Last week, when Retired General Vitalis Musungwa Gava Zvinavashe died, he was mourned by many on both sides of the political spectrum.Indeed, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai attended the funeral, even though he himself is in mourning after the tragic death of his wife.

As the (government controlled) Herald  pointed out, he joined the revolution against the apartheid Smith government. So he is indeed a hero of the revolution.

Part of the reason that Prime Minister Tsvangirai and many in the opposition attended the funeral is that the general himself was part of the ZANU-PF opposition to Mugabe. Back in January 2008, the General suggested Mugabe step down and let the next generation take over, and some rumors (denied by Zvinavashe) suggest he was backing Simba Makoni for his replacement.

Alas, if you look closer to the General’s career, you find that his hands are stained with corruption, like many politicians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

His wealth stems from his time working with Zimbabwean Army peacekeepers trying to prop up the government of DRC President Kabila. The wars in Central Africa have killed millions, with little Western publicity, and a lot of the wars are about getting rich on the mineral resources of the area.

Again, from the Herald:

In 1998, he was instrumental in the deployment of Sadc Allied Forces in support of the Democratic Republic of Congo government in the face of invasion by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

He provided sound leadership and guidance as the Chairman of the Defence Chiefs of the Sadc allies fighting in the DRC: Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

A different picture of his work is found via Partnership Africa Canada report, via Relief Web, which reports on a “partnership” between African  politicians, their military leaders, private contractors, and African corporations that literally diverted millions of dollars of diamonds and other mineral profits to private hands,including into the hands of General Zvinavashe and his family (who denied being involved).

A longer report was printed in 2000 at African Security Review. The report explains that one of the major dangers to African governments is the threat of a coup by the military. Therefore, some governments not only give generous gifts to top officers, but they encourage the top officers to get involved in corruption.

In exchange for providing security to the Kabila regime, a suitable business environment has been established for private uses. According to Ross Herbert, “Zimbabwean generals, politicians and the ruling ZANU-PF party have invested an estimated $47 million in timber, mining and retail deals.”24

General Vitalis Zvinavashe, commander of the ZDF, has allegedly accrued significant financial gains from military deployment in the DRC.

Finally, from a UN Report:

The elite network of Congolese and Zimbabwean
political, military and commercial interests seeks to
maintain its grip on the main mineral resources —
diamonds, cobalt, copper, germanium — of the
Government-controlled area. This network has
transferred ownership of at least US$ 5 billion of assets
from the State mining sector to private companies
under its control in the past three years with no
compensation or benefit for the State treasury of the
Democratic Republic of the Congo.23.

This network benefits from instability in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its representatives
in the Kinshasa Government and the Zimbabwe
Defence Forces have fuelled instability by supporting
armed groups opposing Rwanda and Burundi.

Much of this, alas,  sounds like “business as usual” in much of the world, with gifts (bribes) to government officials, diversion of funds, smuggling, excess profits by corporations, etc. In the Philippines, this is described as “bribes above the table, over the table, and with the table”.

Until such corruption is stopped, all the cries for “aid to Africa” will be meaningless, because without honesty, you’ll never get a robust private sector. Economic investment, not charity, is what will improve the living standard of the comman man. When a country is corrupt, investment will not occur.

The next time you read about Chinese investment in Africa, remember that despite the geopolitical implications, remember that China will demand a profit, and provide jobs and infrastructure as a “side effect” of their profit seeking.

So how can you help? Well, NGO/church and most UN aid workers might live comfortably, but the level of corruption is at a much lower level, and they do enable basics such as schools and hospitals.

As for giving to your church: remember churches, mosques and clergy already stress the need for living an upright life, and the chance of repentence if one has failed to do so.

One can only hope and pray that a good man like General Zvinavashe had a chance to repent before he died.


It should be noted that corruption is widespread in the world: A similar story could be told of the Philippines, or about the billions of dollars meant to rebuile Iraq that somehow disappeared. The “banking crisis” in the US shows that corruption can exist even in countries proud of their honesty.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is MakaipaBlog.

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