HARARE – The opposition PF Zapu has said Zanu PF neglected the late war veteran and nationalist Naison Khutshwekhaya Ndlovu in his last days, yet he stood by the ruling party, refusing to pull out of it in 2008.
Ndlovu, 86, died in Bulawayo in the early hours of Monday after a long battle with prostate cancer, and has been declared national hero by President Robert Mugabe.
The former liberation fighter was PF Zapu’s last national chairperson before the signing of the Unity Accord in 1987 which saw Mugabe and Zapu’s Joshua Nkomo ink a pact leading to the integration of the two liberation movements following unrest in Midlands and Matabeleland.
Amid unprecedented economic hardships in 2008, former leaders of PF Zapu walked out on the 1987 pact and ceased to operate under the title Zanu PF and resumed the title of Zapu, but Ndlovu refused to cross floors.
Dumiso Dabengwa — a former senior member of Zanu PF and Mugabe’s Cabinet — led the revival of PF Zapu and was subsequently appointed leader by the party’s congress.
“It is saddening that he (Ndlovu) did not find time to introspect and interrogate his position at the face of blatant marginalisation, under the Unity Accord, of the constituency that made him the man he is regarded today, that is Zapu,” the Dabengwa-led liberation movement said in a statement yesterday.
“Zapu notes with regret that despite Ndlovu turning his back on his own in Zapu and dancing with Zanu PF, the party and government neglected his welfare in his last days as noted by his wife who once complained in the media,” the party added.
“It is, however, not surprising to us as Zapu since it has become policy both in Zanu PF and Zimbabwean government to segregate former Zapu and Zipra cadres when it comes to welfare from the state. It has happened before and …Ndlovu’s case is not the first, as it surely will not be the last.”
The pulling out of the Unity Accord by PF Zapu and its former leaders shook Zanu PF to the foundations given that Mugabe’s party always used its 1987 pact to justify its claim that it enjoys the support of Zimbabweans across the country.
PF Zapu and its late leader Nkomo drew most of their support from the southern Matabeleland and Midlands provinces while Mugabe and Zanu PF are strong in the northern parts of the country.
PF Zapu and Zanu PF fought a bitter 1970s guerrilla war to free Zimbabwe from colonial rule. The two allies formed a government of national unity at independence in 1980 but soon fell out when then Prime Minister Mugabe accused PF Zapu leader Nkomo and his party of plotting an armed insurrection against him. More than 20 000 innocent civilians from the Ndebele ethnic minority that mostly supported PF Zapu are believed to have been killed in the early 1980s during a bloody counter-insurgency drive by the army ordered by Mugabe in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.
The killings by the army’s North Korean trained 5th Brigade only stopped with the signing of the Unity Accord when Nkomo agreed to merge his party into Zanu PF while he took up the post of vice-president in government.
Mugabe said Ndlovu’s “untimely death is a terrible loss to his family, his party Zanu PF and the nation at large…”
Ndlovu is set to be buried at the National Heroes Acre on Saturday.