The nation has been engulfed with grief following the passing on of the former Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service, Major General (Retired) Paradzayi Willings Zimondi, who succumbed to COVID-19-related complications at Arundel, Harare on January 22, 2021.
He was 73.
General Zimondi was born on March 4, 1947 in Uzumba District, Mashonaland East Province to Charles Zimondi and Abigail (nee Karimazondo) Zimondi. He was the first born in a family of seven children; four boys and three girls. His siblings were Lovemore (who is now late), Stanley, Netsai, Arthur, Kudzayi and Salome Spiwe. He was educated at Nyamuzuwe High School, Mutoko, Zimbabwe. He could not complete his education as he, together with some youths from Highfield, Harare sacrificed their studies and skipped the country to join the liberation struggle. General Zimondi is survived by two children; a girl and a boy namely Rufaro and Abigail Upenyu. His third child Hilda is unfortunately now late.
The youthful Paradzayi Willings Zimondi was among a group of young men who were motivated to join and participate in the liberation struggle against the oppressive colonial regime. The late former Commissioner-General crossed the border to Mozambique with other comrades and joined ZANLA Forces. He underwent training at Mgagao Training Camp in Tanzania in 1974; and after training, he was posted to Chimoio Camp, Mozambique where he assumed the position of trainer. He was then deployed to Gaza Province before being reassigned to Manica Province and appointed as the Field Operations Commander from 1977 up to cease-fire. Paradzayi took over command of Manica Province from Comrade Happison Muchecheterethe former ZBC chief executive officer (CEO) whose Chimurenga name was Hery Tanganeropa. During his reign as the Provincial Commander – Manica Province, he led many battles such as:
Attack on Umtali (Mutare)
Mavhonde Battle and;
The Mavhonde and Grandreef Battles were regarded as the major battles that sent shivers to the spine of the Rhodesian Forces. In fact, the Grandreef Battle was launched as a revenge battle to the Rhodesian Grandreef Base following their attack of Chimoio. Tonderayi Nyika, as he was affectionately known by his Chimurenga nom de guerre, became the epitome of our protracted struggle for independence. With the passage of time, he was appointed a member of the ZANLA High Command. The late General also played a critical role during the ceasefire period and the establishment of the assembly points.
POST-INDEPENDENCE AND MILITARY CAREER
Life History in the ZNA
At Independence in 1980, General Zimondi was attested into the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) as Colonel. The late General underwent various military courses which among others include:
Command and Staff Course (Zimbabwe Staff College: 1986 -1987)
Incident Management (President’s Office: 1990)
Defence and Security Studies (Royal College of Defence Studies, UK: 1993)
Diplomatic Training Course (1995)
The late Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service held several commanding posts and key appointments which among others include:
Deputy Commander (2 Infantry Brigade)
Commander Presidential Guard (1983-1984)
Colonel General Staff (Army Headquarters)
Commander 1 Infantry Brigade (1987-1990)
Chief of Defence Intelligence (ZDF HQs), and subsequently retired from the Army as a major General in 1996 and joined the Zimbabwe Prison Service.
HONOURS AND AWARDS
Given his distinguished and exemplary service and loyalty, Paradzayi Willings Zimondi was honoured and awarded the following medals:
Ten Years’ Service
Fifteen Years Long and Exemplary Medal
Mozambique Campaign Medal
Grand Officer of the Zimbabwe Order of Merit
Life History in the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service
Thus, having diligently served in the military and retiring as Major General, General Zimondi was purposefully appointed as Deputy Commissioner of the then Zimbabwe Prison Service in 1997 understudying the then Commissioner Langton Chigwida. In preparation of his new functions, duties and roles; and also as a way for him to appreciate the demands and expectations of his new work environment, General Zimondi undertook a study tour of British, Danish and Swedish Prison Systems during the month of July 1997. Upon his return from the study tour, he began advocating for a number of reformative approaches to the country’s prison and management system. The Department’s major reforms and transition began to be felt upon his appointment as the Acting Commissioner of Prisons in 1998 following the retirement of Langton Chigwida who was the first black Director of Prisons, and later on the first Commissioner of Prisons in independent Zimbabwe.
