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Vilification of Joshua Nkomo is a flawed political strategy

Quality, not quantity, is important in political communication. To mischaracterise the late Joshua Nkomo, sacrifice and reduce him to a ZANU PF icon and coin his political ideological location as intently anti-Mthwakazi freedom is malicious disinformation that unfortunately serves to afford scoundrels in ZANU PF a peaceable existence they do not deserve. Focusing public ire on Nkomo for Mthwakazi’s problems is political redundancy; it is to lack not only class and vision but a deliberate disinformation and misinformation about Nkomo’s nationalist agenda.

Disagreeing with Nkomo’s political ideology and strategy is one thing and a legitimately democratic act but irresponsible politicking is another and reprehensible. De-construction and reconstruction of Nkomo’s past with the purpose of denying and obliterating public’s understanding of the man is indefensible propaganda that should not be condoned.

Concern about recent social media anti-Nkomo rhetoric is that it reveals and sets the tone for a manifestly defective political analysis that attempts to scrutinise his decisions in isolation, detaching them from his ideological stand thereby leaving his actions cut off from the context that shaped them.

If the critique of Nkomo is to be objective and informative, it has to accurately capture the context within which his decisions were made and not be a cherry picking exercise intent on justifying views of his critics. Whether we like it not, the fact remains that Nkomo’s conception of a nation was that of a collective Zimbabwe and not an independent Mthwakazi; he was for multiparty democracy, majority rule, equality of all humans, pro- freedom and liberty for all Zimbabweans, and other factors aside, he delivered on his core mandate.

Arguably, Nkomo did make politically costly blunders and the political dynamics of the time did not favour him; the combination of which allowed ZANU a free ride to pursue its manifestly dangerous agenda without checks and balance. However, Nkomo’s mistakes do not absolve ZANU PF of the responsibility of bad governance and brutality.

Nkomo delivered on his goal of decolonisation of Zimbabwe. Our generation is responsible for its goals. Those who want a separate Mthwakazi state bear responsibility to pursue and actualise it. In that journey Nkomo cannot be the reference point, any organisations trying to foster dependency on him for their political existence must review their approach.  

Any pro-Mthwakazi organisation that blatantly disrespects the late Nkomo shows a strong discontent with itself. Deep down it craves for half the popularity Nkomo enjoyed in the region at his prime and what frustrates them even more is the realisation that their lack of vision is the major problem, and not Nkomo.

Stagnation in the pro-Mthwakazi agenda is not a consequence of Nkomo’s actions or inactions but pro-Mthwakazi organisations’ failures. In an attempt to deflect questions on their legitimacy, these organisations are trying to distract attention from themselves to Nkomo.

The intensity of the vilification of Nkomo by some pro-Mthwakazi activists is unquestionable but the broader motive of the actions remains unclear. There is no coherent strategy that incentivises membership to these organisations and thus attract membership of those individuals who may buy into the new ‘evil/ sellout Nkomo’ narrative.

These organisations are taking the Mthwakazi populace for granted. As the public we need to counter the onslaught of the insidious politics in our daily environment; we need to irrevocably restructure our thinking and adjust the mechanism of our political engagement and relationship with politicians. What is evident is that surrendering power to politicians and taking everything for granted as well as accepting anything uncontested is not the future but the past.

People must reclaim their socio-political authority and gain grip of the political narrative. Politicians must be stopped from playing politics, evoking emotions and steering ire in the direction of individuals seen as an obstruction to their goals. We must redirect these pro-Mthwakazi groups into dealing with real issues affecting Mthwakazi citizens in a highly centralised and tribal Zimbabwe conceived and constructed by Mugabe and his fellow terrorists in ZANU, and never by Nkomo.

Isolating and vilifying Nkomo to gain public support is a flawed strategy in that Nkomo’s political influence in Mthwakazi had long waned before his death in 1999. The region is now mostly MDC in urban areas and contested between the MDC and ZANU PF in rural areas. This is where the pro-Mthwakazi groups’ strategy comes unstuck; the only way these groups will gain legitimacy will be through selling a good political product to the public combined with exposing ZANU PF/ MDC failings in Mthwakazi.

People need to wrestle power from politicians. An objective critique would correctly contextualise Nkomo’s decisions and not over- or under-contextualise his actions to the pro-Mthwakazi agenda. In his philosophical stand not only were people to be liberated from colonialism, racialised socio-political and economic systems, but from all forms of discrimination, including tribalism. Political gains from vilifying Nkomo have yet to be quantified but they are at best marginal. A cursory analysis of Facebook post activity (likes, comments and shares) on arguments focusing on the content and form of criticism of Nkomo’s ideological stance and actions does not objectively show a significant spike in interest in the host organisations or their representatives.


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