ZIMBABWE – THOUSANDS of Zimbabweans and leaders from the Sadc region thronged the National Heroes Acre yesterday for the burial of Vice President John Landa Nkomo who died on Thursday last week after a long battle with cancer. He was 79.
Some of the leaders from Sadc that attended the burial of the late VP Nkomo include South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Zambia’s Vice President Guy Scott, Botswana’s Vice President Dr Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Tanzania’s Vice President Dr Mohammed Bilal and Namibia’s Prime Minister Hage Geingob.
Earlier in the morning thousands camped at the Stodart Hall in Mbare, Harare to give the veteran nationalist a befitting sendoff.
As early as 7 am, crowds of people from across the political divide had gathered at the hall and nearby grounds before the hearse carrying VP Nkomo’s body arrived to a resounding welcome by youths singing revolutionary songs.
The crowd, led by Mbare Chimurenga Choir, also sang and danced as several dignitaries and service chiefs arrived. Among the crowd were school children and the elderly.
President Mugabe led the dignitaries and close relatives in viewing the body before it was taken to the National Heroes Acre for burial.
He was followed by Vice President Joice Mujuru, DPM Mutambara, DPM Khupe and senior ZanuPF, MDCT, MDC and Government officials.
As the body left Stodart Hall, the thousands lined the streets of Mbare to catch a glimpse of the hearse carrying the accomplished freedom fighter.
Notable MDCT officials present at the hall included Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, the party’s organising secretary Nelson Chamisa and national chairman Lovemore Moyo. Deputy Prime Arthur Mutambara was also at the venue.
Leaders from the various political parties in the inclusive Government were also part of the large crowd resulting in some officials failing to find seats in the tent provided. As early as 8am mourners began converging on the national shrine and by 10am the grand stand was filled to capacity.
Parking space also ran out resulting in some parking their cars in the car park at the adjacent National Sports Stadium. Choral groups also provided music before the burial while director in the Ministry of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture Reverend Paul Damasane also recited a powerful poem in honour of the contribution of VP Nkomo in the fight against colonialism.
Some showers also fell while President Mugabe was delivering his speech while a flypast by the Airforce of Zimbabwe was also carried out in honour of the late Vice President Nkomo. Mr Jabulani Nkomo, the family representative and son to the late vice president expressed his gratitude to Zimbabweans for the support rendered on the death of VP Nkomo.
“The condolences and accolades that have come from across the country and political divide have made us strong,” he said. Jabulani described his father as a person who was dedicated to his work.
“Our father was a dedicated cadre who would not be swayed from what he set out to do. He was a strong fighter even when his health was failing,” he said. He said the dedication of VP Nkomo to the liberation of the country resulted in a lot of suffering for his family as they were constantly harassed by the racist Rhodesian security agencies.
Mr Nkomo, however, said his father was a committed family man despite spending a lot of time away from them because of his political commitments.
Meanwhile, Vice President Joice Mujuru yesterday conveyed her message of condolences. “Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Joice T.R Mujuru, Minister of State in the Office of Vice President, Sylvester Nguni, Dr Judith Kateera and staff wish to convey their condolences to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Mugabe and especially to the Nkomo family on their huge loss of Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe John Landa Nkomo.
“May the Nkomo family find solace in that their loss is also felt and shared by all Zimbabweans who worked with him, benefited from his wisdom and today enjoy fruits of his unifying ingenuity,” reads the statement.
VP Nkomo was born on August 22, 1934 in the then Gwaai Reserve (present day Tsholotsho) in Matabeleland North province. He was the third born in a family of nine, four girls and five boys.
He did his primary education at Manqe Primary School, St Nanian’s Primary School and then went to Solusi Mission. In 1953 he moved to Bulawayo where he did private studies for his Junior Certificate and later enrolled to train as a teacher in Lower Gweru in 1955.
The late VP Nkomo was the founding member of the African National Congress between 1958 and 1959. He then joined the National Democratic Party in 1960 before joining the Zimbabwe African People’s Union in 1961.
VP Nkomo was arrested on several occasions by the Ian Smith regime and was detained at Gonakudzingwa between 1966 and 1968. In 1971 he joined the African National Council where he was deputy secretary general.
He was instrumental in the formation of the Patriotic Front, a union between Zapu and Zanu and attended the Geneva Conference on 1976.
He was, however, seriously injured by a parcel bomb that killed Cde Jason Ziyapapa Moyo in 1977 and continued to suffer from the effects of the incident up to the time of his death. After the country gained independence in 1980, he joined the new Government and served as Deputy Minister of Industry and Energy in 1981 and later as Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office.
He was appointed Minister of Labour, Manpower Planning and Social Welfare from 1988 to 1995 and then as Minister of Local Government and Rural Development in 1995 before being appointed Minister of Local Government and National Housing in 1997.
Between 2000 and 2001, he was Minister of Home Affairsand was then appointed Minister of State in the President’s Office Responsible for Special Affairs in 2002.
VP Nkomo became Speaker of the Parliament in 2005 up to 2008 and was then appointed Minister of State in the President’s Office responsible for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration in 2009 after the inception of the Inclusive Government.He was appointed Vice President on December 14, 2009.