President Mnangagwa’s full speech at the burial of Cde Shiri
The 29th of July was a very dark day for our nation; even darker for our party, ZANU PF. We lost a patriot, a brave freedom fighter, a commander, a hardworking Minister of Government, a party stalwart and a disciplined and loyal cadre. We lost a great son of the soil.
Bigboy Benjamin Samson Chikerema, better known as Comrade Perrance Shiri, is no more, snatched from us by the coronavirus. We unexpectedly lost him on Wednesday morning after a short illness. Very few of us knew he had been taken ill. Shock, thus, grips us all, especially those who daily interacted with him in the course of discharging our duties.
Until the fateful day, he looked well and energetic, always raring to get on his ministerial chores.
Today we gather to bid farewell to this great hero of our Liberation Struggle and a notable figure in our post-independent country.
On behalf of the party, ZANU PF, Government, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces which he served for very long, and indeed on my own behalf; I wish to express and convey my deepest, heartfelt condolences to the Chikerema family, principally to all his children.
It is a painful time for them, and for all of us who so intimately associated and interacted with him both in wartimes and peacetimes, both in exile during the struggle, and here at home after our Independence. The war fostered bonds of blood which forever made us a close family: hama dzeropa. Those bonds forged and sealed in struggle today snap and fail, as death divides us.
We have been robbed; we are in pain, and share the loss with you, mhuri yekwa Shiri/Chikerema, vabereki vegamba redu. Please accept our deepest condolences.
The late Bigboy Benjamin Samson Chikerema, was born on 11th January 1955 in the then Charter District, now Chikomba. His home area under Chief Mutekedza had seen fierce resistance to colonial encroachment in the 1896 First Chimurenga War. The people had resisted and suffered, and were subsequently removed from their ancestral land, to make way for new foreign land masters.
After his primary education, he enrolled at the Catholic Mt St Mary’s Mission in Wedza where he shared classes with Vice President, General Chiwenga, who was also at the same mission. Both of them came under the influence of political firebrands in the form of a politically enlightened teaching staff. In both pupils, the seed of struggle for national freedom and independence found fertile ground, enriched by frequent visits to the school by nationalists who preached the gospel of our freedom.
In 1973, Cde Shiri and Cde Chiwenga decided to abandon their studies for the struggle. They found their way to Botswana and then Zambia which was the hotbed of militant nationalists activism. More and more young Zimbabweans abandoned studies to swell the ranks of freedom fighters to fight a common enemy. Many died; many more were injured and crippled for life; but the struggle continued and finally triumphed.
Cadres like our late national hero, turned these young exiles into hardened freedom fighters capable of taking on the settler colonial regime and its armies.
Cde Perrance Shiri was in the middle of all these efforts. He did a lot more: a fearless fighter, he was deployed to the war front to fight the enemy. It was no wonder that he rapidly rose through the ranks until he assumed field command of what was then Tete Province which spanned across provinces, and reached the outskirts of the then Salisbury, the fortified capital of settler Rhodesia.
His command showed immense courage, manifest through daring missions which were mounted by fighters under his command against the Rhodesian establishment. These included the spectacular 1978 attack on fuel tanks in Harare. That heroic attack was a turning point in the war.
Upon attainment of Independence, experienced commanders like the late Cde Perrance Shiri helped the military integration process, thus creating a solid foundation for lasting peace which endures to this day. We owe it to the late Perrance and his peers that our country escaped endless bleeding of a prolonged war.
Alongside many who lie interred here at our National Shrine, Cde Shiri and those of us who are survivors from our armed struggle, know the meaning of war and strife, indeed know the priceless value of national peace and unity. We went through a brutal war. We stared death in the face, repeatedly escaped it by whisker.
In war and in conflict, people die and suffer; in peace and in unity, nations and peoples prosper. Both from our history, and from the numerous examples of contemporary African experiences, we must, as Zimbabweans, continue on the path of peace, choosing peace and national unity, over war, divisions and instability.
On the bedrock of all these positives, we enable just development which delivers prosperity for all. That is the Zimbabwe we seek to build, the heritage we commit ourselves to bequeath to those that come after us. A nation on the march, free of corruption, and such malfeasances.
Our nation consolidated its sovereignty through national unity we achieved through the iconic Unity Accord signed by our founding fathers and leaders, Cde Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo and Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe, on December 22 1987, the road to permanent peace, stability and unity became clear.
The late Cde Perrance Shiri commanded the Air Force of Zimbabwe whose mission and membership exemplifies a united people, as does all our security arms. At the inauguration of the Second Republic, he passed the baton on to his successor, Air Marshal Moyo, who continues to personify the defence wings of a unitary State of Zimbabwe.
