Chenjerai Hunzvi

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Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi (23 October 1949 – 4 June 2001) served as Chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association beginning in 1997.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Hunzvi was born in Chiminya, Southern Rhodesia on 23 October 1949.[1] He said that he joined the struggle against white minority rule in Rhodesia at the age of 16 taking the nom-de-guerre of "Hitler". He reported to have been interned in Gonakudzingwa and Wha Wha prisons between 1967 and 1970, and to have been a prominent leader in Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), though these claims have been denied by some other elders of the campaigns.[3] He left the country and having been identified as being bright, was sent to study in Romania, becoming fluent in Romanian and French, and subsequently began medical studies in Poland where he married a Polish woman with whom he had two children.[3] He represented ZAPU while in Poland, and in 1979, during his medical studies, Hunzvi visited London to attend the ceasefire and constitutional negotiations for the Lancaster House Agreement.[1]

Hunzvi returned to Zimbabwe in 1990, working initially at Harare Central Hospital, and later founding a medical practice in Budiriro, in the township of Harare. His wife fled Zimbabwe in 1992 to escape violence from her husband. She described Hunzvi as a "cruel and vile man who took delight in beating me. And as for the war, he never fired a shot. He saw no action at all."[3][4] He subsequently remarried and has two other children.[3]

Political career[edit]

Hunzvi was subsequently elected chairman of the Zimbabwean Liberation War Veterans Association in 1997, which was, at the time, a relatively inactive organisation.[1] A born orator, Hunzvi organised rowdy demonstrations demanding gratuities and pensions from President Robert Mugabe, and critiqued the president.[4] The pressure tactics were successful and the 50,000 war veterans were granted one-off payments of US $2,500, as well as monthly pensions of US $100. A compensation fund was also set up to benefit those who were disabled following war service, with the amount paid determined by the degree of disability. The fund was the subject of enormous fraud, with government officials, party officials and others (including Hunzvi) determined to be 117% disabled. Experts have claimed that the settlements were a major factor in the economic crisis in the Zimbabwe.[1][2][3][5]

In 1999, Hunzvi was arrested in corruption case regarding the allegedly embezzlement of Z$45m of the war veterans' funds. He was denied bail, due to fear that he would intimidate witnesses or abscond.[2] The actual trial was repeatedly postponed, and the war veterans' leadership voted to remove him from office.[1][2] In 2000 Hunzvi led the campaign involving war veterans and other supporters of ZANU-PF in the seizure of white-owned land. During parliamentary elections in 1990, he incited followers to intimidate and harass members of the opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change. Calling himself "the biggest terrorist in Zimbabwe" he was identified by numerous witnesses as participation in beatings and torture, and his medical clinic labelled a "torture chamber" by Amnesty International in 2000.[1][3]

Hunzvi was elected to parliament in 2000, but died in 2001 in Harare's Parirenyatwa Hospital. His death was variably ascribed to malaria, a heart condition, or AIDS.[1][3][4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Meldrum, Andrew (5 June 2001). "Obituary: Chenjerai Hunzvi". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Obituary: War Veterans leader 'Hitler' Hunzvi". BBC News. 4 June 2001. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Duval Smith, Alex (5 June 2001). "Chenjerai Hunzvi". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  4. ^ a b c Hill, Geoff (2003). The battle for Zimbabwe: the final countdown. Zebra. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-86872-652-3. 
  5. ^ Nyarota, Geoffrey (2006). Against the Grain: Memoirs of a Zimbabwean Newsman. Zebra. p. 214. ISBN 1-77007-112-1.