Emotional send-off for AFZ pilots

Source: Emotional send-off for AFZ pilots | The Herald

Emotional send-off for AFZ pilots
Pallbearers arrive at the funeral parade at Manyame Airbase with the bodies of Airforce of Zimbabwe pilots who died in a helicopter crash in Goromonzi last week. — Picture: Innocent Makawa

Columbus Mabika

Herald Reporter

A sombre atmosphere  engulfed Manyame Air Base yesterday as relatives, workmates  and friends gathered at a funeral parade held by the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) in honour of the aircrew of the Agusta Bell 412 helicopter that crashed in the Hukuru Area in Arcturus, Mashonaland East Province last week

Two pilots, Wing Commander Thomas Tinashe Manyowa and Flight Lieutenant Anita Mapiye and aircraft technician Flight Sergeant Tinodiwanashe Chikamhi perished in the crash which also killed one person on the ground.

Wing Commander Manyowa (left) and Flight Lieutenant Mapiye

The three will be buried today with  Wing Commander Manyowa’s interment taking place in Chinhoyi, while Flight Lieutenant Mapiye will be buried at Glen Forest Memorial Park in Harare.

Flight Sergeant Chikamhi will be buried at Mucheke Cemetery in Masvingo.

Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said the  death of the air crew left a big void in the defence forces.

“We are all gathered here to pay our last respects  and give a befitting  send-off to the two gallant sons and a daughter of the soil who lost their livers while dedicating their hearts to the nation.  It is  very recent when they flew  the Vice President and  myself from Kwekwe on national duty. The gap they have left behind is difficult to fill,” she said.

Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said Flight Lieutenant Mapiye, who was the  country’s first female combat helicopter pilot  was an inspiration to many young women in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

“Many young  girls took a leaf from Anita’s inspiration. We  are  currently recruiting throughout the country and we have seen a massive turn up of the girl child due to the inspiration of people like her,” she said.

Air Commodore Elisha Masakadza said it was sad to bid farewell to the dedicated air crew.

“Indeed, it is with a heavy heart that we have to bid  farewell to the three reliable  and committed  crew members  who were taken from our midst in a violent and  horrific manner  when the helicopter they were flying  crashed  and burst  into a raging inferno last week,” he said.

“Truly, the AFZ has been left in shock, disbelief  and in a state of depression following this tragic  accident that robbed us our beloved  comrades  whose passion to serve the organisation  and the country were unquestionable. We express our heartfelt condolences  to their families.”

Earlier, the AFZ said it was  with the bereaved families in mourning the aircrew contrary to malicious reports from some sections of the media aimed to draw a wedge between the families and the organisation.

AFZ said such reports were  not only malicious, but insensitive as it  and the families of the deceased were grappling to come to terms with the loss of the dearly departed crew.

Wing Commander Manyowa was born on February 2, 1981 in Banket, where he did his primary education before going to St Paul’s Musami in Murehwa for his secondary education.

He was attested into the AFZ in 1999 as an Officer Cadet  rising to the rank of a Wing Commander which he held until his untimely death.

Flight Lieutenant Mapiye was born  April 3, 1991 at Harare Hospital. She did her primary education at Courtney Primary School and her secondary education at Queen Elizabeth High School.

She was attested into the AFZ in 2012 as officer cadet.

In 2019, Flight Lieutenant Mapiye made history when she completed a helicopter conversion course to become the first female combat helicopter pilot in the AFZ.

The aircraft technician, Flight Chikamhi was born on February 27, 1994 in Zaka.

He did his primary education at Insukamini Primary School  and secondary education at Mzilikazi High School.

He was attested into the AFZ on June 28, 2013 as a trainee aircraft technician.