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Munatsi: A smart distinguished banker

By Muchadeyi Ashton Masunda

Zimbabwe is witnessing one of the largest outpourings of grief following the tragic loss of Douglas Tawanda Munatsi (‘DTM’) on Monday November 29, 2021.

It is definitely a tragedy of unspeakable and unfathomable proportions.

The brief background of my tribute to DTM is that Oliver Mandishona Chidawu (‘OMC’), Ngoni Kudenga (‘NK’) and I (‘MAM’) had the privilege and pleasure of working with him from inception of Heritage Investment Bank (HIB) in 1995.

He assumed the leadership mantle as managing director of HIB at the tender age of 33 years.

OMC became the chairman with NK and I coming on board as non-executive directors and minority shareholders.

The main role for NK and I was to use our respective professional backgrounds in accountancy and law to ensure that DTM had to dot the i’s and cross the t’s in respect of all the transactions which he and OMC, as the ultimate entrepreneurs, brought on board for and on behalf of HIB.

It did not take long for the three of us — OMC, NK and myself — as the proverbial old gentlemen in grey suits —  to realise how extremely fortunate we were to have DTM as our MD.

Behind the facade of the deceptively youthful good looks and disarming smile was a steely determination on DTM’s part to become the leading, if not the best, investment banker in Zimbabwe.

DTM went on to pull off what is arguably the largest merger in the financial services sector in Zimbabwe by driving the HIB Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), with clinical and ruthless efficiency, to:

  • do a reverse takeover of FMB Holdings Limited, an infinitely larger and well-established entity;
  • bring on board Bard Holdings Limited;
  • bring on board the udc and ulc Groups – and usher in a regional financial behemoth, the African Banking Corporation, with solid footprints in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania.

 The following five traits in DTM’s character placed him head and shoulders above other run-of-the-mill bankers:

1) emotional intelligence – that rare ability to understand, use and manage one’s own emotions in a positive and goal-orientated way;

2) superb judge of people with certain skills and talent which can and should be harnessed to accomplish any given goal;

3) establishing and maintaining effective and constructive networks for the simple reason that “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”;

4) nose for identifying and consummating good deals.

5) taking calculated risks.

On a personal basis, I am eternally indebted to DTM for the calculated risk which he and his team at BancABC Zimbabwe took, during the early days of my five-year stint as mayor of Harare from July 2008 to June 2013, by magnanimously providing a loan facility of US$20 million for the procurement of 18 refuse removal trucks to enable the City of Harare to fulfil its service delivery obligations to the long-suffering ratepayers and other stakeholders within Greater Harare.

In the ordinary course of events, no financial institution worth its salt would have done what he did and more so when the local authority had not had any set of audited accounts since 2004.

I returned the favour by making sure that the said loan was paid within 18 months.

DTM was the epitome of the old adage to the effect that if you want a job done well, you should give it to a busy and successful person.

It’s not often to see a person who has really cut it in the private sector forsaking, albeit temporarily, the fruits of his labour to take on a huge responsibility and potentially thankless task as the inaugural CEO of the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA).

That is a graphic illustration of DTM’s selflessness and abiding passion for his country.

It is, admittedly, early days for anyone to comment meaningfully on what he would have accomplished as the head honcho of ZIDA.

However, a major source of comfort is that he was an unapologetic and passionate disciple of Lee Kuan Yew (‘LKY’), the legendary founding prime Minister of Singapore.

I have no doubt whatsoever that DTM, with the reasonable latitude which he seemed to enjoy from President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, would have implemented the following laudable objectives for and on behalf of ZIDA:

  • meritocracy — picking the best citizens as opposed to relatives of the ruling class to run with the investment agenda for Zimbabwe;
  • pragmatism — not trying to re-invent the wheel because no matter what the problem is, somebody somewhere has solved it and so what needs to be done is to copy the solution and adapt it to the local needs;
  • honesty — the greatest strength of Singapore’s founding fathers was that they were brutally honest because they were painfully and acutely aware of the fact that corruption is the single biggest reason why most third world countries have failed.

DTM would have definitely lived up to LKY’s mantra that “if you want a country to succeed, you must have a system that enables the best and suitable person to go into the job that needs them”.

Our sincere and heartfelt condolences go to DTM’s widow, Bindzile, and their children, Musa, Bongi and Tawanda Jnr., as well as the entire Munatsi Clan.

Go well DTM — you ran your race for the benefit of the whole of Zimbabwe.

  • Masunda is the former mayor of Harare [1 July 2008 – 30 June 2013]

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