The Herald (Harare)

13 March 2009

Zimbabwe: Zvinavashe - a True Hero

Harare — THE late Retired General Vitalis Musungwa Gava Zvinavashe, who passed away on March 10 2009 at Manyame Airbase Hospital in Harare, was on Wednesday declared a national hero.

He will be buried at the national shrine tomorow. Below is a full reproduction of the submissions made for the conferment of National Hero status to the late Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

THE late Retired General Vitalis Musungwa Gava Zvinavashe, who passed away on March 10, 2009 at Manyame Airbase Hospital in Harare, was born in Gutu, Zinhata Kraal, Masvingo Province, on September 27, 1943.

He started his education at Masema Primary School from 1952 to 1956 (Sub A to Standard Three) before proceeding to Jersey Tea Estate Primary School from 1957 to 1959 for Standard Four to Standard Six.

At the tender age of 17, he exhibited an affinity for entrepreneurship by becoming a small-scale fish trader between Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).

The period between 1960 and 1967 also saw him becoming increasingly conscious of the colonial injustices which were being meted out against the majority of the black people of the then Southern Rhodesia.

In 1963, he relocated to Northern Rhodesia and engaged himself in the business of fish-mongering before being employed as a trainee mechanic at the Lusaka branch of the Central Mechanical and Engineering Department.

By the end of 1967, the spirit of nationalism and the urge to correct the colonial injustice had taken the better of him and he became a youth activist.

He joined the Zimbabwe African National Union and was sent for military training at Chunya Camp in Tanzania in 1968 where, during training, he was appointed the camp's political commissar.

After training, in 1969 he returned to Zambia in the company of 10 Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army colleagues.

In 1970 he was elected a member of the Zanla Military Council and commander of the Botswana border Zambia Unit, responsible for recruitment, training, intelligence, reconnaissance and infiltration of material into Rhodesia.

In 1972, he was elected a member of the High Command and appointed provincial secretary of the Malawi-Mozambique-Zimbabwe Front until 1974 when the liberation struggle's momentum was briefly interrupted by attempts at détente.

Following the assassination of Comrade Herbert Chitepo in March 1975, he, together with other members of the Zanla High Command, was arrested and detained by Zambian authorities.

Cleared of any crime, he was released from prison that same year and appointed Deputy Chief of Military Security and Intelligence for Zanla Forces and Provincial Commander for Tete province.

In 1977, he was elected to the Zanu Central Committee and appointed Deputy Chief of National Security and Intelligence.

He worked in that capacity until the ceasefire in December 1979.

As thousands of Zanla cadres streamed back to Zimbabwe in response to the ceasefire, he remained in Mozambique as the Commander of the Zanla Reserve Force and he was also responsible for all Zanu External Affairs.

At Independence he came back to Zimbabwe and worked briefly in the Prime Minister's Department.

He was later appointed as a member of the Joint High Command, which supervised the integration of the three armies -- Zanla, Zipra and Rhodesian Army -- into the Zimbabwe National Army.

On April 16, 1981, he was attested into the ZNA with the rank of Brigadier-General and appointed Commander of 3 Infantry Brigade in Manicaland.

In that respect he took a leading role in the initial deployment of the ZNA forces in defence of the economic lifeline along the Beira Corridor from Mozambique into Zimbabwe.

In 1983 he was promoted to Major-General and appointed Chief of Staff responsible for general staff matters at the Zimbabwe National Army Headquarters.

During this period, he deployed briefly as the first Task Force Commander of the ZDF troops in Mozambique.

Following the retirement of General T.R.S. Mujuru as Commander of the ZNA in 1992, he assumed command of the army with the rank of Lieutenant-General.

In 1994, following the Constitutional Amendment Bill which created a combined headquarters for both the army and air force, he was appointed the first Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces with the rank of General, a post he held until his retirement on December 31 2003.

During his long and illustrious service, the late general was awarded the following medals:

  • Liberation Decoration (Gold) -- for his gallantry and selfless dedication to the liberation of Zimbabwe.
  • Independence Medal -- for his contribution towards the Independence of Zimbabwe.
  • Ten years' service medal for his immense contribution to the integration, formation and development of the Zimbabwe National Army during the first 10 years of its existence.
  • Fifteen Years Long and Exemplary Service Medal -- for 15 years continuous and exemplary service.
  • Mozambique Campaign Medal -- for his contribution towards the restoration of peace and stability in Mozambique.
  • DRC Campaign Medal -- for his contribution towards peace and due regard for humanity in the Democratic Republic of Congo during Operation Sovereign Legitimacy.
  • The Grand Commander of the Zimbabwe Order of Merit.

He is credited with efforts to institutionalise the Organisation of African Unity's (now African Union) Central Mechanism on Conflict Prevention, Resolution and Management as well as the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.

The idea of the African Standby Force, which is now coming to fruition, gathered momentum after the meeting of African Chiefs of Defence Staff in Harare October 24-25 1997, which he chaired.

His relentless quest for regional peace and security is clearly demonstrated by his valuable contributions during the deliberations of the Sadc Organ's Interstate Defence and Security Committee and Interstate Politics and Diplomacy Committees.

As he assumed command of the ZNA in 1992, Zimbabwe responded to the United Nations' call for the deployment of military observers in Angola (UNAVEM II) and peacekeepers in Somalia (United Nations Mission in Somalia [UNOSOM]).

This was immediately followed by the deployment of military observers in Rwanda and Uganda as well as peacekeepers and observers in Angola (UNAVEM III and MONUA).

In his quest to achieve regional peace and to stop unconstitutional change of governments, he, together with defence forces commanders of the Republic of South Africa and Botswana, rendered support for the deployment of forces in Lesotho.

In 1998, he was instrumental in the deployment of Sadc Allied Forces in support of the Democratic Republic of Congo government in the face of invasion by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

He provided sound leadership and guidance as the Chairman of the Defence Chiefs of the Sadc allies fighting in the DRC: Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

To practically demonstrate his love for academic excellence, he built Tynwald pre-school, primary and secondary schools.

He encouraged members of the defence forces to improve on their academic and professional qualifications.

He was a strategic thinker who appreciated the political, economic and social dynamics of our society and was always ready to proffer possible solutions to such problems.

In recognition of his academic pursuits and his diligent performance as a General, the University of Zimbabwe accorded him an honorary Doctorate (Doctor of Letters) in 2003.

He had a passion for the dynamic contrast and similarities of Third World and guerilla armies.

He was an accomplished businessman and a farmer of repute who contributed to the nation's food requirements.

Upon retirement, his vision was to establish a consultancy firm on defence and security-related matters.

The late General is survived by his wife Margaret and 12 children.

In recognition of his immense contribution to the freedom of Zimbabwe and defence of its independence and national sovereignty, it is humbly submitted that the late General Vitalis Musungwa Gava Zvinavashe be conferred with the befitting status of a National Hero.

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