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Nkala: From NDP to Willowgate scandal

This is the last part of the article carried last week on a perspective on the late Enos Nkala based on the writer’s interaction and interview with him.

By Tjenesani Ntungakwa

Zanu PF founding member and former Defence minister Enos Nkala
Zanu PF founding member and former Defence minister Enos Nkala

THE National Democratic Party (NDP) had begun by attempting to engage the British by way of constitutional proposals.

Ideally, this was going to afford the majority black population an opportunity to exercise some leverage on power. The NDP came up with a document titled Confidential Copy — No 74, Southern Rhodesia Constitutional Conference Proposals for the Revision of the Southern Rhodesian Constitution.

The papers were dated January 16 1961. The proposals were clearly tabulated in sections and subsections whose headings covered such aspects as the governor, the legislature and so forth. According to Enos Nkala, the proposals marked a beginning in the internal disagreements of the NDP, triggering a chain of events which eventually led to the formation of Zanu in 1963.

Nkala felt that the thrust of the negotiations left Joshua Nkomo in a comprised situation. Some of the specifics, such as Section 10, referred to the right of security and not subject to unreasonable searches.

Section 16 made reference to the right to acquire and lease property without undue consideration of race or creed.

Section 27 was clear on such matters as the registration as well as preparation of voting lists.

Among those active in the process were the likes of Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and Tarcius George Silundika who had become the NDP representative in Cairo, Egypt.

The ideas in the proposed constitution reflected the desire to create more room for the generality of the black people whose interests the NDP sought to represent.

Naturally, the constitution of 1961 was drawn with the assistance of Rhodesia’s first black lawyer, Herbert Chitepo. A similar attempt at engaging the British government had also taken place in Nyasaland (Malawi) and Northern Rhodesia (Zambia).

Sithole, Chitepo and Nkomo were privy to the talks that took place under the watchful eye of Duncan Sandys, the British envoy. It was from there that Nkala felt that Nkomo was being outmanoeuvred by Sandys. The NDP was pushing towards one-man-one-vote.

However, Nkala argued that the move did not necessarily translate into a qualitative franchise. In other words, there were no grounds of ensuring that the support of the NDP was to have more room in terms of representation in the institutions of power.

The total assembly seats were put at 45 and out of those, the NDP were to walk away with 15 which Nkala described as having been a “pittance”.

Nkomo is said to have called the whole exercise a “stepping stone” towards something more tangible. Nkala’s argument was such that Nkomo had obviously adopted a soft posture which had never been the motivation of the NDP. Leopold Takawira, who represented the NDP in London, seemed to have also expressed the same perception.

Gradually, as Nkala related the issue, even the media began to portray Nkomo as a more “civil” option among the leaders of the NDP, something which did not help his situation. He said the media began to say “among sharks, Nkomo is the moderate”.

At the end of it all, it was felt that Sandys came out as the winner, reflecting an inherent threat of white liberals whom Nkala felt posed an incremental danger to the efforts of setting Zimbabwe free.

For the liberals were from the school of thought which advocated a gradual and evolutionary — as opposed to revolutionary — process towards the emancipation of indigenous people.

This was compounded by a perceived disgruntlement within the higher ranks of the NDP. In some circles it was felt that the NDP had become a powerful broker in the politics of Southern Rhodesia and was capable of doing more. By the end of 1960, it had stretched to various parts of the country.

In Bulawayo, for instance, the NDP branch was chaired by Zephenia K Sehwa who was in constant clash with the United Federal Party’s organising secretary, an S Kock. In November 1960, an NDP delegation comprising of Paul Mushonga, Enoch Dumbutshena and Washington Malianga visited the NDP office at Golder’s Green in the UK.

After the conference, Nkomo was reported in the Chronicle and Rhodesia Herald of February 28 1961 to have flown to London. The NDP was subsequently banned in the latter half of 1961 and Zapu came up as an alternative. However, when Zapu was formed, Nkala was in detention.

The prevailing mood in the leadership of Zapu was such that no other party was to be organised in the event of the same Zapu being proscribed. On a strategic note it made sense because there was need to ensure a focussed continuity given the upheavals around nationalists.

Nkala’s observations were such that there was need to start preparing for an armed struggle and such would have required another party to be in place. The long and short of it was that, a loose anti-Nkomo coalition cropped up within Zapu.

It included Nkala, Henry Hamadziripi and Takawaira who had also earlier on voiced their disapproval of Nkomo’s tactics in handling the 1961 constitutional conference. James Chikerema came out to defend Nkomo and publicly denounced the faction. This was that clique which met at Nkala’s house on August 8 1963 and announced the formation of Zanu.

Nkala pointed out that Nathan Shamuyarira and Sithole also took part in the small gathering that mooted Zanu.

