Gallant Maj-Gen Nyathi declared national hero Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces General Philip Valerio Sibanda lays a wreath during the funeral parade of Major-General (Rtd) Sikhulile Simpson Nyathi at Charles Gumbo Barracks in Harare yesterday. — Picture: Innocent Makawa

Joseph Madzimure and Blessings Chidakwa

Major-General (Retired) Sikhulile Simpson Nyathi has been declared a national hero.

Zanu PF National Political Commissar Cde Mike Bimha confirmed the development last night.

“The Politburo this afternoon (yesterday) applauded the decision made by President Mnangagwa to confer national hero status on Major-General (Rtd) Simpson Nyathi.

“The public will be advised on the burial arrangements in due course,” said Cde Bimha

Maj-Gen Nyathi died on Sunday morning at the Josiah Magama Tongogara Barracks Referral Hospital in Harare.

He was 61.

Relatives and colleagues yesterday described him as an intelligent and quiet man who stood firm for justice and defended Zimbabwe’s legacy.

They were speaking during a funeral parade held at the Charles Gumbo Barracks (formerly 1 Commando) in Harare.

Commander Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Phillip Valerio Sibanda led the proceedings.

As per the army’s custom, the fine soldier was given a dignified parade which included parading of the coffin, a sermon from the chaplain and laying of wreaths.

General Sibanda laid the first wreath followed by Commander Zimbabwe National Army, Lieutenant General David Sigauke while Air Vice Marshal Jacob Nzvede, who was representing Commander Air Force of Zimbabwe Elson Moyo, laid the last one.

Speaking at the funeral parade Gen Sibanda said Maj-Gen (Rtd) Nyathi will be remembered for his immense contribution to the liberation struggle.

“We will always remember you as a humble, warm, likeable, patriotic, and selfless team player and a true revolutionary cadre,” he said.

Gen Sibanda said the sacrifices made by Maj-Gen Nyathi together with other heroes and heroines that freed the country should always be remembered.

“It remains a challenge to us all to defend the values that they stood and fought for. We must always remember that to be who we are today it is because somebody shed their sweat or blood as the late Nyathi and many others did.

“Let us never lose sight of this important fact, no matter kuti tinenge tadziyigwa sei,” he said.

A colleague, Major-General Emmanuel Matatu said Maj-Gen Nyathi was a friend, somebody with whom he shared a lot of memories.

“I knew him as a hard worker, a man who would stick to his word. A man who would articulate especially logistics policies quite clearly for everybody to be able to understand where we were going and supposed to be doing,” he said.

Beitbridge East legislator, Cde Albert Ngulube said Maj-Gen Nyathi was a class ahead of him in secondary school and they crossed to Zambia via Botswana together for military training.

He said they separated briefly before reuniting in 1980 and came back home together.

“From there he is a person I knew very well. I treated him like a brother. We were very close as friends until up to the last days when he left us.

“He was a very quiet guy, but very intelligent. He rarely talked even when we used to go to his farm or home he didn’t raise his voice. He was so cool and calculative. He would give you advice, he was a mature guy,” he said.

The elder brother, Colonel Samuel Mpabanda, said Major-Gen Nyathi was a frank person.

“He was quiet and did not bring any problems to the parents. He was a hardworking man and very intelligent,” he said.

His sister, Ms Gildah Maphosa, said Major-Gen Nyathi was an intelligent person whom the family thought would become a medical doctor but was hurt when he dropped out of school to pursue the liberation struggle.

She said the family elders tried to convince him to pursue academics, but he stuck to his decision to serve in the army.

“He was a helping brother. Losing him is hard but we have accepted it because it is the way we leave this world. We are grateful to the army for the decent funeral,” said the sister.

His body will be taken to his rural home in Gwanda  today before returning to Harare late in the afternoon.

Maj-Gen Nyathi held key appointments in the army and rose through the ranks including being Major in 1984, Lieutenant Colonel in 1990, Colonel in 1997, Brigadier General in 2010, and Major General in 2020.

He also attended several ZNA courses and attained numerous medals for his continued dedication, selfless and exemplary service to the nation.

Maj-Gen Nyathi is survived by his wife and three children.

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