By Costa Nkomo and Bulawayo Correspondent
THE death on Wednesday of Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri, one of the key architects of the Gukurahundi mass executions in the early 1980s, has evoked sad memories of the dark period when over 20 000 Zimbabweans died in the hands of security forces in Matabeleland and Midlands regions.
Shiri died in Harare Wednesday morning at the age of 65.
The cause of his death has not been disclosed although his driver succumbed to Covid-19 and was buried last Saturday. Shiri had also been placed under self-isolation.
Announcing his death, President Emmerson Mnangagwa described Shiri as a true patriot.
“I am deeply saddened to inform the nation of the death of the Minister of Agriculture, Air Chief Marshall (rtd) Perrance Shiri, a long time friend and colleague. Cde Shiri was a true patriot, who devoted his life to the liberation, independence and service of this country,” Mnangagwa said.
However, not everyone held Mnangagwa’s view that Shiri was a true patriot with many recalling his chequered past.
Many aggrieved Zimbabweans feel Shiri died without atoning for his role in the Gukurahundi massacres.
“It’s tragic that Perrance Shiri has departed without facing justice over the Gukurahundi atrocities he committed in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the 1980s, nor telling the truth about those atrocities to help the nation. May God rest Shiri’s victims in eternal peace,” former Zanu PF Politburo member, Jonathan Moyo who is now in self-exile in Kenya said.
“PERRANCE SHIRI: Portrait of an unrepentant genocidal Zimbabwean Gukurahundi commander whose Fifth Brigade raped, abducted, torture and gruesomely murdered Zimbabweans in cold blood in Matabeleland; where Shiri also personally committed the same unspeakable crime against humanity,” he added.
In one video produced by the Catholic Commission For Justice: Zimbabwe, the now late Mike Auret, who was a director of the organisation is quoted confirming that Shiri gave the orders for the mass execution, rape and torture of citizens in the western part of Zimbabwe.
“Perrance Shiri above all knew precisely what was happening and he deserves the world court,” Auret said.
“The crimes committed by the Fifth Brigade under his command were gross crimes against humanity. Perrance Shiri was responsible for the death of many thousands of people in Matabeleland, horrifying deaths, not easy deaths, horrifying deaths.”
Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) said the party would not mourn Shiri because of his involvement in the killing of innocent civilians.
“Midlands and Matabeleland will not mourn Perrance Shiri, the late Commander of the Fifth Brigade who during the Gukurahundi christened himself Black Jesus as he was at the helm of the butchering of thousands of people. On the other hand, we say good riddance to him because of the numbers of our people who died because of his actions,” said MRP president Mqondisi Moyo.
Moyo’s sentiments were also echoed by Zapu spokesperson, Iphithule Maphosa who observed both the perpetrators and victims of the government sanctioned clampdown were dying before the emotive issue was resolved.
“We mourn not his (Shiri) death but that of tens of thousands of Zapu and Matabeleland victims of his rapes, torture, murders, disappearances, and the never-ending trauma his barbarism left behind southwest of Zimbabwe.
“We are sad because, just like (late President Robert) Mugabe, Shiri died before accounting for his diabolical actions and thus bringing closure to his victims of Gukurahundi.
“The details of his infamous command of the 5th Brigade, during which he figuratively equated himself to a Black Jesus who held the oxygen tank to his victims’ lives, with power to determine who lives or dies, are still needed by the victims and the country as a whole,” said Maphosa.
Social justice and human rights activist, Thandekile Moyo said the Agriculture Minister was a great injustice because he died without accounting for the atrocities he presided during the early 1980s.
“It’s a great injustice that the Butcher of Bhalagwe died a free man, that he died a peaceful death. (This is ) after crushing babies, after burning our parents and siblings alive in sealed huts, after killing us like flies and we have been robbed justice,” he said.
Former Deputy Higher Education Minister Godfrey Gandawa said while it was un-African to celebrate one’s death, the Zanu PF government must introspect.
“It is un-African to celebrate the death of another, the authorities must ask themselves why the news of Perrance Shiri’s death, a man who considered himself a liberator, has been greeted with celebration.”
One Todd Maforimbo tweeted saying he was only disappointed that Shiri had not faced justice for his Gukurahundi atrocities.
“I’m only disappointed he didn’t face justice for his Gukurahundi atrocities among others. Couldn’t Sakunda save him in their new ‘world-class facility’?. Don’t forget who made us heartless, a taste of their own medicine,” he said.
Shiri also stands accused of being one of the key persons who organised an orgy of violence in 2008 against the MDC supporters after the now late Robert Mugabe was defeated in the first round of a presidential election by Morgan Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai, also late, was forced to pull out of the second round of the election due to the violence perpetrated against party supporters by State security agents, war veterans and Zanu PF militia.
The Zapu called upon the government to set up a Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission that will thoroughly investigate the Gukurahundi genocide, before all the perpetrators.