Nduduzo Tshuma, Political Editor
AT 88, Mr Edward Nkomo, sibling to the late Vice President Dr Joshua Nkomo, is the last of the Nkomo brothers and still holds on to the nationalist leader’s enduring values of unity and the importance of family.
Dr Nkomo died on this day in 1999.
A day before the anniversary of his brother’s death, Mr Nkomo vividly remembers how his brother always preached unity and the importance of nationhood.
“A nation is a nation by people. The Nkomo family is full of people of different ethinc backgrounds, there are Shonas, there are members with Malawi roots. There was a song by George, I only remember the first name, when we were growing up which said some say mangwanani, some say salibonani, and many other languages but we are one people,” said Mr Nkomo, in an interview at Hillside suburb.
“What you should remember is that you are one nation, we will integrate more and dont be surprised by your children coming tomorrow with a white girl to say this is my wife, that is ok because we are one people, things and times do change but we are one people.”
In the house, there is a giant portrait of Dr Nkomo and a number of pictures hanging on the wall.
The gallery is a rich depiction of history, generations of family ties and sibling unity that Dr Nkomo treasured and preached.
In one of the pictures, Dr Nkomo is addressing the United Nations General Assembly in 1962.
“Here he was telling world leaders about the situation in then Rhodesia and the movement for black majority rule,” explains Mr Nkomo.
Another is a picture of Dr Nkomo taken in South Africa in 1947 flanked by his brothers Stephen and Mackenzie.
Then there is another of Dr Nkomo attending Mr Nkomo’s 40th wedding anniversary in 1997.
“He was now ill, this was at my farm, these were the last years,” says Mr Nkomo.
Annually since the death of Dr Nkomo on July 1 1999, Mr Nkomo reveals, the family meets on the day to reflect on the life of Father Zimbabwe.
Mr Nkomo traced the formation of the National Democratic Party, its banning and arrest of nationalist leaders and their detention at Gonakudzingwa.
Dr Nkomo was detained for 10 years.
“I know the place, I went there (Gonakudzingwa) about three times. Joshua was detained along with the likes of Joseph Msika and many others while Zanu leaders were detained in Wha Wha. He was detained there for 10 years until he was released in 1974,” said Mr Nkomo.
“Shortly before his release in 1974, he had no clothes, I had to buy a suit from a certain Indian chap, I don’t remember his name, because there were rumours that they were going to be released. I went there on November 2, 1974 with Bango.”
Interestingly, Mr Nkomo revealed, about nine days before Dr Nkomo’s release, the nationalist leader asked his young brother to go to their parents’ grave site to pray.
“He delegated me to go to our parents’ grave site at St Joseph Mission and say some prayer, which I did. Surprisingly, only nine days after that, they were released from Gonakudzingwa, he was now old but he was not as big as he became in later years,” said Mr Nkomo.
He, however, could not share the prayer as it was confidential.
After Dr Nkomo’s release, there were talks between the parties and the Rhodesian government in 1975.
He said during that time, the family was hit by a tragedy when their sister Otilia Nkomo was knocked down by a car.
“We buried her and in those 10 months, Joshua built that house (in Pelandaba) where (Dr Nkomo’s son) Sibangilizwe is living, that is where I got married myself in 1956. He wanted to build that house so that his children would have a place to stay,” said Mr Nkomo.
He said when the talks failed Dr Nkomo declared “to speak with a coloniser is just as hard as a rock, from now on the future of this country will be decided on the battlefield”.
He narrated events leading to independence and post-independence including Gukurahundi, one of the country’s darkest chapters up to the signing of the Unity Accord in 1987.
“That is what we do, we think of all these things when we come together as a family and recapitulate what has happened of course through cultural processes and prayer,” said Mr Nkomo about the annual meetings on July 1.
“That is why on this one (today) there will be a priest. When Joshua died, he had decided to be a Roman Catholic. It’s what we have been doing for the past 20 years. I’m the centre now, all my brothers are gone and we honour Joshua through unity. That unity still exists. The most important thing to any family is unity and prayer to God.”
He also takes time to appreciate the erection of Dr Nkomo’s statue in December 2013.
“That statue is wonderful, it’s one of the great things (late former President Cde Robert) Mugabe did. Generations and generations will always discuss, who was this? Those of you who know will then tell them of this tale,” said Mr Nkomo.
A career educationist, Mr Nkomo said Dr Nkomo discouraged him from taking part in active politics but advised him to pursue a career in education.
“He said wena mfana asisoze sife sonke, yekela lokhu and be an educationist. I did that, I acquired my degree in 1974 atw the University of South Africa majoring in Zulu and Sociology. I got some courses in political science and history, those were my minors so after my degree, I taught for a year at Mzingwane High School and then in 1975 I was transferred to Mpopoma High School where I was the head in the African languages.”
He said he remained in the education sector and rose through the ranks on the administrative side until his retirement.
The first born to his mother was Alice Nkomo born in 1910 followed by Paul Christopher Nkomo in 1914, Dr Nkomo in 1917, Mackenzie Nkomo in 1920 and Otilia Nkomo 1922.
“These were born in Tjimani under Chief Bango, that is where the family lived until they were chased from the area by the colonialists and moved to Chief Bidi’s area,” said Mr Nkomo.
“That’s where Stephen was born in 1926. The last but not least, me, was born when nobody expected in 1932,” said Mr Nkomo.
He said after the death of their mother in 1942 his father married another woman, Elizabeth Fuyana, in 1945 who bore him Patrick who passed away, and Regina, Margaret and Clara who are still alive.
“From my mother I’m the only surviving child. My three sisters from MaFuyana are all alive. Two are in the United States and Margaret is in Harare. I literally raised Margaret, she lived here with us,” said Mr Nkomo.