Zimbabwe Obituary – Chenjerai “Hitler” Hunzvi, 51, Leader of Farm Takeovers in Zimbabwe

Chenjerai Hunzvi, 51, Leader of Farm Takeovers in Zimbabwe
Chenjerai Hunzvi, who as leader of Zimbabwe war veterans carried out violent occupations of white-owned farms, died today in the main hospital here, state radio reported. He was 51.
The report quoted an aide to Mr. Hunzvi, Andrew Ndlovu, as saying Mr.Hunzvi died this morning. No details were given. Members of Mr. Hunzvi’s National Liberation War Veterans Association had stood vigil outside the coronary care unit at Parirenyatwa Hospital.

Mr. Hunzvi, a member of Parliament, collapsed on May 21 in Bulawayo, the second-largest city in Zimbabwe, after visiting war veterans in western Matabeleland Province. Doctors suspected he had malaria.
Mr. Hunzvi was an ally of President Robert Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe for two decades, but whose leadership and stewardship of the economy have come under increasing criticism. Opponents of Mr. Hunzvi accused him of orchestrating violence against supporters of the opposition before parliamentary elections last June and of attacks in advance of presidential elections early next year.
Protesters led by veterans of war for independence have illegally occupied more than 1,700 white-owned farms, accusing farmers of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and demanding that land be turned over to black Zimbabweans.
Mr. Hunzvi, a Polish-trained doctor who preferred the nickname Hitler, encouraged followers to carry out the occupations and personally led many of them. In fiery speeches, he painted the opposition as a front for the white minority, who he said were seeking to recolonize the country.
He also commanded raids on nearly 200 factories and businesses this year by protesters who contended that they were mediating labor disputes.The protesters demanded money that they said would be compensation for unfair dismissals.
Mr. Mugabe has described the occupations as a justified protest against unfair land ownership by whites, and he has praised Mr. Hunzvi for campaigning to wrest control of resources from the 50,000 whites.
Mr. Hunzvi was the third high-ranking member of the governing party to die in six weeks. Employment Minister Border Gezi, a party strategist, and Defense Minister Moven Mahachi, one of Mr. Mugabe’s most loyal aides, died in car crashes. They were declared national heroes and buried with full military honors at a shrine outside Harare for governing party politicians and leaders of the independence war.
Mr. Hunzvi saw no combat in the bush war that led to independence in 1980 but rose to prominence as leader of the veterans’ group as it tried to shore up the governing party’s flagging popularity in 1998.
Vice President Joseph Msika described Mr. Hunzvi as “an illustrious son of the soul” who campaigned tirelessly for economic liberation and land reform.
Last year, Mr. Hunzvi threatened farmers that if they resisted the occupations, he would grant them just six feet of their own land for their graves after they had been killed by his “revolutionary forces.”
Little is known about his family. During his medical training, he married a Polish woman, from whom he became estranged in the mid-80’s. She was quoted by European newspapers as saying she returned to Poland after fleeing Harare under threats of violence from her husband, who was a doctor at the state hospital.

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