The Sunday Mail
IT hurts me, I am gutted.
I am constantly pinching myself to wake up from this bad dream.
I cannot fathom it. No! but why so early? We still had unfinished business brother, who will mentor me?
The sad news of the demise of Air Chief Marshal (Rtd) Perrance Shiri made me go down memory lane to unpack some of the moments we shared as comrades.
I first met Cde Shiri at Nyamuyaruka near Dendera Assembly Point during ceasefire and a friendship was born from this first encounter.
My towering frame is what caught his eye as he jokingly asked me where I was when men like me were needed at the front during the war.
I was part of a people’s movement that was working hand-in-glove with ZANLA forces in Tete Province where he was the commander and as such, when the freedom fighters were called to the assembly points, I was there too as part of the supporting cast of the liberation struggle.
After the war in 1980, Cde Shiri recommended me to go to Yugoslavia for intelligence training. I spent the whole year there. When I returned, Cde Shiri told me that I was to help him with his field work in Mutoko, formerly Tete Province. Mutoko and part of Manicaland formed Tete Province and according to Cde Shiri, freedom fighters had enjoyed much support and shelter during the war of liberation and thus, he took it upon himself to develop the area.
I was soon to be in ZANU PF structures and we struck a formidable partnership as we started developmental projects in the area.
Our friendship cascaded to our families and we started to visit each other frequently. He would drive during weekends to my area and it did not take time as we became tomato farmers. He was an ardent farmer. Along the way, he instilled in me the importance of educating our children.
Today, I have more than 10 graduates because of his invaluable advice. He would come to every graduation ceremony of my children. It was again to no surprise that he was instrumental in setting up a computer programme in my constituency and he officially opened the computer labs at Chitimbe Primary School.
He believed in education and the need for information technology in the communities. He was an education marshal.
I vividly recall when I was booted out of office as Mashonaland East Resident Minister, Cde Shiri came to sympathise with me even though I had been labelled an outcast. He took it upon himself that I had to respect that decision and he even told me that he was summoned by former President Robert Mugabe over his visit, but he stood with his conscience.
That is why you saw me quiet during that dark period of my political career, it was because of his wise counsel. He was an ardent Oliver Mtukudzi follower and had his full collection, which he guarded jealously. He loved his whisky too.
We used to frequent Mtukudzi shows together. At one of the shows in Harare, we had our bottle of whisky on a table and as the night wore on, with the music vibe getting into us, a drunk lady reveller fell on our table and I became furious. I was about to mete out instant justice on the poor lady, but Cde Shiri blocked my hand.
“We don’t hit ladies, besides, she is drunk,” he cautioned.
He specifically loved the Jiti genre of Tuku Music and that is how he ended up sitting down with Mtukudzi to form the Air Force band.
It was Mtukudzi who helped him set up the traditional band in the Air Force and the two became buddies. Cde Shiri always believed in national unity and togetherness, and the need to heal past wounds.
He fostered an element of forgiveness in me and I also want to say that is why I was at peace with everyone when I was booted out of Government.
He told me again the need to respect family values and to protect the family from the glare of public scrutiny.
He told me about the “Pfumvudza” programme and the need to have wire making workshops in every village.
He believed black indigenous farmers would perform as good as their white counterparts if they received adequate training and support. Fly well education marshal, till we farm again!
◆ Simbaneuta Mudarikwa is the Member of Parliament for Uzumba.