BULAWAYO – The honouring of the late former Cabinet minister Callistus Ndlovu as a national hero has left the Dumiso Dabengwa-led Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu) seething with anger — as it sees him as “a sellout”, the Daily News can report.
Ndlovu — who was the ruling Zanu PF’s Bulawayo provincial chairperson — collapsed and died at the age of 83 in South Africa on Wednesday last week, where he was being treated for pancreatic cancer.
He will be buried at the National Heroes Acre in Harare today, having defected to Zanu PF in 1984, at the height of the brutal crackdown against PF Zapu members by the country’s security forces around the time.
This was just before PF Zapu, which was led by the revered late former vice president Joshua Nkomo, entered into a peace accord with ousted former president Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF — following the Gukurahundi atrocities of the early 1980s in which an estimated 20 000 innocent people, mainly in Matabeleland and the Midlands, were killed by the security forces.
Thirty-five years after Ndlovu’s controversial defection from PF Zapu, including calling the party a “dead donkey” at the time, Dabengwa’s organisation said bluntly yesterday that the fallen politician did not deserve to be ranked among the “genuine heroes” of the country.
“We do commiserate with the Ndlovu family on the death of their loved one. I also knew him personally, but Ndlovu’s declared hero status is a nonevent to Zapu.
“We recognise the remaining sell-outs in Zanu PF on the account of the 1987 Unity Accord that was signed to end the Gukurahundi genocide on Zapu and Ndebele speaking people.
“The lesser sell-outs are those who, after being arm-twisted to join Zanu PF in 1987, developed cold feet when Zapu pulled out in 2009.
“But Ndlovu does not belong to this category of spineless former cadres. He belongs to the real sell-out clique of Zapu members who abandoned their kith and kin right at the peak of the Gukurahundi genocide,” Zapu spokesperson Iphithule Maphosa told the Daily News yesterday.
“So, and in a nutshell, his hero status is nothing more than Zanu PF’s celebration and rewarding of mediocrity and loyalty — in the same manner they have rewarded corruption and looting.
“Mediocrity as seen on Ndlovu as a nationalist politician and leader with zero contribution to the development of the country and its people, and lack of loyalty as seen by his ditching of his people during the genocide to go and dine with the perpetrating murderers,” Maphosa added.
He also said Ndlovu’s 1984 jibe, that Zapu was a dead donkey, was at the time tantamount to “celebrating the annihilation of the innocent Ndebele people by security forces at the height of Gukurahundi”.
The jibe was never forgotten nor forgiven by many people in the region, which saw Ndlovu being booed routinely during public appearances.
As a result, the late minister was always under pressure to defend himself against the “dead donkey” statement — which he, at one point, said had been misinterpreted by irresponsible journalists.
“First of all, I believe that one would expect an average person to be intelligent enough to know the difference between a metaphor and a statement of fact.
“And if someone thinks that a metaphor is exactly the same as a matter of fact, then that person lives in cuckoo land.
“For starters, I never said PF Zapu was a dead donkey. The statement which I made speaking in Kalanga at a rally in Plumtree was that if anybody thought PF Zapu was going to win the election that year, that person was actually failing to see reality.
“It is a worthless effort if someone is to translate it, as some hired journalists decided to do and made an issue out of nothing,” Ndlovu said then in an attempt to explain the issue away.
An estimated 20 000 people are said to have been killed in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces when the government deployed the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade to the two regions, to fight an insurrection.
Unity Day was subsequently set up to commemorate the Unity Accord which was later signed between PF Zapu and Zanu PF on December 22, 1987, and which ended hostilities between the two parties.