The GOVERNMENT has provisionally set tomorrow as the burial date for three national heroes — Lieutenant General Edzai Chimonyo, Cde Michael “Vhuu” Chakabva and Cde Abraham Nkiwane, who all died last week.
Cde Nkiwane (93) succumbed to prostate cancer at the United Bulawayo Hospitals on Tuesday, while Lt-Gen Chimonyo (69) died at the Avenues clinic in Harare on Wednesday after battling cancer.
Cde Vhuu (78), whose national hero status was announced yesterday, breathed his last on Thursday after having been ill for some time.
President Mnangagwa will preside over the double burial of Lt-Gen Chimonyo and Cde Vhuu at the National Heroes Acre, while Cde Nkiwane will be buried in Umguza, Matabeleland North.
Cde Nkiwane’s family communicated his wish to be buried at his farm, just outside Bulawayo, which the Government respected.
Explaining the arrangements to The Sunday Mail, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Mr Aaron Nhepera, under whose purview state burials fall, said the provisional date for the National Heroes Acre burial is subject to Presidential approval.
“There have not been any objections from both the Chimonyo and Chakabva families, they all want the late heroes to be buried at the National Heroes Acre. As the Ministry of Home Affairs we will chair an inter-ministerial meeting tomorrow (today) to finalise the logistics, but as it stands all the three national heroes will be buried on Monday,” said Mr Nhepera.
Family spokesperson for the Nkiwane family, Pastor Fairchild Mhlophe, yesterday said:
“The burial of the late hero, Cde Nkiwane, will be on Monday. We have concluded all consultations as the family together with the Government and this is the date that was agreed on. Everyone has been consulted from the people in the President’s Office to those in the Public Service Commission who will assist with some of the work to be done on Monday,” he said.
The three were, in their individual capacities, key figures in the Second Chimurenga.
Lt-Gen Chimonyo joined the liberation war in 1975, after crossing into Mozambique.
He trained at Mgagao, before returning to Mozambique where he was immediately deployed to Gaza Province as a sectorial commander.
Lt-Gen Chimonyo became a member of the ZANLA High Command in 1978 and subsequently ZANU’s deputy chief representative and military attaché in Zambia, a post he held until independence in 1980.
In post-independence Zimbabwe, Lt-Gen Chimonyo held different ranks in the army until January 2008 when he was appointed Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Tanzania.
In 2017, he was called back to active military service becoming Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, taking over from General Valerio Sibanda who had been elevated to Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
Lt-Gen Chimonyo held the position until the time of his death.
Cde Vhuu was one of the most charismatic war participants as he was known for his dexterity in combat.
Young nationalists would hear of his exploits and wish to join the war.
Cde Vhuu joined the liberation struggle in the early 1960s, leaving his job in Zambia where he was working as a driver to take up arms.
He trained under ZAPU at Morogoro in Tanzania.
Cde Vhuu defected to ZANU, and joined cadres like President Mnangagwa, Mayor Urimbo and Josiah Tongogara at Mgagao Base Camp.
From 1965, his role was to smuggle arms and ammunition into Rhodesia.
He fought the battle of Chifombo alongside Frelimo forces, against the Portuguese.
Cde Vhuu was to become part of the ZANLA High Command and at some point Commander of Gaza Province.
However, he suffered serious injuries during the war and had to retreat from the front.
In post-independence Zimbabwe, he benefitted from the land reform programme and became a dedicated farmer in Centenary, Mashonaland Central.
Cde Nkiwane was a regional political activist during the liberation struggle, having started his activities under UNIP in Zambia.
He was to become part of the ZPRA High Command, alongside figures like Dumiso Dabengwa and James Chikerema.
Cde Nkiwane’s specialty involved co-ordinating joint operations with foreign liberation armies. At one point he was part of a collective war effort including Namibia’s SWAPO and South Africa’s Umkhonto WeSizwe under the ANC.