By Josephine Mugiyo
There are a lot of things that I do not recall that happened during my high school days. Talk about forgetting some of the names of the teachers who molded me into who I am, as well as forgetting some of my former schoolmates! Not good I know!
Then there is an incident I remember like it happened yesterday. The day when Dr Joshua Nkomo or Father Zimbabwe, as he is fondly remembered, died. There I was - sitting in a classroom waiting for my Advanced Level English Literature teacher to turn up for that day’s lesson. When she walked in, I could tell something was not right. I just was not sure what it was. And then, wiping a tear from her eye, she dropped the news. Father Zimbabwe was no more.
I had read and learnt of the man, knew he was a political icon, but how important this man was to the history of Zimbabwe dawned on me as I observed the sombre mood that engulfed the city. Later in my years as a journalist doing a documentary on the man, I discovered that all the people I spoke to on the streets of Bulawayo remembered either where they were or what they were doing when they heard the news of his passing.
What does it take for one to be remembered so well, years after passing on? In Dr Nkomo`s case, I would like to believe the answer is simple. He was a man of the people.
Before I proceed to talk about his political journey, I would like to talk about the little bits of information that I collected from his home area in Kezi, St. Josephs, from his relatives.
As a young lad herding his father’s cattle along the Semukwe River, he was no different from other boys his age. His cousin brother, Charles Nkomo, tells us how it is said, when Joshua went to herd cattle he would build tree houses and put up in the tree for a night. Talk about boys being boys! Charles also talked about how young Joshua would take his mother’s sugar, without her knowledge of course, and pour it into the well that his friends drank from to sweeten the water.
Allow me to use the word ‘lol’ (lough out loud) at this point because that is exactly what I did when I heard this story.
A conversation I recently had with his daughter Thandiwe in Bulawayo gave me a perspective of some of the little details about what her father liked, from his favourite music to his favourite food. Mazoe raspberry was his favourite drink and he had a sweet tooth.
Thandiwe recalled a time when they were in Germany together with her father. One day during dinner, while others headed for the main meal, Dr Nkomo headed straight for dessert and insisted that was what he wanted to eat and skipped the main meal. Another ‘lol’ moment for me. The man, like his daughter told me, also loved his traditional food.
Music is food for the soul and Father Zimbabwe is said to have loved listening to Kalanga music as well as blasts from the Light Machine Gun (LMG) choir.
If one pauses for a moment to think of the names Dr Nkomo gave to his children, one would discover that as Thandiwe explained, each name was given to suit a specific time not only in Dr Nkomo’s personal history, but also that of Zimbabwe.
Thandiwe - a natural show of affection for his child and the nation. That love for his country is what drove him to leave the comfort of his home and the love and affection of his dear wife, Mama Mafuyana to lead the protracted war of liberating Zimbabwe.
And today that liberation is what all Zimbabweans, young and old, should cherish and in the same ‘bayithande iZimbabwe’.
Thuthani - meaning pack up and go. A symbol of protest against the white settler regime. That Zimbabwe is now a free and sovereign state is evidence that the white colonial masters finally packed their belongings and left Zimbabwe to be governed by its people.
Sibangilizwe - directly translated to mean ‘we are fighting for the country.’ The interests of the land of Zimbabwe came first to people like Dr Joshua Nkomo. Even after independence, he worked tirelessly with President Robert Mugabe to bring lasting peace and unity. Today we remember him as a symbol of unity.
Sehlule - meaning victory, which was achieved and is cherished up to now. Need I say more?
Father Zimbabwe dedicated his life, family, marriage and every fibre ofhis being to Zimbabwe. It is as if he gave birth to it and as such he befittingly earned the title 'Father Zimbabwe'.
I know earlier on I said I would also delve into his political life, but as an after-thought I will only concentrate on the non-political aspects of what defined Dr Nkomo as a person. The story of Father Zimbabwe is nowhere near its ending for he was a great icon. The spirit of Father Zimbabwe lives on. Dear reader, for now I shall end my story here… for now.