Prominent businessman, professional hunter and farmer, Tobias Majaji died 17 days shy of his 75th birthday, at St Anne’s Hospital on Thursday August 23 2012 at 3:50pm after struggling for two years with the aggressive lung cancer — Mesothelioma.
On initial diagnosis, the specialist had given him four to six months to live. Chemotherapy was not recommended due to his advanced age, however, the indomitable man was determined to fight the condition to the excruciatingly painful end and thus managed to survive for another year and a half.
During which time, in between bouts of chemotherapy and its debilitating side effects, he produced on his farm, the best bumper harvests of his farming years, commenced extensions to the farm school buildings and built state-of-the-art silos.
Mr Musariri ranks among the first successful indigenous black commercial farmers, who began farming at Binga Ranch in the then Wiltshire Charter District in Mutekedza area in Chivhu during the early to the late 1970s. (This farm is now owned by his older brother).
It was during the same time that he actively participated in the liberation struggle that brought about Zimbabwe’s Independence from colonial rule.
Through his farming activities as well as private family business, he supported the liberation struggle both financially and materially.
He was instrumental in recruiting the youths to join the liberation struggle as well as transporting them to Mutare for military training in Mozambique.
On numerous occasions, Cde Musariri would drive at night to Mutare from Harare and back to Harare the same night to provide a safe passage into Mozambique for the comrades.
He survived at least seventeen near fatal car accidents which occurred during these sleep and rest depriving trips. Notwithstanding the fact that he enjoyed driving good fast cars too.
He risked his life and offered most of what he had worked for in support of the liberation struggle through the provision of medicines, clothing, blankets, watches, radios and boots.
His employees were constantly arrested and detained for transporting liberation war supplies disguised as stock feed in his trucks to the Binga Ranch Farm.
The freedom fighters collected the supplies from there, turning the farm into a strategic rendezvous and coordination point. Earlier in the sixties at the onset of growing political consciousness among the black population, Cde Musariri participated in disseminating resistance messages as a member of the then nationalist movement youth league.
Later, prior to Independence, he was instrumental in the formation of the Marimba Zanu-PF branch at his residence where prominent political figures like Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, the late Maurice Nyagumbo, Ernest Kadungure and many others featured in the meetings.
Just before Independence, in 1978, Cde Musariri was arrested for his unrelenting political activism and detained at Mbare Police Station while his wife Balbina was detained at Southerton Police Station.
The President, Cde R.G Mugabe ,in his condolence message paid tribute to Cde Musariri for supporting the liberation.
“Vakabata basa guru. Vachiita zvemaoko avo anoyemura uku vachitsigira musangano vakati tonho,” said the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
He described the late liberation hero as a man of exceptional vitality.
“Tarasikirwa nenzombe yemurume. Takazivana kwenguva ndefu navaMusariri. Kana paine munhu pashwamwari dzose dzandaiva nadzo wandinoti aive akatasamuka, ari pachokwadi, aine chido newe, chido nenyika yake vashoma vanopfuura baba varere apa,” said the President.
“Mazuva ataida kuronga zvakanaka zvekutorwa kwenyika tichitsvaga munhu waitati taivimba nawo, haadedere hapana chaanotya nokuti akatwasanuka ari pachido ava ndivo varume vaidikanwa.
“Zvisinei tarasikirwa asi ndihwo hupenyu ndiko kuuya kwaho ndiko kupera kwaho.”
The President described Cde Musariri as a hard worker and one of the best black farmers in Zimbabwe.
“VanavaMusariri ndivo vatinoti vaidya zveziya kwete zvekuba kana kukwasha asi zvekubata nemaoko ake.
“Aiti zvandinodya zvandinonowana nekundisimbaradza pahupfumi hwangu ngazvibve mumaoko angu.
“Taiti taenda kuna Mupfure uko aitiratidza mabasa ake uye taisanyara kuenda nevaenzi kumunda kwake tichidada nemabasa emumwe wedu.
