Doing security for Dr Nkomo
Next Saturday marks the 18th anniversary of the death of Vice-President Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo. Our Bulawayo Bureau spoke to Cde Nehemiah Nyathi, who provided security for the late Umdala Wethu. We publish Cde Nyathi in his own words.
IWAS privileged to work closely with Dr Nkomo in various spheres of his political life giving him security cover. I started my security duties with Dr Nkomo in 1980 when I returned from the war of liberation. Just before Independence I was still at an intelligence school in Kitwe, Zambia.
Before I went for intelligence training I had done guerrilla warfare as a Zipra cadre having joined the armed struggle in 1977.
It was after my guerrilla training that I was selected for security training and then did what was then called State security.
It involved protecting the country and finding out what is troubling the nation and protecting the leaders.
When I returned home from Zambia there was already a new Government and I was deployed into Dr Nkomo’s security team.
Prior to my deployment I had been at Papa Assembly Point in Mashonaland West, then later on in Chitungwiza.
That is when I started working with Dr Nkomo whom I had first met in 1961 when I was still a young pupil doing Sub-A at Khumbula Primary School in my rural home of Tsholotsho District.
I was to see him for the second time in 1969 when again he visited Tsholotsho.
I’m not quite sure of the purpose of his visit but I realised when I was working with him that he had these tendencies of visiting places without any specific mission. He simply loved meeting the people. When I joined the Zapu president’s close security unit around May 1980 after the country’s first general elections, there was Albert Nxele as the head of security and he was deputised by Joseph Maphosa and below those there was Lovemore Dube, who was commonly known by his pseudonym Newsreel.
Newsreel’s deputy was Fred Mutandah, whose war name was Chillies. Nxele was in charge of the overall Presidential security. He was involved in all departments that concerned the president.
The presidential security unit was very big as before we returned to the country there were hopes that Umdala would become the Head of State.
The presidential unit was very big with a number of shifts. There were shift commanders under Newsreel and Chillies. When I joined I was put under a shift that was under Aiden Thwala whose war name was Lawrence.
Each shift had around 24 officers. The other comrades I worked with included the late national hero Zenzo Ntuliki, popularly known as Maphekapheka.
We also had Garnet Muleya and Albert Ngulube, who is still serving the State, and he was called Miles. Others were Siphithi Nkomo, Section Ncube, Prinslar Moyo, Henry Manheru, Saunders Mathwasa, Correct Dube and Boikano Ndlovu.
When our black Government took over from the Rhodesians, the security team from Zipra protected ministers from PF-Zapu while our colleagues from Zanla protected Zanu ministers.
When the coalition Government failed, I decided to leave employment and continued providing security duties to Dr Nkomo together with Boikano. Other comrades remained serving our new Government. It was their personal choice to do so as it was ours to go with Dr Nkomo.
It was not an easy decision because when I was employed I was receiving a salary.
You know when we were coming from the bush we were now grown up men with ambitions to build homes and have families.
It was more difficult if you had children. I had to put all that aside to make sure that (Dr Nkomo) was protected.
I told myself that if I failed and Dr Nkomo was to die then the nation would be doomed. That is how I analysed the situation. I thought that if he died there was going to be a serious civil war.
It was easy working with Dr Nkomo because he too was security conscious. Sometimes he would even alert us of possible threats. He never used to argue with us when we briefed him of our security plans.
During that time of post-Independence disturbances, few people stood by him. Even among the Zapu leadership, few really stood by him.
Yes, they would visit him here and there. The visits were erratic.
We couldn’t really blame them. Actually we felt we were much safer without them because we could carry out our security duties without any distractions.
Of course it was expected of them to be by Umdala’s side during such trying times. They should have stood by him and even die with him if he was to die.
The only notable politicians who stood with Dr Nkomo were Sikhwili Khohli Moyo, Vote Moyo, Makhathini Guduza, a gentleman called Sigola, and Joseph Ndebele, whom I believe is the only one who is still alive.
There was also a Mbembesi man, Nzombane.
To be continued next week