President Emmerson Mnangagwa has confirmed the death of Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri who died Wednesday morning in Harare.
He is suspected to have succumbed to Covid-19.
According to sources, Shiri's driver also succumbed to Covid-19 and was buried last week.
In his message, Mnangagwa described Shiri as a "true patriot".
"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," he said.
However, he will be remembered by many as the architect of the 5th Brigade, a North Korean-trained army unit that massacred thousands of civilians during Gukurahundi in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the early 1980s.
Meanwhile, sources the head office of the Ministry of Agriculture has been closed for disinfection.
Shiri, born Bigboy Samson Chikerema, is a cousin of late president Robert Mugabe.
After independence, he was trusted with commanding the 5th Brigade, and for that, he was nicknamed "Black Jesus" because he determined who could live, and also "The Butcher of Balagwe" in reference to mass graves of defenceless civilians killed in Matabeleland South.
In 1992 Shiri was moved to Air Force Zimbabwe and in 1998 he commanded Zimbabwean troops in the second Congo war.
He retired from the army after the November 2017 coup in which he played a big part and took up a Cabinet post.