The late General was subsequently appointed Commissioner of the Zimbabwe Prison Service on April 1, 1998 taking over from Langton Chigwida. He served as the Commissioner of the then Zimbabwe Prison Service up until July 2013. Following the new constitutional developments that saw the Prisons Department being rebranded from the Zimbabwe Prison Service (ZPS) to the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) in 2013, he was appointed as the first Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service which position he held until his retirement on October 31, 2020.
As the Commissioner-General of the ZPCS, General Zimondi was mainly responsible for implementing the modernisation programmes in our prisons and correctional management system. Hence; in the late 1990s, he had to meet the challenge of providing the much needed resources and expertise leadership on the various demanding organizational needs associated with agricultural production, upscaling effective offender rehabilitation and reintegration, and restructuring the Department among other key areas against the Department’s far stretched and limited resources. His efforts and works to transform the retributive system to a rehabilitative one are commendable. He thus, contributed in no small measure to our success as a country when it comes to the transformation and reformation of a prison system whose foundation was driven by a discriminative and exclusion based colonial system. History shall forever live to tell that during his reign as the head of the Prisons Department, General Zimondi set up a formidable Prisons and Correctional Service Administration through revamping and improving its health delivery system across prisons in the country; as well as opening the prison system from a closed institution into an open system that greatly encouraged offender rehabilitation and reintegration through community and stake holder participation which also saw the birth of Connemara Open Prison.
Admittedly, General Zimondi left behind a legacy of pro-active approaches to prison management concepts not only in the country but beyond our borders. In this regard, Zimbabwe is now the first country to have a female open prison within the SADC region and if not on the continent. His push for the establishment of a female open prison was influenced by the fact that females are a very important and sensitive constituency within our communities. Females’ roles favour that they be in constant touch with the family and community as opposed to outright incarceration. Furthermore, females or mothers in general, and by the nature of their matrimonial roles and instincts are the custodians of our Ubuntu/Hunhu, family fabric and unit. Thus, the idea of establishing a female open prison was fully supported by the Government based on the concept that such an institution would be quite conducive for promoting and maintaining such family fabric and unit; as well as providing female inmates with more time and opportunities to be in touch with children and families apart from aiding their rehabilitation and re-integration given that such an institution would at most be serving as a halfway home.
General Zimondi also founded the Zimbabwe Female Open Prison Foundation Trust in 2019 being responsible for among other things:
Driving and overseeing the development and establishment of female open prisons in Zimbabwe with the initial project being Marondera Female Open Prison and later on establish similar structures across the country.
Fundraising and mobilising resources through undertaking fundraising projects for the purposes of establishing the Female Open Prisons.
Indeed, his contributions to our great nation through his military career spanning from the liberation struggle; as well as his 23 years’ reign in the ZPCS remains unmatched. The late General has also been championing gender balance issues within the rank and file of the ZPCS. This has seen the promotion of women to higher senior ranks including that of Deputy Commissioner-General level. Some of these senior officers are Commanding Provinces, Directorates and appointed as officers-in-charge across the country’s prison stations.
General Zimondi left behind a reformed and transformed Prisons Department than it was before he joined it.
He initiated and strengthened regional and international relations which has seen ZPCS signing memoranda for cooperation with other SADC countries and deployment of correctional officers in United Nations Peacekeeping Missions. He has been an icon and an epitome of what we want our prison institutions in the 21st century to be. Despite the budgetary constraints among other critical challenges, he remained resolute and demonstrated rare commitment to steer the Department forward through thick and thin. His exceptional loyalty and patriotism towards his beloved country reminds us how lucky we were as a nation to have a generation of officers and commanders in the mode of the departed General whose willpower to both fight for, and serve their country and the ideals that they stand for remains unmatched.
To Paradzayi, we say, we surely know what it means not to have you now as the standards you set may be unassailable, especially to those who lack the strength, spirit and resilient. You raised the bar and all that matters is obedience to our great nation, Zimbabwe. Your professional conduct, whose qualities are based on honesty, integrity, humility, stability, loyalty, enthusiasm and leadership speaks well into your legacy and shall forever be cherished.
Zororai murugare Gamba redu!
Lala ngoxolo Qhawe lethu!
Rest in peace our hero!