Perrance Shiri obituary by Chris Mutsvangwa
AS Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, we are in total shock and deepest pain at the passing on of Hon Perrance Shiri, Minister of Agriculture and Retired Air Marshal of the Air Force of Zimbabwe.
Comradre Perrance Shiri first distinguished himself as a provincial field commander of Zanla’s Tete Province. He assumed this assignment in 1977 as the war being fought from Mozambique gathered vice grip pace.
His command of Zanla forces on the sprawling war zone delivered game changing military contacts which were the sharp edge of a generalised offensive.
The units he commanded accounted for the death of Lord Richard Cecil in April 1978. The misguided British peer revelled in promoting the Rhodesian Army as invincible against so termed African guerrillas or ‘terrorists’. He would take cameras and film real life combat in the belief that Zanla guerrillas were ineffectual.
In the event, his run of British bravado ran out during a fateful encounter when Commander Shiri’s charges gunned Lord Richard Cecil at close range.
The British ruling elite were shaken to the core at the combat proficiency of Zanla guerrillas.
The grieving Prime Minister Thatcher was forced to apply herself to the declining military fortunes of the rebellious Rhodesian colony. The demise of Lord Cecil was an emotionally contributing factor to the famous Thatcher-Kaunda dance during the 1979 Commonwealth Heads of State Summit Conference in Lusaka.
Provincial Commander Shiri was an exceptional war strategist. Under the guidance of General Magama Tongogara and the Zanla High Command, he embarked on a commando training programme relying on young guerrilla fighters with an urban ground.
Zanla was busy preparing for an assault on the urban ramparts of the rebel Rhodesia settler colony.
In December 1978, Shiri was ready to deliver another body blow. This time the salvo was right in the capital of the miscreant colony.
His Zanla charges this time evaded the racist Rhodesian security net. They proceeded to launch rocket launchers that set ablaze the oil storage tanks in the Southerton Industrial Zone.
For days Ian Smith led the attempts to extinguish the fire. He even called in help from apartheid South Africa. Rhodesian morale was shattered. Many young white soldiers began to gape abroad to South Africa, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and wherever.
The veil of white military invincibility was henceforth being pierced with bold and confident intent by the Zanla-Zipra guerrilla armies.
With the depleting manpower base and an overstretched economy, the once preening Ian Smith began to see the reality of impending and stark military defeat. His supporters in the Western capitals would thereafter pressurise that he surrenders ahead of time.
This act of daring sabotage of the oil tanks marked a high water mark point in the execution of Zanla guerrilla campaign. It greatly buoyed the fighting prowess of guerrilla ranks with a sense of foreboding victory.
Throughout 1979, the tactical and strategic ingenuity would clobber heavy blow after another all the way to the gunning down of a Rhodesian Airforce transport plane in Mapai, Gaza province. The enemy ran away after failing to recover the charred bodies of their colleagues.
The Battle of Mavonde was the final straw that broke the Rhodesian back. A combined air and ground assault at the well defended if impregnable Zanla military complex of undergraduate tunnels was repulsed.
Jaded, the British government promptly summoned General Peter Walls to the Lancaster House Conference. He was forced to eat humble pie as he had to salute General Josiah Magama Tongogara. This was the prelude to the signing of Lancaster House Armistice in 1979. The Zimbabwe road to freedom and independence was thus secured.
Shiri was tasked with training urban guerrilla commandos from those of ZANLA that had an urban background. By December 1978, his chargers had set ablaze fuel tanks in Salisbury. This act of exceptional valour would witness pictures of a demoralized and dejected Ian Smith.
1979 saw Shiri as a peace builder. With fellow Patriotic Front guerrillas they outmanoeuvred the diehard among the defeated Rhodesian racist army.
The Lancaster House Armistice was secured all the way to elections and freedom in 1980.
Shiri was also the inner core of the troop integration exercise that gave birth to Zimbabwe Defence Forces and helped inculcate it’s much admired discipline and professionalism.
From the ashes of the sabotaged Zimbabwe Airforce at Thornhill Air Base, Shiri helped rebuild the new national air force. Its pedigree would later prove a boon in training and restructuring of the South African Airforce.
Shiri earned more battlefield medals from the Mozambique campaign as our army returned to the neighbouring nation. Apartheid South African aggression had become deadly menacing.
In 1998, the venerable Shiri was back in action. This time he would emerge the much adulated hero of Kinshasa, the sprawling capital of DR Congo. With 1 000 paratroopers he routed a 10 000 troop column of combined Rwandan and Ugandan forces bent on overthrowing President Laurent Kabila. Shiri would become the celebrated hero of the populace of Kinshasa for saving their city.
Internally, he worked on recovering our stolen land together with other war veterans.
He helped push back the Regime Change agenda of the last two decades. Operation Restore Legacy of November 2017 thwarted G40s from seizing power and steadied the Zimbabwe Revolution.
Lately, the hardworking Shiri was leaving no stone unturned to restore national agriculture to optimal production.
He was committing every ounce of his energy to the great cause of national food security and revival of exports.
He was reaching out to erstwhile white commercial farmers, negotiating compensation and promoting the great Pvumvudza Project.
Mutsvangwa is the chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association.