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Zimbabwe Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri dies of Covid-19

Wednesday July 29 2020
Zim

Perence Shiri, Zimbabwe minister of Land, Agriculture and Land Resettlement during a past event. FILE PHOTO | JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | AFP

By KITSEPILE NYATHI

Zimbabwe's Agriculture Minister has died of Covid-19 at the age of 65, a day after two legislators tested positive for the disease.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the death of retired air force marshal Perrance Shiri on Wednesday.

"I am deeply saddened to inform the nation of the death of the Minister of Agriculture Retired Air Marshall Perrance Shiri, a long time friend and colleague," President Mnangagwa said.

"Comrade Shiri was a true patriot, who devoted his life to the liberation, independence and service of his  country."

Shiri was the commander of Zimbabwe's Air Force until the 2017 military coup that toppled long time ruler Robert Mugabe.

He then joined President Mnangagwa’s first Cabinet. 

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A veteran of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation war, Shiri was the commander of a North Korean trained army unit blamed for the massacre of over 20,000 civilians soon after the country’s independence.

He was hospitalised on Tuesday just days after his driver succumbed to Covid-19 at the weekend.

Zimbabwe has recorded a spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks  and on Tuesday the country's caseload shot to 2,817 after 113 new infections were reported.

The Health ministry said four more people had died, bringing the total number of those that have succumbed to the pandemic to 40.

On Monday, Parliament business was suspended after two legislators tested positive for the disease. 

To curb the spread of infections, President Mnangagwa last week imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew and reintroduced tighter controls on business operations as well as stay-at-home guidelines.

Experts, however, say Zimbabwe's response to Covid-19 is hampered by an ailing health delivery system. 

Health workers, including nurses, have been on strike for over a month demanding salaries in foreign currency as the re-introduced Zimbabwe dollar continues to lose value. 

Senior doctors are expected to join the strike this week, while their juniors issued a two-week notice to down tools protesting against poor pay and lack of personal protective equipment.  

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