Vitalis Zvinavashe

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Vitalis Zvinavashe
Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces
In office
July 1994 – December 2003
President Robert Mugabe
Preceded by Solomon Mujuru
Succeeded by Constantino Chiwenga
Personal details
Born (1943-09-23)23 September 1943
Southern Rhodesia
Died 11 March 2009(2009-03-11) (aged 65)
Manyame Military Hospital
Resting place National Heroes Acre
Nationality Zimbabwean
Political party ZANU-PF
(Until 2008)
Spouse(s) Margaret Zvinavashe
Residence Masvingo, Zimbabwe
Occupation Politician, Nationalist
Profession Soldier, Military Commander
Military service
Nickname(s) Fox-Gava[1]
Allegiance Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
Service/branch Zimbabwe National Army
Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army
Rank General

Vitalis Musungwa Gava Zvinavashe (27 September 1943 – 10 March 2009) was a Zimbabwean general officer, politician and the first commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces "CDF". Zvinavashe had modest academic credentials but was renowned among Zimbabwe’s military circles as a strategist.

Military career

He joined the Rhodesian Bush War 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 Constantino 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.[2]

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 10, 2009.[3] He is survived by his wife Margaret and 12 children.


  1. ^ Reuters (4 November 2003). "Zimbabwe army commander to retire". CNN. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  2. ^ Fikile Mapala, "Zvinavashe concedes after recount, takes aim at Mugabe" Archived June 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine,, April 23, 2008.
  3. ^ Retired General Zvinavashe dies
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