By Ndatenda Njanike
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga says he feels hurt after losing his fellow former military generals, Perrance Shiri, Sibusiso Moyo and Paradzai Zimondi describing them as “great friends.”
All three succumbed to Covid-19 and they are interred at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.
The VP, who doubles up as the Health Minister, said he usually felt it would have been appropriate to meet his deceased comrades, before their demise, for a last meal and chat briefly.
Shiri, at the time of his death last year, was the Agriculture Minister while Moyo was the Foreign Minister and Zimondi was a retired prison boss. Moyo and Zimondi passed on in January this year.
The late senior officials and Chiwenga were senior military generals who engineered the removal of now late President Robert Mugabe from office in November 2017. The four are also former liberation war fighters.
Chiwenga, Shiri and Moyo, immediately, after the ouster of Mugabe, left the military and took senior positions in government.
“I know I hear discussions, (I) wish I had, you know, a meal before I lost to them,” a sorrowful Chiwenga said on the national broadcaster ZBC’s Face the Nation this week.
“We… can start with the Marshall (Shiri). We spoke and almost close to an hour talking. We ended up talking about school. On that fateful day, I just put my phone on the bed and then I slept.”
Chiwenga and Shiri studied at the same school in Wedza before they joined they liberation struggle.
“At three past three (a.m.), the Commander of Defence Forces (Valerio Sibanda) called me and I’m trying to find my phone. I eventually find it, General Sibanda, he says, ‘I have no good news, we have lost Air Chief Air Marshall’. I look at my phone I am speaking to him you know (but) the last person I spoke to was the Air Marshall.”
Turning to death of Moyo, Chiwenga said the afternoon before his death, he told the then Foreign Minister to take a rest. However, Moyo insisted he was feeling fine.
“In the afternoon I told him (Moyo) ‘don’t go to work you know there is a spike’ and he ‘like what are you talking about? I’m fine, I’m just having my meal’ but late afternoon he goes to the hospital and in the morning you hear that we have lost him. So as General Zimondi, it was the same.
“But it gives us the courage that everybody will have his or her own time. I didn’t expect to lose such great friends. We grieve and we understand that OK this has happened to me all we can say is ‘God give me strength and courage to accept the reality’. This is now the reality. I can’t reverse it and no one else can reverse it. What is now more important for me is to make sure that all other colleagues are safe and will continue to look for everything that will protect the people of Zimbabwe.”
He said the government had placed guidelines and procedures to be followed in the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.
“But besides that every vaccine to do with Covid-19 is going to be offered freely to every Zimbabwean. So nobody is going to make a single cent out of Covid-19. Every purchase will be done through the government.
“And we are the only ones who will give the (vaccination) certificate. Eventually, that certificate is going to be yet another passport. When you go to the restaurant, you shall be asked to produce your passport, and when you go to the ministry, you produce it and say I am ‘OK’ and everybody will be free.”
Chiwenga said despite his tight schedule as the VP, running the Health Ministry including overseeing the operations of the Agriculture Ministry, he was concentrating on writing a book.
“I’m trying to write another book. I oversee also the Agriculture (Ministry) myself and with Dr. Anxious Masuka, we must make sure the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme left by Air Marshall Shiri continues and I will also be going to my ‘small field’ to see how the cobs will be doing. If we leave you (Zimbabweans) in poverty you will curse us.”