LATEST: National hero’s burial date set

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Liberation stalwart Cde Highten Nkomo, who died a fortnight ago and was on Wednesday declared a National Hero, will be buried at the National Heroes Acre in Harare on Sunday.

Yesterday his body made its final journey to his rural home in Bengo area, Ward 17, Gwanda South district.

Family members, the Minister of State for Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Cde Abedinico Ncube, service chiefs, political leaders and Government workers gathered at the Doves funeral parlour in Gwanda to mark the start of the journey of the national hero.

After a short word and prayer at the parlour, the hearse made its way to Bengo area accompanied by family members and the police.

A funeral service for Cde Nkomo, who was the first commander of the Mkushi Women’s Camp in Zambia, will be held at his homestead today. His body will then be flown to Harare ahead of burial at the national shrine on Sunday.

Born in Zambia on the 12th of January 1952 to an immigrant family, the late Cde Nkomo grew up in Chief Mungule area and attended schools in Kapopo and Mutakwa which were under the Zambian Central Province.

As the wave of nationalism swept across Southern Africa, Cde Nkomo retraced his descent and decided to join the Zapu military wing ZIPRA in the sixties. He rose through the ranks to become the deputy chief of training in the ZPRA High Command.

Cde Nkomo, who was also known as Cde Billy Mzamo, died at his homestead in the Bengo area of Gwanda District in Matabeleland South Province two weeks ago.

He was 70.

Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda and Zanu PF Vice President Cde Kembo Mohadi are some of the freedom fighters who passed through his hands.

In his condolence message on Wednesday, President Mnangagwa said Cde Nkomo’s contributions to the liberation of the country make him a giant in the history of the struggle who deserves national hero status.

Cde Nkomo has been described by his compatriots from Matabeleland South province as an epitome of patriotism. Liberation fighters who passed through his hands also described him as a dedicated cadre.

The late Cde Nkomo chose to fight for his country even when he was born in Zambia after his parents had been forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in Tsholotsho by the brutal white minority regime.

Cde Lilian Siziba from Bengo area said she met the late Cde Nkomo in October 1977 at Mkushi. She said Cde Nkomo was their camp commander.

“When I got to Zambia in 1978, I was among a group of girls that was selected to go to Mkushi Camp for training. Billy Mzamo was introduced to us as our camp commander.

“He imparted knowledge and skills which became very handy to us during the liberation struggle. He taught us how to operate guns, grenades and how to react when under attack.

“He always emphasised unity and togetherness among comrades. He also reminded us about the role we had in developing the nation as women. We stayed with him from 1978 up until we left the camp as a result of bombings. A number of women like myself are successful products of the liberation struggle because of the works of Billy Mzamo,” she said.

Cde Siziba said the late Cde Nkomo respected his trainees even though they were women. She said he always acted professionally.

Cde Jameson Nari also from Bengo area said he met the late Cde Nkomo in Zambia in 1976.

“I left home in 1975 and went to Botswana and then I proceeded to Zambia in Nampundwe. In 1976 we were moved to Chakwenga for training and that is where I met Cde Nkomo who was our instructor. At that time Sam Madondo was the camp commander. Billy was responsible for engineering.

“He was very good in his field and he knew what he was doing. He taught us a lot about operating land mines and grenades. We were a group of 800 trainees and he was our instructor. He was a respectable and hardworking man. He was a good instructor and he had a good technique,” he said.

A family spokesperson, Mr Thabiso Samhembere, described the late Cde Nkomo as a humorous and calm man.

He said his death had come at a time when he had assumed a fatherly role as the family had just lost a grandfather. He said the late Cde Nkomo immediately became a father figure.

“We had just started enjoying that care of a father. Every week he would call every family member just to check on us. Having not had him for a long time because of the liberation struggle, as a family we were enjoying time with him trying to make up for lost time,” Mr Samhembere said.

He said it was an honour for them as a family to see President Mnangagwa and the nation recognising the contributions of the late Cde Nkomo.

Mr Samhembere said the late Cde Nkomo had left them a great lesson as he was fully committed to serving his country. The late Cde Nkomo, he said, played a significant role in fighting for the liberation of the country which the young generation was now benefiting from.

In an interview, Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Ncube said the province had suffered a great loss as the late Cde Nkomo was among the decorated liberation fighters who contributed significantly towards the liberation struggle. He said besides being born in Zambia, the late Cde Nkomo left his comfort zone to defend his country.

Cde Nkomo is survived by his wife Felicia Dube, three children and one grandchild.

— Herald


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