Big Josh: More than a politi­cian

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FEATURE - Garikai Mazara

“Some might re­mem­ber him for his po­lit­i­cal views and val­ues, some might re­mem­ber him for his re­li­gious be­liefs, in fact there were so many facets to Joshua Nkomo, but as a cul­tural move­ment we thought it bet­ter to re­mem­ber him through this cul­tural ex­hi­bi­tion.”

JOSHUA Mqabuko Ny­on­golo Nkomo would have been 100 on June 6 this year.

Un­for­tu­nately fate would not let us have him till he cel­e­brated his cen­te­nary, as he passed on at 82 on July 1, 1999.

But that he has not been with us for al­most two decades does not mean that his spirit, his en­dur­ing legacy is no longer with us.

He is still much part of our moral, po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural psy­che and the val­ues that he held so dear in his life were the cor­ner­stone of the celebrations held re­cently at St Joseph’s Mis­sion in Kezi, where the iconic Fa­ther Zim­babwe spent part of his for­ma­tive years.

Or­gan­ised by the Joshua Nkomo Cul­tural Move­ment, the celebrations, which were largely cul­tural in con­text and com­plex­ion, did not at­tract Fa­ther Zim­babwe’s po­lit­i­cal peers, a move de­scribed by Mr Michael Nkomo, the chair­man of the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee, as largely in­ten­tional.

“We didn’t want these celebrations to have a po­lit­i­cal colour­ing to them, they are purely cul­tural, hence the ab­sence of any po­lit­i­cal fig­ures or Fa­ther Zim­babwe’s po­lit­i­cal lu­mi­nar­ies,” ex­plained Nkomo Jnr, who is one of the five chil­dren born to Joshua Nkomo, and one of three sur­viv­ing.

The other sur­viv­ing chil­dren are Thandiwe and Louise Sehlule, also no­table ab­sen­tees at the cer­e­mony. Themba, the first-born, died in in­fancy and Tu­tani passed away in 1996.

Asked if the ab­sence of Fa­ther Zim­babwe’s lu­mi­nar­ies and peers would not lessen the sig­nif­i­cance of the celebrations, Mr Michael Nkomo said: “As a cul­tural move­ment, we chose to re­mem­ber how strong his tra­di­tional val­ues were, and these are what we gath­ered here to re­mem­ber — and pass them onto the younger gen­er­a­tions.

“Some might re­mem­ber him for his po­lit­i­cal views and val­ues, some might re­mem­ber him for his re­li­gious be­liefs, in fact there were so many facets to Joshua Nkomo, but as a cul­tural move­ment we thought it bet­ter to re­mem­ber him through this cul­tural ex­hi­bi­tion.”

And the groups that turned up did not dis­ap­point with cul­tural en­sem­ble Ind­lukula kaNy­on­golo be­ing the an­chor per­form­ers for the two-day cul­tural ex­trav­a­ganza that be­gan on Satur­day June 10, end­ing with a num­ber of sports tour­na­ments the fol­low­ing day.

Veteran jour­nal­ist Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu, who started his ca­reer in Rhode­sia and had a front-seat view of the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle, gave a mov­ing nar­ra­tion of Fa­ther Zim­babwe’s life, chron­i­cling from the days they met, their time to­gether in the trenches fight­ing Ian Smith’s dream of “not in a thou­sand years will a black man rule Zim­babwe” to the days af­ter in­de­pen­dence in 1980.

Speak­ing on the side­lines of the cul­tural fête, Mr Michael Nkomo talked glow­ingly of his fa­ther, the kind-hearted Joshua, who in his teens stole a 50-kg of sugar and went to pour it into the vil­lage well so that his friends could drink sweet wa­ter.

Nat­u­rally that act of “gen­eros­ity” back­fired, with his fa­ther, Thomas Ny­on­golo Nkomo, giv­ing the younger Joshua a thor­ough hid­ing.

He also talked of how unique Joshua was as a child, who re­port­edly had lion cubs as part of his large team of friends.

“There are many sto­ries told of my fa­ther, es­pe­cially of his gen­eros­ity. See, our grand­fa­ther was a busi­ness­man, a suc­cess­ful one for that mat­ter, we are told that at one time he had a two thou­sand-herd of cat­tle, ran a bak­ery and had a lorry and we are talk­ing of the 1940s. My fa­ther, be­ing the gen­er­ous dude from the hood, would al­ways look at ways of help­ing his friends out.”

Though much is told and known of Joshua Nkomo, one of the best kept “se­crets” is that he mar­ried his step-mother’s sis­ter. Michael Nkomo, though, says Fa­ther Zim­babwe wrote about this mar­i­tal ar­range­ment in his 1985 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “The Story of My Life”.

Thomas Ny­on­golo Nkomo was mar­ried to Gogo Mlimo Hadebe and the cou­ple was blessed with seven chil­dren: Paul (died at 7), Alice (died in 1998), Joshua, Otil­lia (and her twin, who passed away in in­fancy), Stephen (died in 2003) and Ed­ward.

In 1942, Gogo Hadebe passed away, and Thomas Nkomo had to look for a new wife and he set­tled for Mama El­iz­a­beth Ma­fuyana, who is still sur­viv­ing. She bore him four chil­dren: Pa­trick, Regina, Mar­garet and Clara.

At the wed­ding of Thomas and El­iz­a­beth, Joshua met Joanna, sis­ter to El­iz­a­beth and fell in love and they later mar­ried and were blessed with Themba, Thandiwe, Tu­tani, Michael and Louise.

Nick­named Fa­ther Zim­babwe, Joshua Nkomo was a po­lit­i­cal colos­sus whose be­liefs were largely rooted in the phi­los­o­phy of Ubuntu, some­one who saw peace as the cor­ner­stone to na­tion-build­ing.

“My fa­ther did not see any dif­fer­ence in hu­man be­ings, ei­ther on colour, racial, re­li­gious, gen­der, creed or po­lit­i­cal grounds. He was a self­less per­son and these are the val­ues of Joshua Nkomo that we would like to pass onto the younger gen­er­a­tion through celebrations like these.”

Photo ex­hi­bi­tion at the Nkomo cul­tural fes­ti­val

Mr Michael Nkomo show­ing the graves of the Nkomo fam­ily mem­bers

Nkomo’s statue wel­comes vis­i­tors to the fes­ti­val

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