NATIONAL Railways of Zimbabwe general manager and freedom fighter Air Commodore Mike Tichafa Karakadzai (Retired) has died. He was 56. Air Cdre Karakadzai (Rtd) died when the car he was driving hit a stray cow, resulting in the vehicle swerving to the right and then side swiping a haulage truck going in the opposite direction.
National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said the accident occurred on Monday at about 10:40pm at the 79km peg along the Gweru-Bulawayo road just after the Shangani Mine turn-off flyover.
He was travelling alone from Harare on his way to Bulawayo.
“Air Cdre Mike Tichafa Karakadzai (Rtd) was driving his car, a Toyota Land Cruiser, from Harare and heading towards Bulawayo when at the 79km peg, he hit a stray beast and the car swerved onto the right lane resulting in it side-swiping with an oncoming haulage truck which was heading in the opposite direction. He sustained serious head, hand and back injuries,” said Snr Assist Comm Charamba.
He was rushed to Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo where he was pronounced dead on admission.
When our Bulawayo Bureau visited the scene of the accident yesterday morning, traffic police were guarding the wreckages of the two vehicles while the Vehicle Inspection Department officers were taking statements from the truck driver, Mr Ephraim Munyaradzi.
Mr Munyaradzi refused to talk to the news crew, saying he had to seek clearance first from his employers, Rolling Wheels Motors of Bulawayo.
Rtd Air Cdre Karakadzai’s body was yesterday afternoon taken to Imbizo Barracks, on the outskirts of Bulawayo, where his family conducted body viewing before it was later taken to a private funeral parlour.
In his condolence message, the Air Force of Zimbabwe Commander, Air Marshal Perrance Shiri, said the death had shocked and saddened officers and staff members of the entire Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
“It is with great sorrow that we learnt of the death of Air Commodore Karakadzai (Rtd), who dedicated his life since the tender age of 18 to serving the nation. He actually belonged to a rare breed of sons and daughters of Zimbabwe who chose their country over self-interests as testified by his contribution to the liberation struggle and loyal service in the AFZ and the National Railways of Zimbabwe,” said Air Marshal Shiri in a statement.
NRZ board chairman Dr Kotsho Dube expressed condolences to the Karakadzi family.
“The NRZ is sad to announce the untimely and tragic death of its general manager, Air Commodore Mike Tichafa Karakadzai (Rtd), who was involved in an accident at Shangani flyover on his way from Harare .
“The NRZ community is deeply saddened by his departure as we lost a manager and strategist par excellence,” said Dr Dube in a statement.
Air Cdre Karakadzai (Rtd) joined NRZ on November 1 2005 and immensely contributed to the revitalisation of the organisation at a time when it was beset with many challenges which led to the closure of many industries in Zimbabwe.
“The NRZ board, management and staff extend their deepest and heartfelt sympathy to the family, the entire railway community and indeed the nation at large on the passing on of this freedom fighter and liberation hero,” Dr Dube said.
The outgoing Minister of Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development, Cde Nicholas Goche, described him as a vibrant, hard-working man who was full of life and ideas.
“I was shocked when I learnt of the death of Air Cdre Karakadzai (Rtd). It is indeed a sad loss not only to NRZ but also to the entire nation.
“He was a hard-working and vibrant man who enjoyed his job despite the pressure that came with responsibility of being a general manager at NRZ, particularly during this time,” said Cde Goche.
Zimpapers chief executive Mr Justin Mutasa said Rtd Air Cdre Karakadzai was a man of action who was committed to the success of his business clients.
Mr Mutasa, a successful tobacco farmer, said the death of the NRZ boss was a blow to the country’s tobacco farmers who relied on him in the transportation of coal.
He said he reacted swiftly to the concerns of tobacco farmers whenever a problem arose in the transportation of coal.
“I am completely devastated. I have really lost a close business ally. As you know I am a tobacco farmer and my coal is transported by NRZ. I relied on him; he was a practical and hands-on man,” said Mr Mutasa.
He described Rtd Air Cdre Karakadzai as a great visionary leader who was concerned about the success of other people.
“As tobacco farmers we would like to convey our profound condolences to his family and the NRZ staff. We have lost a reliable leader, a true soldier and a pillar of success to many tobacco farmers,” Mr Mutasa said.
Hwange Colliery Company Limited spokesperson Mr Burzil Dube said his organisation had lost a key stakeholder who played a pivotal role in the transportation of coal to both local and foreign customers.
“Rtd Air Cdre Karakadzai was a man of his words who offered constructive advice. As HCCL, we have been robbed of a key stakeholder who played a key role in our day-to-day operations,” said Mr Dube.
Rtd Air Cdre Karakadzai was born on March 7 1957 in Chipinge. At the age of 18 he had experienced the brutality of the settler regime and decided to abandon his studies at Mt Jersey Secondary School in Chipinge to take up arms to dislodge the racist colonial regime.
In July 1975, he crossed the border through Espungabera to Machazi in Mozambique and was later transferred to Chibawawa Camp.
In March 1976, he left Chibawawa and went to Chimoio Camp where he received military training.
On completing the training, Rtd Air Cdre Karakadzai, then known by his Chimurenga name as Cde Hiplevel, was selected to undergo political education at Chitepo Ideological College in 1977.
After graduating, he was posted to Tete province to carry out political education, mobilisation, political research and the setting up of Zanu structures in liberated and semi-liberated zones.
He was later appointed the detachment commander for Nyahui (Rushinga District) detachment.
By 1978 the area had been declared a liberated zone and his role was to create Zanu political structures and consolidate the liberation of that area.
During his illustrious career in the AFZ, he held numerous positions which included base equipment officer in 1985, acting staff officer Grade 1 Equipment in 1988, and staff officer Grade 1 Equipment External in the same year.
In 1989, he was appointed acting director equipment before his substantive appointment for the post in 1991.
He distinguished himself in executing his duties and was promoted to the post of director-general operations three years later. In 2000, he was appointed the deputy secretary for defence policy and procurement.
Rtd Air Cdre Karakadza is survived by wife Sylvia and five sons.
Mourners are gathered at No. 56 Livingstone Road, Broadway House in Suburbs, Bulawayo, and Number 33 Guyscliff Road, Greystone Park in Harare. A funeral parade and burial arrangements will be announced in due course.