watch things happen and some wonder what has happened.”
Mdala Wethu made this happen, leaving many of his foes wondering what had happened. Together with the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, President Robert Mugabe, the two heroes walked side-by-side and fought a common enemy to bring lasting peace to Zimbabwe.
They called him with various titles. Umdala, Umafukufuku, Ubaba, and many others, but Umdala just strikes a chord in all Zimbabweans as he was a father-figure, both physically and spiritually. In our society, this is one title that does not come cheap. Umdala denotes not only being the elderly, but also points at responsibility and dignity one commands from those who look up to him. It is not therefore surprising that those who looked up to the late Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo coined this title for the man. He truly was an ‘umdala’ who commanded respect and admiration while at the same time there was a belief that he was of some messianic symbolism.
Interesting how every person I speak to about the late Dr Nkomo just beams with admiration. “Oh that old man, let me tell you..,” so many begin telling their stories. There is something good that they remember about umdala and I wonder how many would leave such a legacy when they depart to the next world. And when many of these people start recounting the exploits of the late nationalist, you just can’t bring them to a halt. The stories go on and on. So much to tell, so much to say about umdala, but what exactly made this historic figure have such bearing?
Larger-than-life Father Zimbabwe
I am convinced that the larger-than-life connotation linked to the “old man” as some would fondly refer to him is the main reason why he has lived to assert such influence upon all souls. He is the politician who outgrew his constituency, the leader who extended beyond his own society, the father who tended not only for his own family, but adopted many other children bringing them under his wings. He outstretched his influence and saw beyond race, tribe, ethnic and religious limitations.
The late Father Zimbabwe embraced the principle of being Zimbabwean in a manner many of us might never be able to. I just think if I was to write his epitaph, I would just have said… “and they called him Father Zimbabwe,” and ended it there. He earned that title through his selfless dedication to the bigger picture in Zimbabwe. He outgrew a lot of limitations which many of today’s politicians would never be able to do. All the four corners of the nation were touched by this fatherly figure and fond memories of him still linger.
The politics of tribalism and regionalism had no bearing whatsoever on Dr Nkomo. Whether in Tonga, Kalanga, Shona, Ndebele, Shangani, Sotho, Venda, English or any other language spoken in Zimbabwe, those that recall the “old man” today can still pronounce his name with clarity and a visible look of admiration on their faces. It is only a genuine figure who can command such respect and leadership.
Memoirs of another revolutionary
As I ponder on how Dr Nkomo left such deep imprints on the lives of many, I come across another veteran revolutionary, Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube. As soon as I ask him about the “old man,” I discover that where I thought this old soldier would share a word with me, he launches into paragraphs. I just brace myself for what looks like is going to be a long talk and after almost two hours, I try to compress the colonel’s reflections into just but a paragraph. Quite a nightmare but anyhow I make the attempt.
“The late was a Father figure. He had time for everybody. We were all his children and he was our father. He was the father of our dreams, our hopes and our struggle. He never sought out to offend anybody and even when he felt the urge to correct you, he would just do it like a father would chide his own child.
“He never kept a grudge and we knew Dr Nkomo for reprimanding people in public. In that way he earned our respect and admiration. His vision was very broad socially, economically and politically. To him Zimbabwe was just a small dot in the bigger puzzle of the global village. His vision was that all mankind should prosper in a just and free society. That man had big ideas. He understood the human race not only as black people, but as all people of all tribes, races and nations.”
This revolutionary’s synopsis of the late Dr Nkomo opens me up to a new dimension of thought. Then do I come to understand that Father Zimbabwe lived his life not for himself, but for all mankind never mind whether they were Zimbabweans or not. He earned the global iconic status that he attained because he lived and carried many dreams on behalf of the downtrodden masses. Colonel Tshinga Dube’s story about this man brings out a character who was the embodiment of Zimbabwean hopes and aspirations.
Father Zimbabwe’s dedication and commitment to seeing a free country under the rule of a black person finally came true on 18 April 1980. The battle had been fought and won. But Cde Nkomo never stopped reminding fellow Zimbabweans about the need to cherish and safeguard the gains of the liberation struggle.
Like his colleague President Robert Mugabe, he is on record as encouraging black people to be masters of their own destiny; to take charge of the economy and shake off the residual shackles of subjugation. Cde Nkomo’s vision was to see black people ‘doing their own thing’, working hard to develop the country.
He never rested, but died a fighter.
The 1st of July 1999 was indeed a dark day that fell upon Zimbabwe. But the darkness was soon outshone by the light of independence that Father Zimbabwe and his colleagues fought so hard to achieve. Today we dot mourn anymore; we celebrate a life well-lived. We remember with joy and serenity the sacrifice made by Umdala Wethu and many others so that we would have our country back.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.