By Mhlomuli Ncube
Family, friends & Bulawayo Minister of State Honourable Judith Ncube are remembering the late Father Zimbabwe, Vice President Dr Joshua Nkomo at his Matshamhlope home in Bulawayo. The place which has been turned into a museum has various artefacts speaking on the late leader’s life as well as that of his late wife Mama Mafuyane.
Father Zimbabwe passed on this day in 1999.
The serenity around the House speaks volumes of what I have heard and read about the late nationalist. Those gathered at this residence also resemble an angelic semblance as the preacher continues to make reference to the “love one another, scripture”. It is not by coincidence that he had to read it, this is remembering the life of a man who thrived in love and was seen off in love when he passed away 21 years ago on the first of July in 1999.
The master of ceremonies Dumisani Nkomo, is a nephew, the son of Edward Nkomo, brother to Umdala Wethu. All in the audience are captivated by his reference to the late nationalist as “your father.” I would not personally allow sharing such a huge figure with anybody if he was in my family. This is the story of a man who while serving the nation managed to stay close to the hearts of his people. By any standards, even the former vice president’s home in Matshamhlophe, is not even imposing. One may just write it off with no second thought, save for its visible Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Museum signage by the gate.
A devout Catholic in his day, the commemorations is also presided over by Father Jeremy Dube of the same church.
“Let us remember him for his love,” it hits me right in the face then how love can still be transferred across generations while still being pasted on the back of this nationalist who cemented it like this.
Elderly men of his generation stand up to share their thoughts too. Interesting that even after so many years, they still shed tears as if Umdala Wethu did farewell just yesterday. And I repeat to myself as the communion is passed around, this is a story of love, a legacy of cementing relations, a testimony of a life lived for others.
I spot the most senior civil servant in Bulawayo, the resident minister Judith Ncube. She is among the crowds and without a presence at all as if to typify the Father Zimbabwe life where all just had to be as humble as him. In his life, he was known for drawing all to him and even greeting neighbours across the fence. I have only heard those stories but from the testimonies here and the conduct of the people at this gathering, I can vouch it is true.
There is something about the Nyongolo clan elders seated here also. Besides the physical resemblance to the late, the dignity with which they have preserved their late’s memory is telling on its own. Perhaps it is a story for another day but today: the Father Zimbabwe memory is being lived in a very beautiful way across the nation. No soul had impacted me so much though never having met him face to face. This is the story of his life, it is a story of love and sacrifice. It is a story that was written in the stars, raised humbly in both rural and urban environments, watered in the struggle and in post-independence Zimbabwe, yet continues to be read as if it is new. Long live Father Zimbabwe!