‘Shiri died of Covid-19’ . . . Burial set for today

President Mnangagwa speaks to the late Cde Perrance Shiri’s sister, Eusebia Chifamba when he consoled the national hero’s family in Borrowdale, Harare, yesterday in the company of Vice Presidents Constantino Chiwenga (second from right) and Kembo Mohadi. — Picture: Believe Nyakudjara

Elita Chikwati Senior Reporter

National hero, Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Air Chief Marshal Perrance Shiri (Rtd) died of Covid-19 and will be buried today in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, President Mnangagwa said.

Retired Air Marshal Shiri died early Wednesday. He was 65.

Addressing mourners at the late ACM Shiri’s Borrowdale home yesterday, President Mnangagwa said test results had shown that the minister succumbed to Covid-19.

Among those paying respects were Vice Presidents Dr. Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi, ministers who included, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Kazembe Kazembe, Paul Mavima, Sekai Nzenza, Ministers of State Monica Mavhunga, Ellen Gwaradzimba, and Mary Mliswa-Chikoka, service chiefs, Members of Parliament and Politburo members.

They joined family members at the sombre funeral wake as they paid respects to the family that gave Zimbabwe one of its most illustrious sons.

“The results came today and they indicate that Cde Shiri succumbed to Covid-19. This means his funeral and burial arrangements will no longer follow the normal procedures but will be guided by the WHO guidelines,” said President Mnangagwa.

Ordinarily, the body of a national hero would be taken to his rural home, then pass through the historic Stodart Hall before a procession for interment at the National Heroes Acre.

However, under the Covid-19 pandemic rules, only 50 people will be allowed at the National Heroes Acre and traditional practices will be suspended in line with the WHO guidelines.

“We should follow the WHO guidelines which also include social distancing and sanitisation. There are a few people who came here. In normal circumstances, there would have been multitudes of people. Nevertheless, we stand guided by WHO guidelines and we should follow them,” the President said.

Unbeknown to everybody that Covid-19 , which has killed more than half a million people worldwide, would claim the life of one of Zimbabwe’s most recognisable and hardworking sons, the President said just last week on Tuesday he and the late Cde Shiri discussed matters around food security, but “this Tuesday he did not show up. I enquired from the Chief Secretary who told me his driver had fallen ill and died and we thought he was in isolation”.

“In the evening they came to the State House when they were leaving. They said Minister Shiri should have reported to a health facility, but he later changed his mind and went home. His colleagues inquired and he assured them that he was well only to be called around 3 am (on Wednesday) and that he was no more.”

The President said the death of Cde Shiri was a sad loss to the family and the nation at large because he was a hardworking minister who transformed the Ministry of Agriculture in a short period of time.

“We used to have a Minister of Lands, Minister for Agriculture, Minister for Water and Minister for Environment, but when we came into Government he had the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement because we knew he was a hard worker who delivered.

“His ministry was the only one with two deputies. Even though he was heading a huge ministry with so many responsibilities, Cde Shiri delivered,” he said.