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Transcript of Enos Nkala on Question Time

Former Defence Minister and ZANU PF founding member, Enos Nkala, is the guest on Question Time and answers questions sent in by SW Radio Africa listeners. Nkala denies any involvement in the Gukurahundi Massacres and claims he never said he “regrets being Ndebele and would do anything to wash it away.” He also dismissed as ‘silly’ reports that he had an affair with Robert Mugabe’s late wife, Sally. Journalist Lance Guma spoke to Nkala and posed the questions. 

Enos Nkala
Enos Nkala

Interview broadcast 19 October 2011

Lance Guma: Former Defence Minister and ZANU PF founding member, Enos Nkala, is our guest on Question Time. We asked SW Radio Africa listeners to send in their questions using Face Book, Twitter, Skype, email and text messages. I am happy to report that Mr Nkala joins us on the line; thank you for joining us Mr Nkala.

Enos Nkala: Okay.

Guma: Now Zanu PF was formed in your house in Highfields, Harare, August 1963 – can we start from there? We would like you to remind our listeners how it all happened.

Nkala: Well we were a splinter group, we pulled out of Zapu, a group of people and decided to form a new party called Zanu. It wasn’t Zanu PF, it was Zanu. Then later when there was Zanu Ndonga and Zanu, so we put a PF because Zapu and Zanu had come together under Patriotic Front. PF means Patriotic Front. So Zanu was formed as an opposition party splinter group coming out of Zapu and there were a variety of reasons that caused the split, disagreement if you want to use that word, with Joshua Nkomo.

Joshua Nkomo was president of Zapu, we were with Chikerama, Nyandoro and many others. So we disagreed on what to do – were we to continue to hold rallies, continue to just talk about whites, democracy and all the kind of ‘isms’ but some of us thought we should be a liberation movement. Focus our minds on what to do because it wasn’t easy to dislodge the regime of the time without fighting so the issue was one of going to war.

Guma: And how did Robert Mugabe get to lead this movement?

Nkala: Mugabe was not a leader at that time. The leader was Ndabaningi Sithole; the vice president was Leopold Takawira, Mugabe was secretary general, I was treasurer general. So we were the four top and many others below us. So when we revolted against Sithole in detention, we decided to make Mugabe acting president until such time as we were released and then we would look for a new president.

When we got released, we did not get together to discuss that issue. Some went to Mozambique and there was a lot of fighting and so on. So when Chitepo died in Lusaka we asked Mugabe and Tekere to go to Mozambique to regroup our fighting forces. So there were disagreements between Sithole and some of us and Mugabe continued. We were impressed with his leadership at that time, not as of now. Now I think he’s a bit out of order.

Guma: Now let’s get to that because this week you have been in the headlines after calling on Zanu PF to throw away Mugabe if it wants to win the next election and you described the present leadership as comprising cowboys, bootlickers, power seekers and fly-by-night politicians in pursuit of glory and personal enrichment. Why do you feel this way?

enos nkala gukurahundi
Enos Nkala

Nkala: Well I don’t think really there is solid leadership. A lot of people who have come into the leadership of Zanu are self-seekers, if I could use that word without going any further. They are looking for power, looking for glory and so on. They are not dedicated to the original principles of Zanu, running the country in the way we had perceived at the time we were fighting.

Now the country is in disarray; we have no currency of our own. About two, three years ago, we almost collapsed, totally collapsed and my good old friend Mugabe was leader. In other words he thought he was still what we thought he was but yet he has a lot of faults, defaults and lack of understanding of what we should do to continue to be a respectable country.

Guma: Now on Face Book, Freedom Ndaba wants to ask you, as a founding member of Zanu PF, why did you and your colleagues allow Robert Mugabe to stay on for so long instead of the standard two terms in office accepted the world over? Are you also not guilty of grooming a dictator is his question?

Nkala: (laughs) Well I do admit that I may be guilty by default but when you, as you go on, you get to know each other well so I am at fault and I accept that I am at fault among others.

Guma: How hard is it for those in Zanu PF to speak out against Mugabe? Because the WikiLeaks are now showing us that people are confident saying things behind Mugabe’s back while meeting US diplomats but when it comes to Zanu PF meetings nobody seems courageous enough to tell the truth?

Nkala: Well some people are unable to speak out openly or even face the leader and say you are wrong here, there and there and show why you think he should move out, so they go behind the scenes and when they go to diplomats, have a glass of whisky and maybe they’ve lost their minds, they begin to talk about things which shouldn’t be told to diplomats.

And this is why I think Zanu PF is full of cowboys, weaklings and fly-by-night kind of chaps because you need to face each other and tell each other the truth but a good lot of them are just useless creatures – that’s my view. I’m not saying they may not be useless but that is the way I observe them and some of them I have known them for a long time as go behind the scenes kind of leaders and they cannot face any problem head on.

