Richard Runyararo Mahomva Correspondent
The untimely departure of Chief Air Marshal Perrance “Gudo Guru Chikerema” Shiri (Retired) marks a catastrophic blow to the continuity of Zimbabwe’s agrarian revolution.
His elevation to glory threatens the very ontological facet of the liberation legacy — to which his entire political career was built on.
As the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Cde Shiri was a symbol of the intravenous relationship of the land question and its bond to our struggle for total independence. His post-military assignment as a Cabinet minister responsible for administering Zimbabwe’s land policy in 2017, called to mind the very core objective of his generation to join the armed struggle.
In accepting the assignment as Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, he reasserted the agenda of realigning property rights, restoring the plundered dignity of our people who turned into landlessness by imperialism.
His transition from the military to a high-ranking assignment in the Cabinet reflected not only the fluidity of his exceptional faculties, but also demonstrated by and large the dovetailing point of the virtues of our Zimbabwe’s (Chimurenga) military establishment with the broad-based aspirations of nationhood.
To this end, it will be recalled that the departed Retired Chief Air Marshal was one of the transitional midwives to the New Dispensation in 2017 and consequently the Second Republic in 2018.
His personal history and that of Zimbabwe is indelibly predicated on the consistent link of our armed military resistance and the enduring national question.
This is better attested by how Cde Shiri’s political career was predominantly defined in terms of the preservation of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and perpetual resistance to imperialism. As one of the core producers of the transitional path to the Second Republic, Cde Shiri’s legacy is inevitably intertwined with the persistent call for the enhancement of democracy, strengthening cohesion, peace reconciliation, re-tooling industry, fighting corruption and consolidation of pro-poor economic policies.
All these tenets of our national virtues embody the very motivations of Cde Shiri to join the armed in 1973, from the ZANLA front.
His military acumen was best demonstrated by his swift rise through the ranks to becoming a centrifugal player of the ZANLA High Command in 1977.
This entails that he was a critical insider in the events and processes which accelerated and catalysed the internal reconfiguration of the armed struggle from the ZANU/ZANLA side. Within this period, the Mgagao Declaration took effect in October 1975.
At this point, the armed struggle had actualised to the height of sanctioning colonialists into dialogue with both ZANU and ZAPU leading to the Geneva Conference of 1976 right up to the Lancaster Conference which set the final modalities of Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. Therefore, in terms of conventional political practice, Cde Shiri was more than a “man of the gun’’.
Instead, he epitomised the strategic pivot of the military in oiling nationalist driven course to independence to transcend the search for freedom on the negotiation table. The defining points of his career in pre-and-post-independence politics override the simplistic derogatory relegation of the “gun’’ being led by “politics’’.
Cde Shiri and his counterparts with an avid professional rooting in the military, bring to the fore the symmetrical positionally of the “gun and politics’’ in Zimbabwe’s power struggles.
This is substantiated by his role among others in the execution of Operation Restore Legacy in 2017.
The plethora of internal contradictions within the nationalist movement which pre-cast Cde Shiri’s career from the days of the Mgagao Declaration until Zimbabwe’s post-independence plunge into a neo-colonial sponsored political crisis caused by our revolutionary land reform programme right up to the Operation Restore Legacy, demonstrated the Retired Chief Air Marshal’s loyalty to the republic and not individuals.
As such, he will be remembered for his disciplined institutional wiring and loyalty to principles over short-lived political excitements which have seen many fall by the wayside.
His consistency and disciplined commitment to both the party-line and national interest was demonstrated by his role in igniting the rebirth of the liberation legacy through the November 2017 peaceful transition.
This was because the turn to Operation Restore Legacy was a ZANU PF and national self-introspective episode to restore and re-live the virtues of our armed struggle to our contemporary politics whose sanity had been long sullied by political opportunism in ZANU PF and the downplaying of the late Robert Mugabe’s giant statesmanship.
The cross-cutting desire to end poverty in Zimbabwe, particularly under the Second Republic chiefly articulates the centrality of giant patriots like Rtd Chief Air Marshal Shiri in returning Zimbabwe to the redemptive liberation default settings through Operation Restore Legacy in 2017.
As Retired Chief Air Marshal Shiri joins other nationalists and foot soldiers of Zimbabwe, he must be celebrated for his loyalty to the creed and defence of ZANLA and ZANU PF.
In 1980, the departed Minister of our agrarian revolution joined the Zimbabwe National Army, by 1982, he had risen through the ranks to the level of Brigadier. Thereafter, he was reassigned to the Air Force of Zimbabwe as Air Commodore in 1984. Between 1992 and 2017 he served at Commander level.
As a protagonist and an antagonist in our body-politick, the late Retired Air Marshal is a product of the perpetual imperialist counter-technologies to the cause of Africa’s liberation.
Richard Runyararo Mahomva is a political scientist with an avid interest in political theory, liberation memory and architecture of governance in Africa. He is also a creative literature aficionado. Feedback: [email protected]