By Violet Gonda
21 January 2013
President Robert Mugabe spoke at John Nkomo’s graveside on Monday as he was laid to rest at Heroes Acre. He praised Nkomo, who passed away last week after a long battle with cancer, as a man of principle who worked to encourage reconciliation between the rival parties, although some sections of Zimbabwean society say ZANU PF leaders from Matabeleland, like the Vice President, “failed to represent the people in this region and failed to discharge their duties.”
The President told thousands of mourners, including Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC President Welshman Ncube, South Africa’s Vice President Kgalema Motlanthe and Tanzanian Vice President Abeid Karume, that there was comfort in the fact that Nkomo, “died on the day that parties to the Global Political Agreement succeeded in narrowing their differences on matters that threatened our national interests.”
The Vice President died last Thursday at St. Anne’s Hospital after a long battle with cancer, on the same day that the coalition government reached an agreement over the controversial new constitution.
He said Nkomo used to say: “Peace begins with you, peace begins with me, peace begins with us.”
“Let’s carry the exhortation of peace forward by holding elections peacefully. We want peaceful elections. The overriding common denominator is that we are Zimbabweans,” the President said, in a speech that was interrupted a couple of times by heavy rains which disrupted the public address system as a result of power cuts.
While the Vice President has been lauded with praise there are some, especially from his region in Matabeleland North, who say he did not serve the interests of his own people and that Tsholotsho, where he came from, is still underdeveloped.
Commentator and UK based academic Brilliant Mhlanga said while Nkomo was generally a “likeable person” and a very “obedient” ZANU PF cadre, he was “very useless when you look at the discharge of his duties particularly as a Member of Parliament in Tsholotsho at some point and how he failed dismally, and he never did anything when he was a minister in government.”
Mhlanga added: “Robert Mugabe would be right to say John Nkomo would be what he described -because he served him very well. I suppose he was a very obedient person to him and willing to be led all the time.”
“John Nkomo even declared that he would wish to be the Vice President of Zimbabwe at one time, not that he wanted to be President, meaning that he preferred to be led.”
Speculation is rife that Zanu PF national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo is the strong candidate to step in as the next Vice President, but Mhlanga said: “We know Simon Nkaya Moyo is another useless person. He is very eloquent indeed but quite useless in all respects. He has never done anything for his own constituency in Mangwe and has failed dismally even to garner a sizeable number of meaningful votes.
“This shows us a lot and this is what has kept Zimbabwe divided and this is what will continue dividing Zimbabwe,” Mhlanga pointed out.
Mines Minister Obert Mpofu and Tsholotsho legislator Jonathan Moyo have also been suggested as possible candidates.
The President may be calling for peace but some observers have commented that this is just electioneering, as behind the scenes there is anything but peace.
Human rights groups have criticized the authorities for continued persecution of rights defenders as the country prepares for elections. This follows the latest arrest of Zimbabwe Human Rights Association director Okay Machisa. The ZimRights boss who is facing charges of conspiracy to commit fraud is still in police custody.