By Ndafadza Madanha

The demise of Cde Perrance Shiri robs the country of one of its most illustrious son, a man who dedicated his life to the service of his fellow compatriots.

His death just a few days before the nation marks the Heroes and Zimbabwe Defence Forces Holidays, makes it more painful as Cde Shiri played an instrumental role in the liberation of Zimbabwe and subsequent creation of our much respected armed forces.

Born Bigboy Samson Chikerema, Cde Shiri dedicated the formative years of his life to the fight against colonialism and overthrow of the Smith regime.

Alongside the likes of Vice President Constantine Chiwenga and many other youths, he deserted his education to cross into neighbouring countries to prosecute the struggle for liberation.

He distinguished himself as a commander of ZANLA, the military wing of ZANU and rose through the ranks to become the Field Commander for Tete (North Eastern Region) by 1978.

At the creation of Zimbabwe, Cde Shiri was one of the cardes called upon by the authorities to play a leading role in integrating the three forces that had participated in the war of liberation.

True to his character which he would display throughout his career, Cde Shiri excelled at the task and quickly moved up the ranks in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

Owing to his outstanding attributes, the former President Cde Robert Mugabe appointed Cde Shiri as Air Marshall of the Zimbabwe Airforce in 1992.

A lot was expected from Cde Shiri who took over from another luminary of the struggle in the mold of Cde Josiah Tungamirai as the Airforce commander. Like in his previous postings Cde Shiri did not disappoint.

During his role as Air Marshall, Cde Shiri moulded the Airforce into a formidable and disciplined fighting outfit that distinguished itself locally and beyond our borders.

He led the Airforce in many successful operations both internally and externally.

During times of natural calamities such as cyclones and drought, Cde Shiri and the Airforce could be relied upon to rescue victims and deliver much needed supplies.

Externally, Cde Shiri played his role in preserving regional security and the DRC bears testimony to the  astuteness and outstanding skills of the man.

Cde Shiri never wavered from the ideals of the liberation struggle and stood firm in support of them.

As of Airforce commander when the ZANU PF government initiated the Land Reform exercise, Cde Shiri stood firm in support of  the noble objective and resisted attempts by external forces to incite the security apparatus into rebellion.

In 2017 when the G40 cabal was on the verge of reversing the liberation struggle gains and subverting the revolutionary ZANU PF Party, it was the likes of Cde Shiri alongside other commanders of the armed forces who stepped in to avert a crisis through Operation Restore legacy.

The successful execution of Operation Restore Legacy gave birth to the Second Republic and assumption of Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa as Party and State President.

For Cde Shiri, the Second Republic marked another chapter of his life as he exchanged his military attire for civilian life.

Upon retirement he was appointed Minister of Agriculture in the post Operation legacy cabinet and he would retain the same post after the 2018 harmonised elections.

As Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Water and Rural Resettlement, Cde Shiri was charged with restoring the country's breadbasket status and enhancing production capacity.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Cde Shiri immediately engrossed himself with his new challenge and undertook a number of measures to transform the agriculture sector.

Among the measures introduced by Cde Shiri include the revival of irrigation schemes, remodelling of the Command Agriculture scheme and Farm Mechanisation scheme.

During his tenure as Minister, Cde Shiri distinguished himself as a hands on Minister and had become a regular figure on national television, donning his blue overalls while assessing various government programmes  across the country.

The efforts put in by Cde Shiri over the last two years towards revitalising our agriculture sector are beginning to bear fruit.

Those farmers who benefited from the Land Reform exercise now owe it to the likes of Cde Shiri and many who went before him, who sacrificed their lives to reclaim our ancestral lands.

Cde Shiri, go well son of the soil.

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