President Mnangagwa yesterday described the late Lt Gen Chimonyo, who was declared a national hero, as a loyal and dedicated servant of Zimbabwe.
Announcing the hero status, the President, who was accompanied by his deputy Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and other senior Government officials, said it is befitting that the General who contributed immensely to the independence of Zimbabwe and after be interred at the sacred national shrine where other illustrious sons and daughters of Zimbabwe are buried.
Lt Gen Chimonyo died on Thursday morning after battling cancer. He was 69.
Going down memory lane, the President recalled when he met General Chimonyo during the liberation struggle.
“I met Edzai during the war in 1977 in Mozambique after I had completed my 10-year-jail term. So from that time till today we have been working together, we have seen his works.
“In the army he was one of the most hard-working persons, sending him to a task, you will be well assured that it will be done exactly as you would have said. He was a dependable person. You have heard the Vice President talking of some tasks that we gave him and he accomplished them.
“Now we are in the New Dispensation, we had to think of a person to replace General Sibanda as Commander Zimbabwe National Army. Due to his hard work, loyalty and dedication it was time to reward him. We looked at his sense of loyalty, commitment and dedication.
“To the family, we know that he is your son, brother, father and nephew. To us he had become a son of the soil. After we sat down for consideration, we did not see any reason why we should not accord him the honour he deserves. It did not trouble us that he become a national hero. So we declared that Edzai should be a national hero for the Republic of Zimbabwe. He is our big hero, he belongs to the nation.
The President said it is now up to the family to deliberate on what they would prefer with the State providing necessary assistance.
In his condolence message on Thursday, the President said the veteran freedom fighter who briefly exchanged his military fatigues for diplomatic etiquette was among the rare breed of freedom fighters whose contribution to the independence of Zimbabwe will forever be etched in the nation’s collective memory.
“The death this morning of our Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, Lieutenant-General Edzai Absalom Chanyuka Chimonyo, after a long battle with cancer, is a devastating blow to our nation.
“A veteran freedom fighter, commander and diplomat, Lt General Chimonyo was a decorated career soldier who was moulded in the heat of our protracted liberation struggle, which he joined from school to become a veteran freedom fighter from a tender age.
“After absconding from the then Rhodesia, Lieutenant-General Chimonyo would train in the art of war in our bases both in Mozambique and Tanzania where he stood out as a tough and brave freedom fighter, and later as a key instructor.
“During the struggle, he was instrumental in opening many war fronts in the then Rhodesia, thus ensuring the embattled Ian Smith Regime suffered countless reverses which would eventually soften it for talks that yielded our independence in 1980,” the President said.
And after contributing to the country’s independence, Lt Gen Chimonyo attested into the newly integrated national army which combined former warring parties into one national force.
“In that capacity, he played a pivotal role in ensuring the success of the delicate integration process which united the hitherto warring armies of Rhodesia and our Patriotic Front Forces. Thereafter, he assumed several command positions in the army, each time steadily rising up the rungs until he attained generalship,” the President said.
As a commander in various postings, Lt Gen Chimonyo led units of the ZNA to countries like Mozambique, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“He together with the late Perrance Shiri, Lt Gen SB Moyo among others diligently performed duty in DRC. I met him several times in Mbujimai after he had been given command of the Eastern Front when he came to give us briefings, he is a hero,” he said.
The numerous staff courses he successfully attended here and abroad made him an astute commander and very competent administrator of military affairs.
President Mnangagwa speaks to Commander Zimbabwe Defence Forces General Philip Valerio Sibanda, while Zimbabwe National Army Commander Lieutenant-General Edzai Chimonyo (second from left) and Air Marshal Elson Moyo look on after watching the Chinhoyi 7 Battle film première in Harare in 2018.
“General Chimonyo would take a break from his military career to temporarily join the then Ministry of Foreign Affairs as our Ambassador to the United Republic of Tanzania, itself a key rear-base during our liberation struggle.
“This posting reflected on his importance as a key and trusted cadre we could rely upon to discharge crucial and sensitive missions on behalf of our Government,” the President said.
With his impeccable resume, the President, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, said he needed no persuasion to appoint Lt General Chimonyo as the Commander of the ZNA when he assumed the reins in 2017.
Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri- Kashiri, General Philip Valerio Sibanda and Lieutenant-General Edzai Chimonyo at his last official function earlier this year.
“With the advent of the Second Republic, I, without any hesitation, raised him to the position of Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, an appointment and trust which he vindicated through absolute loyalty and dedicated commitment to duty and to his country.
“In him, we have lost a rare cadre, freedom fighter, an exceptional commander and prized son of the nation who inspired our men and women in uniform. He will be sorely missed.
“On behalf of the party, ZANU PF, Government, and as Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, I wish to express my deepest, heartfelt condolences to the Chimonyo family, and to his children especially, who have lost a loving father and mentor. My heart also goes out to all the officers, men and women he commanded who today grieve at his passing on.
The Pan Africanist Congress of South Africa is mourning the departed general.
“General Chimonyo will live in our hearts, and in the hearts of all those comrades he shared the trenches with, both before and after our independence,” said the President.