Albert Nyathi remembers Joshua Nkomo, Father Zimbabwe
Zimbabweans on Monday marked 20 years since the death of Vice President Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo who died on a Thursday on July 1, 1999 at the age of 82.
He was buried on July 5 at the National Heroes Acre.
Top praise poet Albert Nyathi relived the day of his burial and how he managed to entertain mourners with a poem at the National Heroes’ Acre on that sad day back in 1999.
Dr Nkomo’s death plunged the nation into mourning and thousands thronged the Heroes’ Acre to pay their last respects. Among them was Nyathi the Senzeni Na? hit-maker who remembers the day as if it was yesterday.
“Noel Sibanda from ZBC phoned me and said ‘umdala kasekho’. He said they didn’t have anything to pay tribute to Nkomo with and asked me to do something. So I sat down and wrote the poem A Tribute to Joshua Nkomo,” said Nyathi.
He said after writing the poem, he made his way to ZBC studios in Harare to record it.
“I went to the ZBC studios and we recorded the poem. If you see that video, I was looking down because I was reading the poem that I’d just written. It was broadcast on the same evening on Ezomgido and was a moment of emotion,” said Nyathi.
He said on the day of Dr Nkomo’s burial, he made his way to Stodart Hall in Mbare, the traditional venue where national heroes’ bodies lie in state.
“I went to Stodart Hall wearing traditional regalia. No one said to me I have to be there, I just went. I performed there and the now late Dumiso Dabengwa said to me I should come to the Heroes’ Acre and perform there and I agreed,” Nyathi said.
Thereafter, Nyathi said he went to the national shrine, but when they got there, he was barred from entering by the police.
“In my Pajero, in the company of other artistes we drove to the Heroes’ Acre from Stodart Hall. When we got there, the police barred us from entering the national shrine.
“We then started singing various songs and dancing outside the Heroes’ Acre and later, the police came and said we were now allowed to enter the national shrine,” said Nyathi.
After being granted entry, the thousands gathered there met them with wild cheers and whistles.
“When we made our way in, the whole place went ballistic. I didn’t hesitate and went straight to the podium where there was a mic and grabbed it. There was a group called Shashe Boys, poets such as Lwazi Tshabangu and the like.
“I did my poem until my voice went hoarse. When Dr Nkomo’s body was brought there, I led it to the front and the whole atmosphere was electric,” said Nyathi.
When all proceedings were done, prominent people like Justice Wilson Sandura, Strive Masiyiwa and James Makamba shook Nyathi’s hand and praised him. Nyathi said until today, people tell him that the poem brings tears to their eyes.
Twenty years after Nkomo’s death, he says he remembers that Dr Nkomo was a loving man who united the nation.
“He’s one person who transformed the lives of many people. He had ubuntu and would unite a lot of people of different races and creeds,” said Nyathi.