Elita Chikwati Senior Reporter
The nation was yesterday plunged into mourning following the death of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri.
Soon after the announcement of his death, condolences started pouring in from the agricultural sector, politicians and the general public, with many describing him as a hands-on leader who had a vision to prosper the country, particularly the agriculture industry which he was overseeing.
Cde Shiri’s eldest daughter Tatenda said the death of her father was a devastating blow to the whole family.
“My father was a liberation fighter who did not just fight for his family, but for the nation. I remember when we were young, some people expected us to be spoiled children, but my father was different. He said he was hardening us to be responsible citizens in case something happens to him,” said Tatenda.
Minister Shiri’s deputies — Cdes Vangelis Haritatos and Douglas Karoro — said they had lost a mentor who was dedicated to revamping the agricultural sector.
“I am still in deep shock and pain,” said Deputy Minister Karoro. “I have worked with Minister Shiri for slightly over two years, but in that short period I have learnt a lot in terms of leadership, commitment to duty and general loyalty to our country.
“His commitment to agriculture development in the country was unquestionable. It was a great privilege working under his guidance.
Deputy Minister Haritatos said: “I am at a loss for words. He was my mentor. I had a very good relationship with him. It is with a heavy heart that I learnt of the passing on of Air Chief Marshal (Retired) Perrance Shiri.”
Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Dr John Basera who worked closely with Minister Shiri said this was a big loss to the farming fraternity.
“We are at loss and in great pain to come to terms with the sudden departure of our agricultural torch-bearer,” he said. “The country has been robbed of a true and dedicated wise and intelligent patriot and great strategist.
“Indeed, he was a strategist and implementer par excellence. He was a father figure to everyone at the Ministry. He was very analytical, practical and a proponent of the clarion call by His Excellency, the President of ‘hitting the ground running’ on whatever he did. We have lost such an impeccable wealth of experience and our only comfort is his legacy of hard work he inculcated in us.”
Dr Basera said the ministry had started a project to turn around the fortunes of the agriculture sector through the Ministry’s flagship blueprints, namely the Agriculture Recovery Plan and the Livestock Growth Plan.
“He is the author of these blueprints,” he said. “We had formed a formidable team and we were men and women on a mission. A mission to transform our agriculture.”
Zimbabwean Ambassador to Mozambique Douglas Nyikayaramba described Cde Shiri as a revolutionary and post-independence Commander par excellence.
“He was a politician cum-academic, an unassuming down to earth, hardworking, team player, Honourable Minister,” he said. “A devoted patriotic, honest, reliable, upright and fearless comrade of all times. Our heartfelt, deepest and sincere condolences to the President His Excellency Comrade Dr ED Mnangagwa, the Government, Zanu PF party, the Shiri-Chikerema family, colleagues in the Defence Forces and Cabinet, comrades and friends on the untimely sad loss of our gallant son of the soil.”
Former UN Resident Co-ordinator in Zimbabwe Bishow Parajuli said he worked with Minister Shiri on how they could improve the agricultural sector. “I met him many times and discussed the way forward in improving agriculture and food security,” he said. “He was very receptive to many suggestions. Most sincere condolences prayers.” Zanu PF acting deputy secretary for Youth Affairs Cde Tendai Chirau said: “A dark cloud hovers over our motherland. We have lost an astute and sagacious leader who was hands on. Words fail me.”
Zanu PF’s provincial chairman for Matabeleland South, Cde Rabelani Choeni said Minister Shiri was one of the instrumental Cabinet ministers behind the revival of major irrigation projects in the province, as part of the Government’s thrust to ensure food and nutrition security countrywide.
“Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) irrigation projects in Maphosa and Ingwizi (Plumtree) are now operating at capacity while Tuli Manyange and Makwe irrigation are taking shape,” he said. “Beitbridge has seen the take-off of the long-awaited 63km Zhovhe to Beitbridge (town) canal.”
Zimbabwe Lands Commission chairperson Commissioner Tendai Bare said Minister Shiri was hardworking and highly dedicated to national duty and this was exhibited by his passion for agricultural development of the country.
“He clearly understood the link between good agricultural land administration and the confidence it brought to farmers to use the land productively,” he said. “Hence, his strong support for the Constitutional role and responsibility of the Zimbabwe Land Commission (ZLC) in the regularisation of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP) in promoting accountability, transparency and fairness in the administration of agricultural land vested in the State.”
“We were also genuinely guided by the Minister on the implementation of the Comprehensive National Agricultural Land Audit Programme. He successfully tabled the Phase 1 Land Audit Report in Cabinet, where it was well received. He has passed on at a time when he was looking forward to the ZLC producing the Phase 2 Land Audit Report.”
The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) said Minister Shiri was hardworking and had unparalleled exemplary leadership traits and his dedication to the nation was amply evidenced by his joining of the liberation struggle at a tender age.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union director, Mr Paul Zakariya said the agricultural sector had been robbed.
“Minister Shiri had managed to craft a vision for agricultural recovery focusing on increased production and productivity! He will forever be missed,” he said.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Mr Shadreck Makombe said Minister Shiri was an icon you could count on everyday.
Zimbabwe National Farmers’ Union vice president, Mr Edward Dune said: “We have learnt with great shock of the passing on of a gallant hero. We had worked with the late Rtd Air Chief Marshal Perrance Shiri as Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, he was such a humble Minister whom you could approach with any problem and come out with a solution.”
Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Association Trust president, Mrs Depinah Nkomo said she was shocked to learn of the Minister’s death. “He was a hands on Minister,” she said. “We had lots of expectations from him as a visionary leader who also championed empowerment of women farmers. He was so passionate about agriculture and we were now undertaking the Pfumvudza concept. We lost a hero.” Commercial Farmers Union president, Mr Andy Pascol said: “He was the first Minister of Lands and Agriculture that we were able to engage in almost 20 years as an organisation.”
Tobacco Industry Development Support Institute for Southern Africa Mr Jeffrey Takawira said Minister Shiri had vast knowledge on agriculture.
“Honourable Perrance Shiri is one of those rare Cabinet Ministers that would return your call, even in the dead of the night,” he said. “He was hardworking and his knowledge of agriculture surprised many of us despite his military background.”
One citizen, Jones Musara said: “Rest in peace Cde Shiri, the Commander of Commanders, Patriot of Patriots, Nationalist of Nationalists, Workhorse of Workhorses.”
Agritex chief director Joseph Gondo said: “Minister Shiri was a good listener who respected the opinion of others and took them into consideration. When I started working with him, he was chairperson of the technical committee on Command Agriculture and he worked tirelessly for the success of the programme.
“He consulted with people and never looked down upon people. He was a practical man. He was not interested in theory, but spent most of the time in the field visiting wheat farmers. Now he was spearheading the Pfumvudza concept and was working with communities. On the land issue he was firm and wanted professionalism.” The Zimbabwe National Water Authority said: “We have learnt, with deep sorrow of the passing on of Min(ster) Perrance Shiri. A veteran of the country’s liberation struggle and true patriot, Minister Shiri’s stewardship shall be missed.”
Chairperson of the Foreign Service Spouses Association of Zimbabwe, Mrs Shuvai Wutawunashe, sent a condolence message, saying as an association they were utterly saddened and hurt beyond words by a loss of this magnitude to the nation.
“We will forever remember Honourable Perrance Shiri for his sterling national service and for uplifting thousands of Zimbabweans in the agricultural sector into tangible productivity,” she said. “No one can forget how hard he worked to get victims rescued and sheltered during the devastating Cyclone Idai. We believe his hard work is a seed from which Zimbabweans from all walks of life will obtain great harvests for years to come.”