Zimbabwe’s agriculture minister Perrance Shiri, a retired general who helped plot the ouster of Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup, has died, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Wednesday.

Sources in Harare said Shiri, 65, succumbed to complications from the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, which has infected 2,817 and killed 40 in Zimbabwe.

 Shiri commanded the army’s Fifth Brigade unit that carried out the 1980s massacres of thousands of civilians in western Zimbabwe as the government sought to quell an insurgency.

The army massacres, known as ‘Gukurahundi’ remain a sore point for the people of the Matabeleland region, many of whom demand justice and reparations.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change accused Shiri of being among the security chiefs who organised violence against its members after Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential vote in 2008.

What they said:

Jonathan Moyo: It’s tragic that Perence Shiri has departed without facing justice over the gukurahundi atrocities he committed in Matabeleland & Midlands provinces in the 1980s; nor telling the truth about those atrocities to help heal the nation. May God rest Shiri‘s victims in eternal peace!

Dr Noah Manyika: If the news that Perrence Shiri has died is true, it will make all these ZanuPF thugs understand they are not immortal.

S Nyathi: Perence Shiri AKA “Black Jesus” has died. He adopted this name during the Gukurahundi genoicide because he had the power to determine whether you lived or died & he abused that power to rape & massacre. So while Jesus died for OUR sins; Black Jesus died for his OWN sins.

Team Pachedu: We will remember Shiri as a mass murderer and serial rapist.

T Moyo: My heart is broken! How could Perrence Shiri die before facing justice for the murder of our grandparents, fathers, mothers, aunts & uncles? The rapes of our mothers, grandmothers & aunts. We must escalate justice for Gukurahundi before another perpetrator dies!

ED Mnangagwa: I am deeply saddened to inform the Nation of the death of the Minister of Agriculture, Air Chief Marshall (rtd) Perrance Shiri, a long time friend and colleague. Cde Shiri was a true patriot, who devoted his life to the liberation, independence and service of his country.MHRIP