The government will on Sunday honour to the late former Vice President and one of the founding fathers of the Zimbabwe, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, with the unveiling of his statue and official opening of the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport.
Main Street in Bulawayo is also expected to be renamed Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Street.
Officials from the National Museums and Monuments mounted the statue last Sunday night and now await its official unveiling by President Robert Mugabe.
The unveiling will coincide with the Unity Day celebrations, a day set aside to celebrate the signing of the Unity Accord between the Joshua Nkomo led ZAPU party and the Robert Mugabe led ZANU party.
Nkomo, who passed away on 1 July 1999 is much revered not only in the Matabeleland region but throughout the country.
For his immense contribution to the liberation struggle, he earned himself names such as “Father Zimbabwe” and “Umdala Wethu”.
Since his death, there has been strong feelings the state has dragged its feet in terms of honouring the late veteran nationalist.
The refurbishment of Bulawayo airport which began in 2003 has still not been completed with President Robert Mugabe ordering its opening on November 1.
The statue project has had its fair share of problems.
In 2010 the statue was pulled down before its official unveiling following strong objections from the Nkomo family and the Bulawayo community who felt the statue did not capture the exact attributes of Father Zimbabwe and that it was made in North Korea.
In Matabeleland region, North Korea is associated with the notorious Fifth Brigade which terrorised residents and villagers during the Gukurahundi era.
However, the project resumed in July 2011 following a directive by the Zanu PF politburo to re-erect the statue but in November, the project was once again abandoned by the contractor after the government reportedly ran out of funds.
In December 2011, the government tried to speed up work on the project to enable President Mugabe to unveil it during the Zanu PF conference but that was not to be.
Political analysts who spoke to Radio Dialogue said the honour now holds little value due to the bundling of projects meant to honour Nkomo, although they welcomed the completion of the project.
“It has taken the government all these years to properly honour Joshua Nkomo. It seems as if the honour was just an after thought. We are still happy though that they have managed to complete the statue,” said Edwin Ndlovu.
Methuseli Moyo said any project done by the Zanu PF government in Matabeleland region will always attract different interpretations from people from the region.
“They want to appear as if they are doing something good. Nkomo was a national figure and by erecting a statue of Nkomo in Matabeleland they are reducing him to a leader of Matabeleland and that can be a bit offensive to some people.
“Erecting a statue for Nkomo will not change people’s perceptions about Zanu PF. There are a lot of outstanding projects and issues around Gukurahundi. As long as such issues are not addressed it will not deliver the desired outcomes for Zanu PF,” said Moyo.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a close friend of Nkomo, who passed away on December 5 at the age of 95 was honoured with a giant statue at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, a day after his burial.
“The Mandela honour shows that his fellow countrymen valued his contribution to the country but the way they (the government) handled Nkomo’s projects shows how much value they place on his contribution to the liberation of this country,” said Moyo.
Mmeli Dube said Nkomo’s honour was still relevant although he doubted the motive was genuine.
“Zanu PF are trying to cleanse themselves of the smell of the illegitimacy and guilt that the elections did not go in a manner that was fair and recognised by everyone. We have projects that were ongoing during the government of national unity but are now taking the limelight so that people will think this party is delivering,” said Dube.
“The people of Matabeleland will never forget what happened to ZAPU and Gukurahundi and in all honesty they that is the smallest thing that could be done in honour of a giant, a fallen hero from our region and they will see through the political machinations of Zanu PF.”