AMID the sombre atmosphere of Doug Munatsi’s memorial service last week, the light-hearted eulogies delivered by his wife and first-born son were undoubtedly embedded in moral values that the late prominent banker imparted to his family, principles they proudly displayed in his honour before an appreciative audience.
The family’s veneration for the values of hard work, success, love, personal integrity, humility and faith was abundant even as close associates gathered with profound grief and heavy hearts inside the Celebration Church in Borrowdale, Harare, last Friday.
What the Munatsis shared with mourners is a rulebook of life that many try to religiously follow. Others with success, and not quite so for a lot of folks.
No doubt, the weight of trauma suffered by the Munatsi family on hearing of his tragic passing — the horrifying account of how he met his fate in a mysterious inferno last week — would have been an unbearable experience for anyone to witness.
But in proudly chronicling husband and father’s zest for life, good nature, loyalty, as well as generosity towards relatives and friends — Munatsi’s immediate family chose to publicly celebrate his life — a life with so much more to give but callously cut short under the worst possible circumstances.
That public show of grace by his family amidst extreme heartache and adversity — the death of a loving husband and father in a gruesome murder — is a strength of character that perhaps defined the late Munatsi’s life and how he strived to live it.
It was befitting that this family that warmed the hearts of mourners last Friday should be the family of a man whose psyche was such that he chose to leave his very comfortable life in the business world to accept a government-appointed position as the inaugural chief executive of the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (Zida).
Douglas Tawanda Munatsi was a relatively wealthy man, a real-life and self-made millionaire who made life a lot easier for himself and countless others around him, a cool-headed magnate with a philanthropic streak.
A young innovative entrepreneur in his formative years, a trait that his Swazi-born wife Bindzile testified to have fallen for some 30 years ago, Munatsi was a founder of BancABC in 1997 and was its CEO until the leading bank’s acquisition in 2014 by Atlas Mara for US$265 million.
On leaving BancABC, Munatsi’s star rose even higher in business, and he rewarded himself with a pampered lifestyle of shuttling between three different countries — Zimbabwe, South Africa and the United Kingdom — all the while enjoying the fruits of his success with family and friends alike.
The planet was his playground and he travelled to many more places far and wide, having good fun on the road with his equally successful buddies — mingling with the high-end in some of the world’s most glamorous cities.
While Munatsi’s family members were settled comfortably in South Africa and the UK, he chose to stay permanently at home Zimbabwe, in the luxurious penthouse of an expensive gated community in central Harare where a terrifying fire left his lifeless body immobilised, in a suspected case of murder, in the wee hours of last Monday.
Doug Munatsi was a hugely successful man with so many options in the corporate world, following his BancABC exit and eventual inroads into other business avenues at home and abroad.
He was not desperate to be involved with any political regime. In accepting a position as Zida CEO in 2019, appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa after the late president Robert Mugabe was toppled in 2017, Munatsi said he was driven by a desire to “serve” his country.
Earlier on, Munatsi had been one of quite a few individuals outside the ruling Zanu PF’s umbrella who had accepted positions on Mnangagwa’s special Presidential Advisory Council (PAC).
Most, if not all of them, joined in the genuine hope that they could indeed contribute to greater change for Zimbabwe under Mnangagwa’s mantra of a leadership style that he vowed would be a marked shift from his mentor Mugabe’s despotic rule.
Perhaps it was hope and patriotism that drove these men, or maybe it was naïve innocence. What we know is that they soon discovered that the ruling Zanu PF is an organisation with its own culture, values and norms that do not allow outsiders to act independently and to flourish — no matter their professional competencies.
They would soon be confronted with the reality that Mnangagwa, if and whenever he truly needed key advice — more so as he is known to be preoccupied with consolidating power — naturally turned to the inner circle of political allies, definitely not a supposedly independent body composed of men deeply distrusted by his intra-party loyalists.
This proved extremely frustrating for people like Munatsi and like-minded folk who had been persuaded to believe, in the early days of Mnangagwa’s ascendancy, that they could make a positive impact on this country’s path towards post-Mugabe recovery.
Munatsi is gone, but those still surviving will surely agree that they were sold dummies when they accepted to be included — in the hope that they would be allowed to summon their key skills, knowledge and expertise.
But then again, let us face it: it is a folly to think that everybody put into these positions by the Mnangagwa administration had accepted those appointments without a hint of ulterior motive at a level that is personal or otherwise.
It is a fair assessment to say that most of these individuals, very well-meaning as they were in large part, saw opportunities for themselves and got too cozy with the system, hoping to reap the benefits.
It is hardly surprising, though, that these men would accept offers to “serve” under dodgy government officials. For people like Munatsi and others, such is the typical entrepreneurship instinct and tactical shrewdness that made them very successful in an environment like Zimbabwe.
For the Munatsi family, though, behind the veneer of bravado, it is hard to fathom the pain, and they will long ask in vain if to “serve” was worth the ultimate sacrifice.
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