Josiah Tungamirai, Minister for Black Empowerment and Indigenization in Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's government, has died while receiving treatment at a clinic in South Africa, state radio announced Friday.
Family members, who asked not to be identified, said the retired Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) commander had been having problems with rejection of a kidney transplant carried out several years ago. He was reported to be in his late 50s, the AP inhforms.
Mugabe's politburo was convening to declare him a National Hero and a state funeral was expected at the Heroes' Acre national cemetery outside Harare.
Mugabe customarily uses such occasions to make fiery statements on pressing issues, which may include Zimbabwe's request for "unconditional" South African help meeting US$295m arrears to the International Monetary Fund.
The chief political commissar of Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army during its 1964-1980 war to overthrow white rule in former Rhodesia, Tungamirai became a brigadier in the newly formed Zimbabwe National Army after 1980 independence.
In 1982 Mugabe transferred him to command the air force, which had had an all-white officer corps.
Tungamirai insisted on being taught to fly and obtained his "wings."
In line with Mugabe's policy of having senior soldiers, civil servants and judges active in the ruling Zanu-PF party, he appointed Tungamirai to its top policy-making body, the 40 member politburo, as secretary for youth affairs. On retirement he was brought into Parliament and the Cabinet.
He was on the "targeted sanctions" list of prominent regime supporters banned from travel to the United States, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand, and barred from having bank accounts there.