Their Businesses Collapsed With Their Demise

Features Zimbabwe


Patrick Chasaya

Akanaka mwana weshoroma, ndinomuda, anodiwa nevakawanda dai ndaonana naye…”. This ode to beauty and love was composed by the late Zimbabawean musician Leonard Dembo. It was a ballad to woo a beautiful daughter of a well off member of society. The lyrics resonated with a lot of people.

While the emphasis for the musician was to praise the beauty of the daughter of a rich person, to some, it was the apparent reference to ‘shoroma’, a rich person. The song takes me back to Rumwe Night Club in Rimuka, Kadoma where it used to be played until the wee hours of the day.

The song in particular is not what captured the imagination then, it was the night club and how it operated, but critically the ownership. The bar was owned by a rich gentleman who had been bestowed the title ‘shoroma’ by the community. After his death, the nightclub suffered until it too, faded into nothing.

In the early 90s the title ‘shoroma’ was granted to the elite. It was also during this period that the name ‘shangwiti’ and ‘njonda’ were given to people that society regarded as tycoons. At the turn of the century they assumed the name of an animal, ‘mhene’, a steenbok. The names and titles continued to evolve to the present day where the well-to-do answer to the name ‘mbinga’.

The first crop of black owned businesses was born predominantly in the transport and retail sectors. These business people were self-made. The blueprint of their entrepreneurship was anchored in tenacity and the wisdom to recognize opportunities when they presented themselves. The aim, like all business, was to make money and earn the respect of customers and populace alike. Their business ventures afforded their families posh lifestyles which made them the envy of their communities. Marrying into in such well off families was an achievement.

Some of the most recognisable business people who dominated the transport industry were Chawasarira, Matemba, Tenda, Kukura Kurerwa and Tanda Tavaruva. Their names were synonymous with the success and prestige desired by many. The retail sector was dominated by names such as Chigumba, Machipisa, Mwamuka and Mwayera.

Most black owned businesses are family owned, with research stating that 80% of these are small to medium enterprises. Most black business enterprises that were established after the attainment of independence were predictable in their demise. They crumbled after the death of their founders, either immediately after or in a slow downward spiral a few years later. This is attributed to a poor succession plan, lack of financial literacy and to a large extent the infamous polygamous nature that became the trademark family set up of these business people.

Fast forward to the current crop of entrepreneurs. Is the current crop of business people self-made or is there a ‘force’ that catapults them to those lofty places?

Though they were self-made, most ‘shoromas’, ‘shangwitis’, ‘njondas’, ‘mhene’ or ‘mbingas’ were backed by invisible forces. Some attribute the demise of their businesses to what they would have sacrificed on the businesses. One argument contends that the majority of those businesses were started after rituals. These rituals range from ‘kushandisa zvidhoma’, ‘kuromba’ or ‘kusveta vamwe simba’ and even ritual murders. Could it be the reason why the
business enterprises liquidate upon the death of the founder? Could it be that though they were self-made, they did not understand basic principles of succession, banking and management?