The hardened guerrilla, fearless provincial commander, disciplined officer of our regular army, and ultimately the Commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe, the late Cde Shiri died as a Minister of Government in charge of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement.
It was a mega-ministry which combined key preoccupations of our Government. From his military uniform, he donned work suits which cast him in the mould of a shop-floor, hands-on minister who knew that his vocation was in the field, indeed who knew his partner was the farmer who produces food that nourishes our nation. He had become an outstanding farmer in his own right. Before that appointment he had gone back to communities which hosted him as a guerrilla commander, to build schools and clinics. Today we mourn the passing on of a people’s minister who, as a public servant, was highly committed and adaptable.
Once the Second Republic defined its vision, Cde Shiri pursued it with utmost vigour. He knew that Zimbabwe needed to shake off food insecurity, and implemented strategic Government programmes under the Agriculture Recovery Plan such as the Pfumvudza Concept, mechanisation, modernisation, irrigation development and climate-proofing of our agriculture. These strategies would ensure that our nation becomes food-secure, both in lean and stout years.
He was “Mutumwa zvepedo”, he understood that strategy without execution is no strategy. He has left us that value and work ethic. The lasting tribute we should give to him is to carry on, from where he left.
We will build more dams for greater water harvesting. We will couple those dams to fields of production through irrigation systems. We will continue to equip our farmers so that they rely on more efficient tools of production. Indeed, we shall equip our farmers with better knowledge through effective extension services.
He secured agricultural equipment for our farmers from as far afield as America, India, Spain, China, South Korea and Belarus. Just before his untimely death, he implemented the Government programme to revamp and enhance mobility of extension services to our farmers. He was in the middle of reorganising his ministry to position it for better services delivery to farmers. All that great work must continue, in lasting tribute to him.
Soon after I appointed him minister, Cde Shiri had reached out to the former commercial farmers, thus restoring trust and communication which had broken down over the years. On the day he passed on, Government concluded and signed a Compensation Agreement with former commercial farmers with regards compensation for improvements made on acquired Land. The agreement brings closure to the National Land Question, while affirming our Government’s commitment to rule of law and respect of property rights.
The agreement further upholds our constitutional position enjoining Government to only compensate former white farmers for improvements and not for the land.
We are a Government of the rule of law, of fairness, of law and order. Above all, we are a Government with a strong sense of history and of our just heritage as erstwhile victims of settler colonialism. Let me state here that our land has been permanently reunited with the people and the people with their land. The land Reform Programme is thus irreversible and land is an inalienable, God-given heritage to all the people of Zimbabwe.
Fellow mourners, let us who remain draw lessons from the illustrious life of our late national hero Cde Shiri. We need peace, peace, perfect peace, for national development. Let us shun strife, violence and disunity. Proponents of such divisive and ruinous acts must be rejected and exposed.
The Policy of Devolution and Decentralisation which we have embarked upon, requires all hands on the deck, in unity, harmony and love.
The policy will deliver balanced development, and equal prosperity to all our communities.
We must stop the scourge of Covid-19, itself a global pandemic. It spares no one, great or small. All nations of the world are suffering from its impact, with figures of infections and death daily rising. In unity and through discipline, we stand a chance to save our nation from its menace.
I call on our medical staff to act in the national interest and exhibit a great sense of responsibility. My Government hears your cries, listens to your concerns.
But the time to serve is now. Your grievances, which we acknowledge and continue to address, cannot be enjoyed at the expense of the loss of life. When the pandemic spreads and the death toll rises, there are no winners, none at all. Tinopera tese kufa.
I therefore urge all of us to continue to act with care to prevent the spread of the deadly pandemic. Let us stay at home, wear masks in public and practise social distancing and good hygiene.
To Cde Shiri, our dear departed Comrade and Freedom Fighter, I say:
You gallantly fought and freed your country and your people. The land has come, your people are liberated and free. You protected your people and defended your nation. Zimbabwe is sovereign, secure and stable. You worked hard and tirelessly for your country and people. Zimbabwe shall prosper.
We thank you, our Comrade, and promise to defend the rich heritage for which you sacrificed, alongside many others.
Go well Gudo Guru, go well our gallant fighter.
Go well great Commander, go well Son of the Soil.
Famba zvakanaka gamba ramagamba. Hamba kahle qhawe lama qhawe.
May your Soul; rest in eternal peace.
God bless you.
God bless Zimbabwe
I thank you.