Lt. Gen. (Rtd.) Vitalis Zvinavashe (27 September 1943 – 11 March 2009) was a retired former Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and politician. He was also a member of the Politburo of the ZANU-PF. Zvinavashe had modest academic credentials but was renowned among Zimbabwe’s military circles as a strategist.
He joined the liberation struggle in 1967 and went for military training in Chunya Camp in Tanzania in 1968.
In 1977, he was elected as a Zanu-PF Central Committee member and deputy chief of national security and intelligence.
He was appointed commander of Three Brigade in Mutare at independence in 1980 before becoming the country’s Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander in July 1994 assuming overall command over the army and the Air Force under a new military structure. He oversaw various peacekeeping missions in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
In the Second Congo War, he was in charge of the SADC allied task force troops led by Zimbabwe which fought rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda to topple the now slain DRC leader Laurent Kabila. The deployment of the Zimbabwean troops later led to the allegations of plunder of natural resources, especially diamonds, in which Zvinavashe was implicated.
Following his retirement in December 2003, General Constantine Chiwenga succeeded him to the post.
POST-RETIREMENT AND DEATH
In the 2008 parliamentary election, he ran on the ZANU-PF ticket for the Gutu district in the Senate, but lost to Empire Makamure of the MDC. He told other ZANU-PF candidates on April 23 that they needed to “accept the reality” that the MDC had won, and he stressed that the importance of preserving peace. He blamed Mugabe for the ZANU-PF candidates’ defeat, saying that the people of Masvingo had rejected Mugabe and that the parliamentary candidates suffered as collateral damage.
He had just returned from Cuba where he had gone to seek medical assistance for liver cancer when he died at Manyame Air Base hospital on March 11, 2009. He is survived by his wife Margaret and 12 children.