Cde Ben Mucheche, who together with Cde Musariri and other black business people who supported liberation fighters. said the late Cde Musariri was a man who was set apart.
“I had Philemon Machipisa, Mike Chidziva, Paul Matambanadzo, Solomon Tawengwa, Paul Mkondo, Robert Marere, Enock Mwayera, Christopher Chinamora, Isaac Samuriwo, Gondo Rusike, Ngondo, Ruredzo and the late Tobias Musariri among others,” said Cde Mucheche.
“The part played by Musariri and others dead or alive was that of supporting the liberation struggle financially, morally and materially,”
“The team of businessmen of my group had one thing in common: that of liberating Zimbabwe nehupfumi hwayo hwose. Cde Musariri and other black businesspeople who supported the liberation struggled with provision of resources lost many opportunities because of the Smith regime’s oppression.”
After independence, Cde Musariri continued with great determination to fulfil the vision of the liberation struggle.
He served as a councillor for Marimba Park under the leadership of Harare’s first black Mayor, Dr Tizirai Gwata, and was the chairman of the Finance Committee in the city council until 1985.
Cde Musariri was a founder member and secretary of the Chikomba Development Association together with the late General Solomon Mujuru, Ernest R. Kadungure, Ambassador Tichaona Jokonya, N. Machirori, T. Kudzedzereke, M. Mamire, Chief Nyashanu among many other prominent individuals from Chikomba District.
The Chikomba Development Association was a successful initiative which saw exponential development in the district. Most notable amongst the many achievements, was the electrification of the Ganda Chibvuwa Mission Hospital which services the entire district.
A distinguished, charming and principled gentleman, an astute businessman, Mr Musariri owned successful businesses across various sectors of the Zimbabwean economy.
One of the early black businessmen and a proponent of black economic empowerment, with Cde Chidziva, they were the first black business people to indigenise the safari business, a predominantly white preserve.
Together with the with the likes of the late Retired General Mujuru, Mr Boka, Mr Machirori, Mr Mucheche, Mr Chidziva, and the Machipisa brothers fought for the indigenisation of the economy in other sectors such as, commercial farming, motor, banking, mining, and the tobacco trading industry.
Mr Musariri sat and served on boards in a number of institutions of national importance including the chairmanship of Arda, the Zimbabwe Development Corporation, now Industrial Development Corporation, Zimasco and was the board member for Zimbabwe Water Authority now Zinwa.
Cde Musariri was the first black member in the Motor Trade Association and fought to secure a General Motors (GM) franchise for the Bedford and Vauxhall vehicle brand.
A much sought after sturdy vehicle, the Bedford was supplied to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, the farming sector and industry-wide.
He was an active member of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries as well as the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce.
This formal business journey began in 1965 on the back of a second hand clothing hawking business with the establishment of “Shamwari Dzakanaka Bazaar” in partnership with the late Njerere at Machipisa Shopping Centre in Highfield.
The partnership dissolved to make way for Musariri Family Bazaar in the same area which spawned supermarkets, butcheries, welding works and iron craft, fish and chip shop in Glen Norah, Kambuzuma and Highfield and finally in the Central Business District: a used car sales in Forbes Avenue, motor spare parts sales and commodity broking in Speke Avenue with offices at Ivory House in Robert Mugabe Road.
The operations are now located in a modern Willowvale complex in Dagenham Road.
Cde Mucheche had this to say with respect to Mr Musariri’s business track record.
“The late Musariri and my group had a clean business record of self made men.
“The group that is still alive including myself are on record of earning our living honestly. We are not as wealthy as we should be today and yesterday because we shun corruption. We uphold good business ethics.
“The late Musariri went through this type of my school. All he had and that which is left was earned honestly through hard work.”
