Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
MAFELA Trust national director Cde Zephaniah Nkomo who played a critical role in documenting the history of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu) and its armed wing, the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra), has died.
Cde Nkomo died on Sunday evening aged 70 at a private hospital in Bulawayo.
Family spokesperson Mr Mandla Nkomo said Cde Nkomo succumbed to a respiratory illness but had tested negative for Covid-19.
“He died of respiratory complications but had tested negative for Covid-19 so we suspect he succumbed to pneumonia,” said Mr Nkomo.
He described the late Mr Nkomo as a unifier who helped many former freedom fighters’ children in Matabeleland region to apply for the Presidential scholarships.
“My uncle was the unifier, the voice of reason and the one person who almost everyone knew they could turn to. He was a mission driven individual who stuck to a project until he delivered on it. Most people don’t know this but he almost single-handedly ensured that many children of war veterans from Matabeleland benefited from the Presidential scholarship programme to study at Fort Hare,” he said.
Mafela Trust chairman Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube described Cde Nkomo’s death as a huge loss for the organisation considering the research work he was involved in.
He said Cde Nkomo was instrumental in fulfilling Mafela Trust’s mandate to document Zipra and Zapu history after its archives were confiscated by the Government during Gukurahundi disturbances.
“He joined the liberation war when he was still very young. We used to call him and those of his age okijana (children),” said Rtd Col Tshinga Dube.
He said following political disturbances between 1983-1987, Zipra and Zapu records were confiscated by the Government making it difficult for the party to know those who were killed and those that survived the liberation war.
“After the 1987 Unity Accord, Father Zimbabwe, the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo said let’s register a trust at the High Court and we did so in 1992. The trust had the sole duty of researching and documenting the Zipra/Zapu work. Initially, the late Dr Dumiso Dabengwa led the Trust before I took over from him as the chair as he had other work commitments.
That is when I engaged Zephaniah Nkomo to be a co-ordinator for the Mafela Trust. He was conducting research and keeping the records for the Trust.
He did a sterling job in conducting the research as he interviewed a lot of people who came from across the country to search for information regarding Zipra/Zapu.”
Rtd Col Tshinga Dube said Cde Nkomo filled a lot of information gaps on Zipra and Zapu which is critical.
Cde Nkomo was born in Ntoli communal area in then Bulilima-Mangwe District in 1951.
He did primary education at Ntoli Primary School where he studied up to Standard Six.
Cde Nkomo then moved to Bulawayo for his secondary education and attended Msiteli Secondary School in Mpopoma suburb where he completed his Ordinary Level.
He worked at a Supersonic factory in Bulawayo before joining the liberation struggle 1977. He is survived by his wife and five children. — @knottily.