By Herald Reporters
Government and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have paid their condolences to Pakistan following the death of Retired Air Marshal Mohammed Abdul Azim Daudpota, who was the first non-white commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe.
Air Marshal Daudpota died in his country on Sunday at the age of 83, and was buried on Tuesday.
Defence Minister Dr Sydney Sekeramayi said Government was saddened by his untimely death.
“As the Minister of Defence and on behalf of the Secretary for Defence, Commander Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Service Chiefs, General and Air Officers, Officers and members of the ZDF, I would like to express my heartiest tribute and deep felt condolences to the Daudpota family, the PAF (Pakistan Air Force), the people and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” he said in a statement.
“May the soul of Air Marshal Daudpota rest in peace.”
Dr Sekeramayi said immediately after independence, Government observed challenges in the integration process of the former warring parties in the AFZ, emanating from discriminatory structures erected by erstwhile colonisers.
These challenges were as a result of some exigencies of a post-colonial Zimbabwe that was under siege from Rhodesians who sought to destroy the gains of the war of liberation of Zimbabwe.
Government then requested the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to assist in dismantling the structural barriers.
Air Marshal Daudpota and his team of 20 pilots, 18 aircraft engineers and three Air Traffic Controllers were seconded to the AFZ from 1983 to 1986.
“Air Marshal Daudpota epitomised the never dying spirit of an African warrior and espoused true fearlessness,” said Minister Sekeramayi. “He lived amongst us and became a true son of the soil.
“His leadership successfully harnessed the power of former freedom fighters in the AFZ who faced new post-colonial challenges into a soundless tempest that imploded the vestiges of racial bigotry.”
Minister Sekeramayi said in recognition of Air Marshal Daudpota’s tremendous work he had been awarded the Grand Commander of the Zimbabwe Order of Merit by the Government.
Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander, General Dr Constantino Chiwenga, paid his condolences at Pakistan Charge d’Affaires of the Chancery, Mr Sajjad Ahmed Seehar, at Pakistan Embassy in Harare yesterday.
He was accompanied by permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Mr Martin Rushwaya, Air Force of Zimbabwe Commander, Air Marshal Perrance Shiri, Zimbabwe National Army representative, Major-General Trust Mugova and other ZDF staffers.
He said the ZDF was saddened by the passing on of Rtd Air Marshal Daudpota.
“Air Marshal Daudpota was a stalwart of the era of re-structuring the instruments of a legitimate force in Zimbabwe,” said Gen Chiwenga.
“His valour saw him upend the residues of colonial oppression through uplifting newly trained freedom fighters.
“The black pilots and aircraft technicians were either disgorged or simply overlooked because of the colour of their skin and in one dastardly instance, AFZ newly acquired aircraft and other Government of Zimbabwe equipment was destroyed by unremorseful saboteurs at Thornhill Air Force base.”
Gen Chiwenga said a delegation would be sent to Pakistan to present condolences from Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, who is also the Head of State and Government, President Mugabe.
In his remarks, Mr Sajjad said the death of Air Marshal Daudpota was a great loss to both Zimbabwe and Pakistan.