Zimbabwe: Pilot Declared Liberation Hero

One of the pioneering pilots in Zimbabwe, Captain Charles "Salad" Samuriwo who died on July 14, has been declared a liberation hero.

The message was delivered by ZANU PF Politburo members Cdes Sydney Sekeramayi and David Parirenyatwa at the family home in Marlborough, Harare last night.

Mashonaland East provincial leadership will now join the family in planning funeral arrangements.

Captain Alex Makanda, who graduated together with Capt Samuriwo in 1978 from the world-renowned Ethiopian Airlines Aviation Academy, thanked the national leadership on behalf of the aviation fraternity for conferring liberation hero status on the local aviation icon.

He also thanked the emissaries on behalf of the family and friends.

Capt Samuriwo will be buried at Marondera Provincial Heroes Acre, but the family has the right to decide his final resting place.

Born on June 19, 1955, Capt Samuriwo trained as a pilot in Ethiopia, and graduated in 1978 together with Capt Makanda and Chris Chenga.

The three had been sent for training by Zanu in preparation for flying the flag after independence and became the black pioneer pilots in Air Zimbabwe and in Civil Aviation in Zimbabwe.

Capt Samuriwo rose to become the first black flight operations manager at Air Zimbabwe.

He was central to the recruitment, training and development of most of the pilots who were to eventually become the bedrock of aviation in the country.

Some have since spread their wings across the world and now fly for some of the world's biggest airlines.

One of the highlights of his tenure was when he assigned Capt Makanda to take command of and fly the Boeing 767-200ER on its delivery flight after manufacture from Seattle, US, to the then Harare International Airport (now Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport).

He is also credited for fighting for black advancement in the boardroom at Air Zimbabwe.

Together with Air Zimbabwe management, Capt Samuriwo then embarked on a drive to recruit trainee pilots and send them abroad for training. The stream of black Zimbabwean pilots who would later become captains soon became a flood with (in approximate seniority at captaincy through time) Captains Wiseman Kembo, Phillip Mutambirwa, Abednigo Wenjere, Patrick Chiwandire, Emily Njovani (the first woman Captain on the B767-200 ER in Africa), Joseph Makunda, Paul Muchatuta, Charles Chikosi, Oscar Madombwe, Ripton Muzenda, Kudzi Nleya, Tim Nyahunzvi Jnr, Harry Madangure, Geoffrey Makina, Sibusio Moyo, Steve Gono, Don Sisimayi and the late Kenneth Makwanda, who were sent for training variously in the UK, Australia and Ethiopia.

He also fought together with the then Ministry of Manpower Planning and Development to bring in pilots and flight engineers from sister countries such as Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda to fight off whites who were threatening to go on strike in a bid to hold the airline to ransom.

After leaving Air Zimbabwe, Capt Samuriwo joined Affretair as its first black director of flight operations. At Affretair, he continued his push to ensure blacks got their rightful places in the aviation sector.

After Affretair, he was critical to the conceptualisation and founding of Zimbabwe's first private airline, Zimbabwe Express Airways (ZEX) as its Director of Flight Operations. From the onset, ZEX had a majority of its flight crews being black.

He was later appointed Board Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe after retiring from ZEX.

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