Guma: Hebron Sibanda wants to ask you – if it were not for the Willowvale vehicle scandal where ministers bought cars at concessionary rates and later sold them on, would you have left Zanu PF or the government at the time?

Nkala: I don’t think so. So why does that come in? (laughs) I don’t think so…

Guma: I think maybe his question…

Nkala:  I don’t think Mugabe would be there by now.

Guma: So you would not say you are not in Zanu PF or you are not in government mainly because of the Willowvale scandal?

Nkala: Well whatever, whether it was a scandal or what, it’s all nonsense. You buy something at a lower price, sell it at higher price – what is the scandal there? It’s business.

Guma: Well the argument would be that as ministers you abused your position.

Nkala: Not at all, it was all foolish. It was because this weak man, so-called Robert Mugabe wanted to weed some of us out, that was the reason, it was not about cars. It was blown out of proportion and if you believe it, continue to believe it as you like, it’s up to you but my view is that it was a bit idiotic for anyone to blow that thing out of proportion.

Guma: Recently you said you did not want to be buried at the national heroes acre despite your immense contribution to the liberation struggle. Why do you feel this way?

Nkala: My being not buried at Heroes Acre does not cancel my status. I don’t want to go there, just don’t want, there are reasons why I think I should be buried in my region, within my province by my people, I don’t want my body to be carried and put into that place, I don’t like it personally from my point of view. That thing was copied from North Korea; I’m not a North Korean, I’m a Zimbabwean, proud of what I am and my origin so I’m not going to be thrown to some hill for the prestige of it. That’s my reason.

Guma: The one matter that has always stuck on you and I’m sure you always get a lot of questions on that is the Gukurahundi exercise. On Face Book Kay Banda sent us a question and he says to you “how do you sleep at night with all that blood of innocent, defenceless people massacred during Gukurahundi on your watch as Defence Minister?”

Nkala: That Banda and who else including you are peddling lies which you cannot prove. Those are lies. You ask Robert Mugabe who formed Gukurahundi? Who deployed Gukurahundi in Matabeleland? Who gave them instructions to do what? It wasn’t me. I was Minister of Finance at the time so how could I run Gukurahundi? It’s all nonsense. It’s all people who are ill-informed, who pick things from the press and talk like this Banda is doing.

Guma: At one meeting, I think it was a meeting organized by Imbovane Yamahlabezulu you did admit Gukurahundi was eternal hell for you and that you regretted the whole episode.

Nkala: That’s a lie, can you prove that?

Guma: Yes, this is actually an article where…so you categorically deny..

Nkala: That’s a lie, that’s untrue, you can’t prove it, you can’t pick a newspaper, you can’t pick a statement that was made by me, it might have been made by people like you, people of the press. The press enjoys giving people names and giving people what they have not done.

That’s a lie, it’s untrue, absolutely untrue. You ask Mugabe – he owned Gukurahundi, he deployed Gukurahundi, he got the Koreans to train them, I was not part of that. I was in cabinet, I was opposed to it, it’s one of the major reasons why I don’t like Mugabe and maybe why he doesn’t like me. That should close the subject.

Guma: Martin Chinyanga Da William wants to know from your own perspective what was the real reason behind the Gukurahundi exercise?

Nkala: Behind the Gukurahundi?

Guma: Yes.

Nkala: You need a full day my dear.

Guma: Well just summarise it for some of our listeners.

Nkala: You remember that there were whites who were travelling, innocent visitors in this country that were going to Victoria Falls who were captured by dissidents and they were never accounted for. That was the reason for Gukurahundi and many other issues. We were two major political parties and both of us were armed and why should the blame be put entirely on Zanu leadership? Why not on Zapu leadership?

Guma: Well I suppose the problem is innocent people were killed. If it was killing the combatants it would be one thing but killing innocent people who have nothing to do with the actual conflicts is the problem.

Nkala: Long before you were born young man, innocent people were killed. When there is conflict, the grass suffers, innocent people. And when we were fighting the whites, you have never talked about that because maybe you like whites. Many innocent people were killed, there were villages where people were grouped together and locked up, many people died. We suffered, you didn’t. You read about it. So you can peddle whatever stories you people want to peddle it wouldn’t bother me because I know the truth, I was not involved in the massacres, whatever those massacres were.

Guma: I have an email from Sibhekaphi reminding you of your statement uttered several years ago that you regret being Ndebele and if you had a way you could wash away your Ndebeleness. How do you feel about that statement now?

Nkala: (laughs) That’s another lie. It was created by my opponents. My opponents were fighting me, peddled that story that I did say that. That’s another lie. It was a political statement made by my political opponents to try and destroy me. That’s all I can say, I cannot go into details. How could I – I’m a proud Ndebele? Whatever you like, I fought as a Ndebele, I entered politics as a Ndebele and I left as a Ndebele so that’s nonsense, its rubbish, it belongs to the dustbin.

