In a moving speech at the burial of the late national hero Perrance Shiri, who succumbed to Covid-19 on Wednesday at the age of 65, the President said Zimbabweans should draw lessons from the late liberation war commander who selflessly served his country with distinction until the very end.
This comes as some health workers have been withdrawing their labour, seeking higher salaries and better personal protective equipment, although this is now flowing in. However, the President, who acknowledged their grievances, said amid a global pandemic, saving lives was paramount and should come first.
“We must stop the scourge of Covid-19, itself a global pandemic. It spares no one, great or small. All nations of the world are suffering from its impact, with figures of infections and deaths rising daily. In unity and through discipline, we stand a chance to save our nation from its menace.
“I call on our medical staff to act in the national interest and exhibit a great sense of responsibility. My Government hears your cries, listens to your concerns. But the time to serve is now. Your grievances, which we acknowledge and continue to address, cannot be enjoyed at the expense of loss of life. When the pandemic spreads and the death toll rises, there are no winners, none at all. Tinopera tese kufa,” the President said.
He called upon Zimbabweans to stay at home, wear masks, maintain good hygiene and practice social distancing to curb the spread of Covid-19 that has infected close to 20 million people globally. Zimbabwe has recorded more than 3 000 positive cases with 53 deaths by Thursday night.
At a time when opportunists are seeking to ride on the medical staff grievances to push their regime change agendas through unsanctioned demonstrations, the President said Zimbabweans should shun acts of violence because they were detrimental to the peace that the country’s brave sons and daughters like the late Shiri fought for.
“Let us draw lessons from the illustrious life of our national hero Shiri. We need peace, peace, perfect peace, for national development. Let us shun strife, violence and disunity. Proponents of such divisive and ruinous acts must be rejected and exposed”.
The President said for the country to achieve its set goals, that include devolution and decentralisation, there is a need for unity of purpose in “harmony and love”.
“Along many who lie interred here at our National Shrine, Shiri and those of us who are survivors and from our armed struggle, know the meaning of war and strife, indeed know the priceless value of national peace and unity,” he said.
In war and in conflict, people die and suffer; in peace and in unity, nations and peoples prosper. Both from our history, and from the numerous examples of contemporary African experiences, we must, as Zimbabweans, continue on the path of peace, entrenching peace, choosing peace and national unity, over war, divisions and instability,” he said. Shiri, who was born Bigboy Benjamin Samson Chikerema, joined the liberation struggle in 1973, the late national hero led from the front in the war against settler subjugation.
He was attested to the Zimbabwe National Army after independence before a lateral transfer to the Air Force of Zimbabwe, where he was to become the Air Marshal for over 20 years before he was appointed the Minister of Lands Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, a position that endeared him to many in the crucial sector as he was a man of action who led from the front, just like during the liberation war.
“Once the Second Republic defined its vision, Shiri pursued it with utmost vigour. He knew that Zimbabwe needed to shake off food insecurity, and implemented strategic Government programmes under the Agriculture Recovery Plan such as the-PFumvudza Concept, mechanisation, modernisation, irrigation development, climate proofing of agriculture. These strategies would ensure that our Nation becomes food-secure both in lean and stout years.
“He was ‘Mutumwa zvepedo’, he understood that strategy without execution is no strategy. He has left us that value and work ethic. The lasting tribute we should give him is to carry on from where he left,” said the President.
President Mnangagwa said in honour to the late national hero, who negotiated and secured agricultural equipment from across the globe, Government would build more dams, equip farmers and see to it that production was ramped as per his vision.