Perrance Shiri death robs Gukurahundi victims a shot at justice

The government must urgently set up a truth and justice commission to investigate the Gukurahundi atrocities as some of the architects of the post-independence mass killings in Matabeleland and Midlands are dying without justice being served, activists have said.

This came after the death of the former commander of the North Korean trained 5th Brigade and cabinet minister Retired Air Chief Marshal Perence Shiri on Wednesday.

Shiri, 65, was appointed the Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet following a coup that toppled the late Robert Mugabe in November 2017.

Previously, he was the commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe.

It is believed he may have succumbed to Covid-19, after Presidential spokesperson George Charamba confirmed to the media that his official driver had succumbed to the virus a few days ago.

Infamously known as ‘Black Jesus’ or the ‘Butcher of Balagwe’ Shiri led a reign of terror in Matabeleland and Midlands through a military offensive by 5th Brigade which is said to have killed 20 000 civilians.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa in his condolence message described Shiri as “a long-time friend and colleague” and a “true patriot who devoted his life to the liberation, independence and service of his country.”

But political activists in Matabeleland said Shiri’s demise means efforts should be redoubled to bring the remaining Gukurahundi architects to book, lest they too evade justice.

“It is good he is gone. He is going to be buried in a plastic just like the victims of the genocide. Accused three (Shiri) is gone with the information that survivors and the world needed especially during this time when the peace commission is addressing the past injustices,” said Mbuso Fuzwayo, a long time campaigner for the justice of Gukurahundi victims and Secretary General of Ibhetshu LikaZulu, a pressure group.

Another social activist, Bernard Magugu, a former Chief Administrator of the 1893 Mthwakazi Restoration Movement (1893 MRM), concurred Shiri’s death meant justice would be forfeited.

“Those who are remaining will always point fingers at the dead, say Gukurahundi was committed by the dead – Mugabe, Shiri, Vitalis Zvinavashe, Solomon Mujuru. All those claims will emerge. We hoped these murderers will be brought before courts of law so that true justice and reconciliation can be realised,” he said.

Bernard Magugu

ZAPU National Spokesperson, Iphithule Maphosa, called upon the government to set up a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to thoroughly investigate Gukurahundi massacres.

“Shiri has evaded accountability and justice by running to the realm of the dead. We mourn not his death but that of tens of thousands of ZAPU and Matabeleland victims who suffered his rape, torture, murders, disappearances and never ending trauma, his barbarism left behind in southwest of Zimbabwe. We are sad because, just like Mugabe recently, Shiri has died before accounting for his diabolical actions and thus not bringing closure to his Gukurahundi victims,” he said.

Maphosa said the details of Shiri’s infamous command of the Fifth Brigade was still needed by the victims and country as a whole.

“It’s a pity Shiri has gone to his grave without asking for an apology and seeking to reconcile with his victims. The government must seriously consider timely resolution to Gukurahundi genocide and allow for a transitional justice process to deliver justice and resolve this long standing conflict. This is important to avoid transfer of pain and anger to our next generations, thereby sowing never ending conflict between our people and reaping most adversely devastating consequences,” he said.

Leader of the Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP), Mqondisi Moyo, described Shiri’s death as tragic to victims, as he died without him being tried for the atrocities he committed.

“Shiri killed our people, kidnapped and raped women. As people from Matabeleland and Midlands we do not mourn him but we celebrate his death,” he said.

The militant MRP leader claimed people still lived in fear, harbouring memories of the 1980s massacres.

“Another genocide is being committed, which is economical. People in Matabeleland live as second class citizens in a country that was liberated, a country whose government thrives on instilling fear. We say good riddance,” Moyo said.

Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) president Mqondisi Moyo

He also castigated people who described Shiri as a nationalist.

“We need to understand the meaning of nationalist because to us, Shiri commanded an army that killed people just after the country attained independence.”

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