THE generation with which President Robert Mugabe lived and worked during the liberation struggle leading to Independence is almost gone with the death of Zanu PF politburo member Nathan Shamuyarira on Wednesday.
Shamuyarira died from problems related to a chest infection at Harare’s West End hospital where he was on life-support in the intensive care unit. He was 85.
Shamuyarira is likely to be declared a national hero after his home province, Mashonaland West, met yesterday and recommended to the party leadership that he be buried at the National Heroes Acre.
Besides Mugabe (90) the only surviving members of the Chimoio special congress which elevated Mugabe to the presidency of the party in 1977 are Vice-President Joice Mujuru, Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Out of the inaugural 20-member cabinet at Independence in 1980 (with 13 deputies) which included Shamuyarira, only four are still alive in Dzingai Mutumbuka, Mnangagwa, Mujuru and Sekeramayi.
Mugabe has publicly lamented the loss of his colleagues stating that he now feels lonely as he is now surrounded by “small people” he cannot relate to on an equal footing because of age differences.
Mugabe said the only person who came close to him on maturity and age was the Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, who was the first speaker of the House of Assembly at Independence.
Mutasa, born in 1935, is 11 years Mugabe’s junior.
“. . . They are gone (his age-mates) and those who remain, you look down upon them because they are young. And so you can’t discuss with them things that happened in the 1930s or even 1950s.
They will not know. There is that limitation,” Mugabe said in an interview with ZBC to mark his 89th birthday.
“You take my cabinet as it is, there is no one I can talk to about how we used to approach girls or we would go to this and that place, riding bicycles. There is no one. There are others like Mutasa. He comes close, but others are just children.”
A journalist by profession after working as a cub reporter with African Newspapers Ltd in 1953, Shamuyarira rose steadily at the company, becoming the first editor of the African Daily News in 1956. From July 1959 until September 1962, he was Editor-in-Chief of African Newspapers, a post from which he resigned over various policy issues.
During the liberation struggle, Shamuyarira fought at different times under and helped lead Frolizi, Zanu and Zapu.
At Independence, Shamuyarira was appointed minister of information and tourism and the other portfolio he held in government was minister of foreign affairs.
He retired from active politics in 2010 due to deteriorating health. He is the only minister to voluntarily retire from office, in 2000, saying he wanted to concentrate on his work in Zanu PF as secretary of information.
In October 2006, Shamuyarira, making reference to the Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s, sparked outrage when he declared that Mugabe and the late cabinet minister Edison Zvobgo were wrong to apologise for the North Korea-trained 5 Brigade massacres in Matabeleland and parts of Midlands.
Asked if he ever regretted the atrocities, Shamuyarira, who served as information minister during the 5 Brigade operation, is reported to have told a conference on national reconciliation in Vumba: “No, I don’t regret (it). They (5 Brigade) were doing a job to protect the people.”
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (Zinef) has expressed “profound sadness and heartfelt condolences to the Shamuyarira family and nation over the passing on of a prominent nationalist and former government minister Dr Nathan Shamuyarira, who was also a politburo member.”
Zinef said: “Shamuyarira’s contribution to Zimbabwe’s liberation and development are a matter of public record. However, he made a special contribution and an indelible mark in our area of interest which is the media and journalism.”