Guma: In 2009 you claimed that your successor as Defence Minister Moven Mahachi was assassinated at the behest of Robert Mugabe because he opposed the looting of diamonds in the DRC. Can we revisit that matter? A lot of questions have come around that. Is that true?

Nkala: That’s another lie, I didn’t say that. Please, whoever killed Moven Mahachi, I don’t know. That’s another lie. I’m a politician, I’ve political enemies, I have people who want to waylay me and say things I have not said so forget about that, that’s a lie. You can forget about it, it’s nonsense.

Guma: You seem to have a lot of things that you were quoted as having said which you are denying.

Nkala: Very many. Very, very many and I’m surprised you should choose those. Why don’t you choose other positive things?

Guma: Okay we’ll get to those ones. A recent article by Thembani Dube  describes you and Professor Jonathan Moyo as “arguably the most notorious Ndebele leaders since the formation of the Ndebele nation in 1821 under King Mzilikazi. Do you think that’s fair criticism?”

Nkala: I was reading it, I saw it. I saw it just yesterday as I was going through the computer, I saw that statement. Just leave it where it belongs. Whether I am a good person or not a good person I wouldn’t care a damn about it.

Guma: But you would understand why people would make such comparisons isn’t it?

Nkala: Well let them go ahead. Who are they? After all that Dube, I’ve never heard of that Dube, he’s just a useless creature, maybe a university lecturer or some funny gangster somewhere. He’s entitled to his gangster thinking, that’s all, forget about it.

Guma: Tarisai Mazibanhanga wants to ask you if there’s a difference between Enos Nkala the Defence Minister in the 80s and Enos Nkala the person now? Do you think you have changed as a person and are there things that you regret doing?

Nkala: I have nothing that I regret. I’m a fighter, I fought to liberate you and liberate that person and in the process of fighting I may have made many mistakes, maybe unknown to me and that is all I know. I haven’t changed, I remain what I am.

Guma: You are on record as saying you have written a book chronicling all that has happened in Zanu PF since its formation, including the Gukurahundi Massacres and the assassinations of several high profile politicians using car accidents. What’s the latest on your book?

Nkala: (laughs) I don’t want to talk about that.

Guma: Just briefly. People are very interested in it. One time you said you would only have it published when you…

Nkala: They’re always asking me about that, I don’t want, you are digging too much into my private opinion, my private thrust, I’m doing a lot of research, authoring a lot of things and that’s not their concern, why should they want to know before it is published?

Guma: People were concerned for your safety because at one time you said the book would only be published when you have died and people were thinking oh why, why is he saying that?

Nkala: They are entitled to think that way but I am entitled to think the way I think and I don’t regret I said that. I will continue to do that and it will come out after my death.

Guma: Just one more question on the book, we understand in the book you also talk about the death of people like Josiah Tongogara and Herbert Chitepo among others. Is that true?

Nkala: (laughs) I knew all these things. I know much more than you do because some of them happened during our time and I’m not prepared to discuss that over the telephone.

Guma: Okay my final question for you Mr Enos Nkala, it’s been a pleasure having you on the programme. My final question is probably the most controversial because it’s there, it’s reported, it’s on WikiPedia, it’s everywhere and several listeners have contacted us wanting to know if rumours or reports that you had an affair with Mugabe’s late wife, Sally Mugabe, are true?

Nkala: (laughs) Oh please don’t be silly. Don’t be silly please.

Guma: Absolutely not true?

Nkala: Please, please don’t be silly.

Guma: But are you aware it’s on the internet and there are reports actually saying this?

Nkala: I haven’t seen that. I would like to sue that person.

Guma: If you go on the WikiPedia entry on Enos Nkala where it lists, it says everything about your life history, the formation of Zanu PF, your stints as a minister, at the bottom it’s actually written there that you faced these accusations.

Nkala: Please, some of these statements or questions should not come from your mouth because they are ill-conceived, they show lack of maturity and respect, that’s why I’m saying don’t be silly and whoever has put that question is just being silly.

Guma: But as journalists, if something is there online and in the public domain, surely we can only get clarification from you as the person concerned?

Nkala: Well if you read about (Winston) Churchill, if you read about any other leader in the world, there are things that have been have been told about them which were completely untrue. So forget about that. I have told you and I have used a very strong word that that is silly.

Guma: Well Zimbabwe, many thanks to former Defence Minister and Zanu PF founding member Mr Enos Nkala who was our guest on Question Time and we hope SW Radio listeners will be satisfied with the answers that he has given to the many questions that you sent over to us. Mr Nkala thank you for joining us.

Nkala: Okay, but watch out, don’t allow silly people to influence you to ask silly questions.

To listen to the programme:


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