Nkala said Mugabe was unwilling to join Zanu at the beginning. As a result, Nkala believed in the final analysis: “Mugabe must be grateful to us” for inviting him to join nationalist politics and parties, including Zanu.

The original Zanu group which met at Nkala’s Highfield home felt that Mugabe, as a university graduate, tended to agree with Nkomo’s mindset.

In any case, Mugabe had been nominated to the War Council in Zapu which had the mandate to prepare for the waging of an armed struggle although it was not certain if his nomination was due to Nkomo’s influence.

When Zanu was formed on August 8 1963, Nkala said Mugabe was in Tanzania where he was nursing his sick child who later passed away. Mugabe confirmed this at Nkala’s burial. Anyway, as time went on, Mugabe joined and agreed to be the founding secretary-general of Zanu, of which the president was Sithole and his deputy Takawira who died in prison in 1970. Nkala became treasurer-general and his deputy was Shamuyarira. In that way Zanu started off as a club of Zapu renegades which conducted its daily business without a substantive secretary-general until Mugabe joined.

In celebrating the second congress of Zanu held from August 8-13 1984, the Zimbabwe News, an official Zanu organ, wrote: “The formation of Zanu on August 8 1963 marked, on one hand, a rejection of the reformist and law-abiding politics of previous political organisations and on the other, the adoption of politics of radicalism, revolution and confrontation.”

Considering the confrontational terrain of those days, Nkala became a visible player in Zanu’s bid to keep Zapu at bay as well as dealing with the Rhodesian settler colonial regime. When the Zanu hierarchy was detained at Sikhombela in 1964, Zapu was also confined to the Gonakudzingwa game reserve. The impasse continued even though Nkala was imprisoned for a long while to come.

Despite the several attempts at bringing Zanu and Zapu together, the most celebrated common platform was the Patriotic Front.

The OAU Co-ordinating Committee for the liberation of Africa held its 28th session in Lusaka, Zambia, from January 29 to February 4 1977 and at the summit, the committee, together with the Frontline States, put their weight behind the Patriotic Front with the ultimate aim of combining the fighting forces of Zanu and Zapu.

However, the Patriotic Front was to remain as a fragile achievement until the Lancaster House Conference of 1979.

Considering that Zanu PF (the parties had adopted the suffix and prefix PF) won the elections of 1980, PF Zapu was left standing on shifty political ground. Among the former PF Zapu structures, it was felt that Nkala had become the face of the fight against PF Zapu and Nkomo. Consciously or unconsciously, Nkala became a notable character in squaring up with Nkomo and ultimately PF Zapu.

As the first Minister of Finance in independent Zimbabwe, Nkala received a delegation from the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry in November 1980. It was at the height of the running battles in which Zipra and Zanla fighters shot at each other at Entumbane in Bulawayo and other assembly points.

Edgar Tekere, who happened to be the Minister of Manpower Planning and Development, called for the disarming of Zipra and suggested a “very thorough clean-up”.

He also made it clear that he supported what Nkala had said concerning the take-over of the state media.

As the years went by, PF Zapu was put under siege by Zanu PF which now had the state machinery, that ironically included Rhodesians, on its side. On Sunday, April 7 1985, PF Zapu issued a statement to the local and foreign press in Harare and Bulawayo headlined A case of a united front by the Patriotic Front.

This showed PF Zapu was really feeling the pressure. In that way, Zanu PF radicals like Nkala, Tekere, together with Mark Dube, became some sort of pivotal players. Dube had joined Zanu PF before 1979 and became one of its military instructors in the ranks of Zanla. He used the pseudonym “Misihairambwi”.

However, the signing of the Unity Accord on December 22 1987 changed the dynamics within Zanu PF which since 1963 had been prone to internal power struggles and conflicts.

After the Unity Accord, it appears Zanu PF wanted to get rid of stalwarts like Nkala, Tekere, Dzingai Mutumbuka and others who rivalled Mugabe for power and influence.

It was then that the Willogate scandal became a major issue. Nkala was caught in the net.

Although he maintained that he bought a vehicle from Willovale Mazda Motor Industries for about Z$15 000 which he sold to one private company for a higher price, Nkala was pushed out.

As he put it, Mugabe questioned him about the matter and he decided to step down. In his own words: “I told Mugabe that Zanu had become a Zvimba village party”, and as a result “I resigned” from the government as well as the party, resorting to a quiet life. At the end of the day, Nkala, whose life story is intertwined with the nationalist struggle, introduced me by telephone to Rugare Gumbo before insisting I also had to speak with Mugabe who had a lot to tell about the history of Zimbabwe’s liberation.

Ntungakwa is the national projects advisor of the Revolutionary Research Institute, a project whose work is to document the forgotten as well as hidden contribution by PF Zapu and Zipra to Zimbabwe’s liberation and development. This article was initially published by the Zimbabwe Independent