MANICALAND was yesterday (Thursday) plunged into mourning following the death of one of its gallant sons, decorated soldier Lieutenant-General Edzai Absalom Chanyuka Chimonyo.
He was 69.
Born on November 7, 1952 in the then Umtali (Mutare), Lt-Gen Chimonyo succumbed to cancer of the lungs at the Avenues Clinic in Harare.
Lt-Gen Chimonyo whose Chimurenga name was Edzai Mabhunu assumed his current position on December 18, 2017 when he took over from General Philip Valerio Sibanda, who was promoted to be the Commander Defence Forces.
In a statement yesterday, Director of Army Public Relations, Colonel Alphios Makotore said: “The Commander Defence Forces, General Phillip Sibanda regrets to announce the untimely death of the Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, Lieutenant- General Edzai Absalom Chanyuka Chimonyo, whose Chimurenga name was Edzai Mabhunu. He had been ill for some time suffering from cancer of the lungs.”
Lt-Gen Chimonyo attended St Phillip Secondary School for his Ordinary Level studies before joining the liberation struggle in 1974 after crossing the border into Mozambique.
He moved to Zambia and later to Tanzania where he started guerrilla warfare training at Mgagao in 1974.
After training, he returned to Mozambique and was deployed to the front in early 1976 as a Sectorial Commander in Gaza Province. He was responsible for the opening up of ZANLA Forces’ Sector 2 in 1976.
Lt-Gen Chimonyo became a member of the ZANLA High Command in 1978 and subsequently became ZANU’s Deputy Chief Representative and Military Attaché in Zambia. He held that appointment until independence in 1980.
On returning home after independence, he was appointed Brigadier Liaison responsible for the integration of the three warring armies — ZANLA, ZPRA and the Rhodesian forces.
He was later appointed Commander 1 Infantry Brigade, taking over from Retired General Dr Constantino Dominic Guvheya Nyikadzino Chiwenga.
Lt-Gen Chimonyo held various appointments in the ZNA until January 2008 when he was appointed Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Tanzania.
Lt-Gen Chimonyo rose through the ranks to become Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, a rank he held until his untimely death.
As a professional soldier, Lt-Gen Chimonyo always reminded his troops on the need to be professional and develop strategies to meet the threats posed by the world order, especially on regime change and terrorism.
He always implored members of the ZNA to be disciplined in and outside their barracks.
Speaking during the 37th Commando Anniversary held at Charles Gumbo Barracks, formerly One Commando in December 2018, Lt-Gen Chimonyo said “Let us remain patriotic, loyal and disciplined as we jealously guard the gains of our independence. We must foster a continued commitment to our profession and develop strategies to meet the threat posed by the world order, that of regime change and terrorism.”
On his vision of the ZNA, Lt-Gen Chimonyo said: My vision as the Commander ZNA is to provide a highly professional land force capable of carrying out its constitutional mandate. My emphasis is placed on officers, men and women to continuously apply themselves professionally in and outside their barracks.
“This calls for the highest standards of training and maintenance of discipline. My mission as the commander is to defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interests of the Republic of Zimbabwe and to contribute to regional and international peace and security.
“For me to achieve this mission, the ZNA members must constitute the critical mass that I and their commanders require. I am, however, aware that there are certain aspects that need to be addressed for us to perform to national expectations. These expectations entirely depend on the overall performance of the national economy as I have mentioned earlier on.”
Reflecting on the November 2017 Operation Restore Legacy, Lt-Gen Chimonyo said: “The operation was a people’s operation whose objective was to arrest a potentially volatile, social, economic and political situation in the country.
“The operation was launched to rescue the values and the ethos of the liberation struggle that had been threatened by counter revolutionaries of the so-called G40 Cabal. As you may be aware, the operation witnessed millions of our people spontaneously taking to the streets regardless of their colour, religion, race, creed and political affiliations.
“The target of the operation was those criminals that had surrounded the former President, causing anxiety and despondency among the people of Zimbabwe. The popular uprising by the people saw the voluntary resignation of the former President.”