SENIOR STAFF WRITER
FOREIGN Affairs and International Trade minister Sibusiso Moyo, pictured, succumbed to the lethal coronavirus yesterday, in the latest high-profile death that underscores how much the virulent respiratory disease has gone wild in the country.
Moyo became the third minister to die from the raging pandemic, following the recent death of Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Ellen Gwaradzimba and last year’s passing on of Lands and Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri.
The 61-year-old former army general became an instant celebrity when he announced live on State television the stunning November 2017 military coup which led to the ouster from power of the late former president Robert Mugabe.
Moyo was the husband of the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo.
Yesterday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa led the tributes to Moyo, saying he had lost “a friend who had fought his entire life to see a free Zimbabwe”.
This comes as Zimbabwe is in the middle of the second wave coronavirus drumfire, which has seen the novel disease killing more than 800 people since it first broke out in the country last year.
Most worryingly, the deadly pandemic has killed more people since the turn of the New Year than it did in the whole of last year.
“His Excellency, President Mnangagwa, regrets to announce the passing on early this morning of Dr SB Moyo, our minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
“The minister succumbed to Covid-19 at a local hospital.
“The nation will be kept apprised of further developments regarding this untimely demise of the late minister, himself a decorated soldier and freedom fighter,” Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, said in announcing the death of the former general.
Posting on his social media page, Mnangagwa said the death of Moyo was a great loss to the nation.
“Zimbabwe has lost a devoted public servant and a true hero, and I have lost a friend. He fought his entire life so that Zimbabwe could be free,” he said.
Also paying tribute to Moyo was Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa, who said his death was “a terrible and painful loss of a great patriot”.
She further hailed Moyo for facilitating the “peaceful transfer of power through the 2017 November restoration of the revolution”.
“His meticulous planning and execution of pertinent events saved the nation from chaos and bloodshed. He would go on to tackle the pariah status of the nation on his appointment as Foreign minister.
“He cultivated a symbiotic relationship with my ministry as we worked to rebrand the image of the nation.
“To both traditional friends and erstwhile adversaries, he was easy to work with because we shared the common bonds as cadres of the national war of liberation. We will forever be indebted to Comrade Dr SB Moyo!
“Once again, the nation is indebted to a patriot of a rare personal calibre, outstanding military capability and remarkable political acumen,” Mutsvangwa said further in her tribute.
Moyo, a retired lieutenant general had previously battled kidney-related problems — which in September 2018 forced him to miss the crucial United Nations General Assembly meeting in the United States, where Zimbabwe was represented by Mnangagwa.
He became the third minister to succumb to Covid-19 following the deaths of Gwaradzimba and Shiri.
Shiri, another liberation struggle stalwart and former military commander — who was born Bigboy Samson Chikerema before he joined the war for independence in the 1970s — endured a difficult and lonely death in his car, as he tried in vain to drive himself to a hospital for treatment.
Moyo was born at Munene Mission Hospital, in Mberengwa, in 1960. He joined the liberation struggle as a teenager in 1977, abandoning his Form 3 studies at the time.
He joined the liberation struggle via Botswana in the company of his cousin — current Air Marshal Elson Moyo, who was also with him at the same school.
He was the third born in a family of eight.
The affable Moyo earned the moniker “General Bae” after he announced live on television the widely supported military putsch which swept aside Mugabe on November 15, 2017.
The curtain later fell on Mugabe on November 21, when the nonagenarian resigned from office moments after Parliament had started proceedings to impeach him.
For some time during this period, Mugabe and his erratic wife Grace were placed under house arrest.
Several Cabinet ministers linked to the Generation 40 (G40) faction who had coalesced around Grace were also targeted in the military operation, which ended a week before Christmas, with the soldiers retreating to their barracks after five weeks.
Moyo’s death comes as authorities are battling to contain spiralling cases of Covid-19 in the country, which have triggered calls for the government to expedite processes to bring in much-needed vaccines.
Yesterday, 52 people succumbed to the deadly virus — 24 hours after it had killed 60 citizens, amid a worrying trend where the deaths have continued in the double figures range.
The rising deaths come as the country is under a stiffened lockdown which authorities had hoped would help curb the spread of the disease in the country.
The re-imposed curfew means that people are prohibited from being out and about between 6pm and 6am, except for those providing essential services.
In addition, the operations of all businesses — except those providing essential services — were also once again suspended for 30 days, as authorities battled to curb the spread of the lethal disease.