HARARE – Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri died from the Covid-19 infection, becoming the first senior government official to succumb to the pandemic, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Thursday.
Shiri, a retired general who helped plot a coup that ousted Robert Mugabe in 2017, died on Wednesday.
The late liberation war veteran accused of leading a post-independence massacre of the minority Ndebele people in Matabeleland and Midlands was declared a national hero and will be buried on Friday during a closed ceremony.
“Now that it is confirmed that Minister Shiri died of Covid-19, we will follow World Health Organisation regulations on how the funeral should proceed,” Mnangagwa said during a funeral wake at Shiri’s home in Harare.
Shiri’s family had said they suspected he was poisoned. Mnangagwa, facing a growing rebellion within his Zanu PF party over his mishandling of the economy, went to great lengths to rule out foul play – turning up with a large envelope containing Shiri’s Covid-19 test results.
Zimbabwe has recorded 2,879 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 40 deaths.
Shiri commanded the Fifth Brigade which between 1983 and 1987 was accused of committing atrocities in south-western Zimbabwe, a massacre known as Gukurahundi. Rights groups say as many as 20,000 people died. – Reuters