In late 1979 (soon after the repeal of the Land Tenure Act which had replaced the Land Apportionment Act) to early 1980s, Cde Musariri commenced and finalised the purchase of Poole and then Upton farm in Chegutu.
Cde Musariri successfully produced wheat, barley, maize, seed maize, tobacco and soyabeans over the years.
He was a cattle farmer of repute (prized the Simmental and Limousine breeds) with a certified Musariri Investments Abattoir, exporting meat to the European Union before the sanctions.
This was in addition to operating a successful dairy, selling milk to the then Dairibord, a game ranch offering photographic tourism to both local and international visitors and hunting safaris in Hwange Deka.
So passionate and generous to a fault was he about farming that he freely assisted both commercial as well as resettled farmers around the Chegutu area and beyond.
His farm is the epitome of an individuals’ farming excellence as evidenced by President Mugabe’s visits with his counterparts such as Prime Minister Patterson of Jamaica, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and the late President Suharto of Indonesia. His advice was widely sought by many a farmer far and wide including seed houses like Seed Co.
A firm believer in self-sustenance, Cde Musariri was indeed a guardian and business mentor who nurtured many on how to run successful businesses.
Through his mentorship and leadership, he provided free human resources, free use of his farming implements as well as extension knowledge on successful agricultural production.
A firm believer in the power of education and in a bid to break the vicious cycle of the colonial legacy of the lack of educational provision for farm workers and their children and as a way of cementing the Government initiative of education for all, Cde Musariri built Binga Guru Primary School at Upton Farm.
The school was commissioned by President Mugabe on June 9 1993.
At the time of his death, Cde Musariri was in the process of putting final touches to Musariri Secondary Boarding School leading to A-Level.
President Mugabe acknowledged that Cde Musariri invested much towards the country’s education.
“Mumwe wevamwe vakatanga kuendesa vana kuzvikoro zvaidzingwa vatema nevarungu naizvozvo aiva nechisungo chekuti vana vanosungirwa kudzidza.”
Cde Musariri was blessed with a sharp intuitive intellect, was an avid reader of economics, farming, politics, world affairs and a host of other topics of interest.
He commented, debated and lectured.
His educational background may be considered modest, but he had adequate education required for his journey from the classroom to become a teacher in “Bhuruwayo” and later obtain a diploma in Business from Claver House College in England.
The rest, his maker and life’s experience abundantly bestowed.
He brooked no nonsense; he was a disciplinarian and yet always with a keen sense of humour.
He was strict but fair. His approach was scientific and methodical, constantly challenging the boundaries.
A true leader in his own right.
Manchester United will miss his support from a favourite cream leather recliner, all officials and players of major and minor soccer leagues worldwide will no longer have their names called out in joyful recognition.
He was an avid supporter of football, knew them all. On the home front Dynamos was a favourite.
Athletic and fit, he watched and admired Usain Bolt in the Olympics, he loved all outdoor pursuits, top amongst them fishing, walking and all the nature programmes DStv had to offer received his full attention.
He even danced to “Boogie Nights” in his youth. Such was his love and zest for life.
A direct descendant of the paramount chief Mutasa, traditionally greeted thus: “Wekwa Mutasa, Samaita, mabwe machena, vanoyera tembo, ve Binga.”
His paternal grandfather Gumunyu (Musariri) is said to have left the Mutasa district with his brothers Mteremererwa and Mudzikati when war broke out during the 18th century.
The clan(s) descendants eventually settled in the Chivhu area by way of Sadza and Nharira.
Mr Musariri’s love for his immediate family of six girls, three boys (including him) and all his other siblings was legendary. There were a total of 16 girls and 16 boys in the rank and file of extended family.
He loved God and the Roman Catholic Church even though he did not regularly attend mass. He also was keenly aware of his culture, its benefits and shortcomings.
He acknowledged his own failings and kept the company of priests and nuns for spiritual guidance.
Mr Musariri is survived by two wives, 16 children, 25 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. All beloved and will attest to the fact.