‘Late VP Joshua Nkomo possessed juju powers to turn into a cat an old lady to dodge his enemies’

Late Father Zimbabwe Dr Joshua Nkomo

The late Vice-President Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo was a mystery character who was much sought after by the rabid colonial government but was at ease when he was around his fellow countrymen.

The folklore around Dr Nkomo has been a permanent feature among those who saw him rise to power and lead the nationalist movement.

It is said that Dr Nkomo, who was also known as Chibwechitedza, had some supernatural powers and could change into a cat or an old lady to dodge his enemies.

Dr Nkomo survived an assassination attempt on April 15, 1979, after Rhodesian operatives trailed him in neighbouring Zambia.

The Rhodesian operatives tracked down Dr Nkomo after the Ian Smith regime made a firm decision to assassinate him after the shooting down of the Air Rhodesia plane in Kariba.

The infamous Selous Scouts assigned Selous Scout Chris Gough to survey Nkomo’s house and draw up the roadmap from the Zambezi to Lusaka.

It was reported in the media then that Gough was ideal since he was born in Zambia and had a Zambian passport.

A report in the Zambian Observer capturing the history noted that Gough joined the Lusaka Golf Club, which was near Dr Nkomo’s house on Nyerere Drive and President Lane which led to President Kenneth Kaunda’s State House.

He monitored Dr Nkomo’s movements.

Back in Rhodesia, at the back of Inkomo Barracks, a make-shift house similar to Dr Nkomo’s Lusaka house was built for invasion practice by the Selous Scouts who would be involved in the actual attack.

On April 14, 1979, the attacking Rhodesian Special Air Service Unit crossed the Zambezi at Kariba by boat under the command of Captain Martin Pearce, guided by Antony White who had done reconnaissance of Cde Nkomo’s house with Gough.

According to the Selous Scouts report, the equipment included seven sable Land Rovers painted in Zambian colours and one special air service vehicle, heavy weapons and grenades.

The Zambian intelligence spotted them and thought they were Zambian Land Rovers.

Another group of Rhodesian commandos landed at the Lusaka Golf Club and attacked Dr Nkomo’s safe house (former Celtel headquarters in Lusaka).

Dr Nkomo survived the assassination attempt by sneaking into State House using a “back door”.

When asked by a reporter how he escaped the attack, Dr Nkomo replied that he had jumped out of a little window at the back of the house.

This is one of the stories that made people believe Dr Nkomo had mythical powers.

Many people were convinced that due to his huge stature, he could not escape through the window he purportedly used.

It is said that Dr Nkomo turned into a cat and made haste his escape hence his unexplainable survival.

Renowned historian and writer Mr Pathisa Nyathi said indeed Dr Nkomo had some supernatural powers.

“Nkomo was a spiritual man and when we say he was a cultural person, we are referring to specifically his spiritual powers.

He had spiritual powers, no doubt about that.

So many spirit mediums would give him the staffs and there were plenty which are displayed at the museum,” said Mr Nyathi.

He said the spiritual powers that Dr Nkomo had could not be revealed as it was private.

Mr Nyathi said Dr Nkomo was a mythical being hence most of the stories about his escape were unbelievable.

“A myth has a role to play in society.

So if he was regarded as somebody with certain spiritual powers no wonder there will be such a myth around him to reinforce perceptions of people about the man,” he said.

Mr Nyathi said one of the other mythical standouts was the short wooden staff that he carried around during political rallies.

It was said to imbue some spiritual powers that endeared him to the masses and command their allegiance.

The belief is that the staff was not an ordinary stick, it had some extraordinary powers and this is why it could do things that an ordinary person would not do.

It could control the crowd because of its power. So it was not a staff that was just taken from the bush.

Some rituals were done to it so that it could relate to him,” said Mr Nyathi.

One of the stand-out pictures that Dr Nkomo is known for was when he was surrounded by traditional healers during a ceremony.

Bulawayo-based traditionalist Dr David Mhabhinyani Ngwenya said Dr Nkomo cherished culture, heritage and spirituality and as such often visited shrines such as Njelele and Dula.

He said when Dr Nkomo entered the shrine he spoke on behalf of all Zimbabweans who were under oppression.

“I didn’t enter the shrine but Nkomo did.

He would tell the spirits of the problems that people were facing as a result of the colonial government.

The spirits of the nation are in Dula, Njelele and other shrines around the country.

They aren’t spirits of someone who died a long time ago, they are spirits of the nation of Zimbabwe,” said Mr Ngwenya.

He said the stories that he would change to a cat or old woman were true.

“The story that he turned into a cat in Zambia when they tried to assassinate him is very true.

When the enemy tried to attack where he was in Zambia, he turned into a cat.

This was like a miracle and it showed the powers he had,” said Mr Ngwenya.

He said it was not Dr Nkomo changing into a cat but it was the enemy that was deceived by the spirits to see a cat or an old lady.

— Chronicle

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