The Sunday Mail
As business, we join HE President ED Mnangagwa, the Shiri family and the nation of Zimbabwe in mourning an unparalleled, dedicated and passionate liberation war hero, and an astute economic liberation proponent, Air Chief Marshal Perrance Shiri (Rtd).
He was an embodiment of hard work, rare humility and steadfast leadership.
At the inception of the Second Republic, he led the nation in rolling out President Mnangagwa’s vision to re-imagine and redesign the productivity and agricultural systems of Zimbabwe in a definite quest to regain the breadbasket status of Africa.
The late minister’s views and resolve on national agriculture appealed to many, especially young Zimbabweans and women, in the country and Diaspora.
We saw an unmatched surge of interest in agriculture from women and young Zimbabweans.
I can personally attest to this growing interest to take to agriculture as I have hosted and mentored a few thousands of youths entering or attempting to start themselves in agriculture — one of the things I enjoy doing at The 2-Hectare Life Model that we have designed and developed to answer to the President’s vision.
The academic stint at Women’s University in Africa (WUA) might have had such a huge impact on Cde Shiri that it persuaded him to adopt inclusive agricultural production programming, which also ushered in women participation in agriculture right from village level.
This was quite apparent in his passion for the Pfumvudza concept.
We bemoan the slow process to allocate land to new beneficiaries and the continued marginalisation of youths and women in accessing Government supported agriculture; I mean at a large scale and in a pluralistic fashion that represents the national demography.
The ministry that represents youths must rise to the challenge and think outside the box on how to build models that can provide radical and speedy affirmative action for the participation of youths in the mainstream economy, be it agriculture, mining, arts, sports and tourism.
Minister Shiri was one minister who had aptly grasped Vision 2030 spearheaded by President Mnangagwa.
He — endowed with a bellowing and broadcasting voice — was action — and results-oriented and remained so grounded to earth. Interestingly, my first ever conversation with the late Minister Shiri, also known as Gudo Guru, was a few months before Operation Restore Legacy in 2017.
He had just arrived from a supervisory tour of Command Agriculture projects with the then Vice President and now President ED Mnangagwa.
Our entire dinner chat was filled with conversations around agriculture and I remember him saying, “Hakuna chichasimudza nyika yedu kunze kwekurima kana tikabatana…” (There won’t be anything that will salvage our economy except agriculture, if we unite and focus . . .”
I understood what he meant given the contemporary politics of the time and yet the message would still apply today.
He went on to say, “Patadzika ndege ndaenda and shook shef (then VP Mnangagwa)’s hand ndikavati, ‘Shef, mungazotadza kutendwa in your life, muono wenyu muagriculture, aiwa muri kugonera nyika yedu, Shef . . . “
He was acknowledging and paying tribute to President Mnangagwa for his exceptional vision and passion for re-building agriculture, even in the midst of criticism. Perhaps the President will recollect Cde Shiri’s words of appreciation and encouragement.
Besides, I know the two had lots of other conversations on national economic development through agriculture.
When the President appointed the late Air Chief Marshal Shiri (Rtd) as Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, I knew the two had cut their teeth in championing agricultural productivity and redesigning.
The struggle is poorer without Cde Shiri, but his inspiration and commitment to our great nation Zimbabwe will continue to urge all of us to sweat ourselves out of poverty . . . “kana tikabatana . . . ” to borrow Cde Shiri’s words. Fare thee well our all-time hero and economic development champion!
◆ Langton Mabhanga is a board member of the Pan-African Chamber of Commerce.