By David Mwanza
The late Father Zimbabwe Cde Joshua Nkomo also affectionately known as Umdala Wethu or Chibwe chitedza was a man of many colours.
To some he was a liberator, a pan Africanist and unifier, whilst to others he was more of a businessman and an agent of socio economic development.
Reflecting on his life which was taken away 21 years ago the ZANU PF Information and Publicity Department took time to talk to some individuals whose lives were touched by Father Zimbabwe and this is what they had to say.
Former Hwange Colliery Company Managing Director, Engineer Fredy Moyo:
“Speaking as an Engineer I would say that the times I interacted with him as a senior manager at Hwange Colliery he came out to me more as a businessman and socio development agent than a political activist.
“Specifically he was keen on infrastructure development. That is energy and railways as well as harnessing Zambezi water. He wanted our companies to be development agents for the region but equally understood businesses needed to operate viably before they could become safety nets for their communities.”
Former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Deputy Governor, Nicholas Ncube:
“I would like to remember Umdala first as a Pan Africanist who assisted South Africa, Namibia and Angola train its freedom fighters alongside the ZIPRA cadres in Lusaka and Tanzania. A liberator of this country alongside the likes of the late Cdes Hebert Chitepo and former President Robert Mugabe. They set a goal of liberating this country and they achieved it. They were successful in the quest to emancipate their people. In their quest to liberate Zimbabwe they never fought the whites, but they fought the colonial system. They fought oppression. After independence they adopted the path of reconciliation.
“A firm believer in national unity. A non tribalist, a nation builder who preached that there was more to what binds our communities in Zimbabwe than that divides us.
“An advocate of inclusive economic development and black empowerment. He encouraged black Zimbabweans to think big and participate in high level business. Thanks to that vision today we have millionaires in the agricultural sector. Think of how he helped Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa to get his telecom licence and today he is a billionaire. This of course is despite some flaws in the telecoms industry. Masiyiwa’s story is incomplete without the mentioning of Father Zimbabwe.
“A strong believer in national development. He believed everyone should have a stake in the development of Zimbabwe. Moving forward as a nation we should emulate some of the traits of our founding fathers. The focus should be more on inclusive economic development that delivers pure happiness on the faces of our people in every corner of Zimbabwe.”
Anonymous: “While on our routine road trip to Bulawayo, the late Father Zimbabwe poured out his heart on the trials and tribulations faced by women vendors who sold vegetables and tomatoes by the roadside. He felt pity for the women who spent hours in the scorching sun selling their tomatoes with their babies strapped on their back. All the way to Bulawayo he kept on asking how the women could be assisted to get a market to supply their produce without having to come and spend the day on the road side.
“Within three weeks we found ourselves on an international trip with the Umdala in Europe. After two days of intense meetings he walked back to our hotel with a smile and told us a huge market for tomato produce had been secured for our hardworking women. Within three months Father Zimbabwe made delivery of two tomatoe canning plants one set for Norton and the other Arda Balu Estate in Umguza. Unfortunately the old man died before seeing the project through. The Arda Balu project did not live to see the light of day while the Norton project is what today has come to be known as Best Fruit Processors (BFP). This is the Father Zimbabwe I knew.”
The late Father Zimbabwe will also be remembered for opening up the hunting business to the first black players in the early 1980s when the business was an exclusive white safari club.