Takundwa: A man who knew his mission

HARARE - Talent alone does not guarantee success.

One man whose career aptly summed up this old adage is George Takundwa, whose unrelenting quest to defy segregation saw him gain nationwide bodybuilding acclaim during pre and post-Independence Zimbabwe.

The seven-time Mr Ironman, three time Mr Rhodesia and four time Mr Zimbabwe champion died at Parirenyatwa Hospital on Sunday after succumbing to a stroke.

At the time of his death, he was stores officer for the City of Harare Health Department, where he had been employed for over 35 years. He also held the position of Weightlifting Federation president.

Many will remember him for his contribution to the sport of Bodybuilding and Fitness in Zimbabwe.

Takundwa rose to prominence at a time when bodybuilding was a preserve of the white minority in the then pariah state of Rhodesia.

But despite attempts to suppress his talents, the Mufakose-raised bodybuilder stole the limelight with his well-coordinated physique that left spectators in awe.

A first-rate performer in his heyday, Takundwa drew the support of judges, critics and spectators alike.

Born on October 22 in 1954 in the rural district of Buhera, Takundwa took up bodybuilding as a 17-year-old. Two years on in the early 1970’s, Takundwa scooped the Junior Mr Rhodesia title.

In 1973 as a 19-year-old, the prolific Takundwa was good enough to star in the senior category.

His cinderella rise to prominence would continue as he went on to win the Mr Rhodesia title in 1976.

This was after a phenomenal performance that saw him edge out the likes Pete Lotriet, Von Carl, Des Cooper, Bible Mizha, Godwin Vhareta and his long-time friend and rival Kays Rushika.

“You had to be 200 percent better for you to beat a white man in those days,” Takundwa once told this reporter of his Mr Rhodesia feats, in an exclusive interview last year.

He would again win the Mr Rhodesia title in 1978 and 1979 and then win the accolade as Mr Zimbabwe in 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1984.

Takundwa would also dominate the middle-weight division, capping his undisputed performance by winning the Iron Man title seven times and Junior Mr Rhodesia title three-times.

Takundwa could not however, replicate his domestic form onto the international stage.

His career nosedived in 1985 when the then Mr Zimbabwe champion, Takundwa was involved in a car accident and broke his tybia bone which took almost a year to heal.

That accident would consequently spell the end of his career.

After retiring, he continued to serve the sport in an administrative capacity.

In 1988, he qualified to be an international judge and was later known as a no nonsense judge in the local bodybuilding industry.

His development in the administration of local bodybuilding did not go unnoticed as he was voted the International Federation of Bodybuilding Man of the Month in the 1990’s.

“George was a great motivator and administrator. He was soft-spoken and calm under pressure, able to improvise even in the most difficult circumstances,” said Ottis Goredema, who served with Takundwa in the administration of bodybuilding for over 15 years.

“He was also a God-fearing and religious man, dedicated to his faith and his family.”

Takundwa will be buried today at his rural home in Chivhu.

Farewell muscleman. Till we meet again, you have made you last pre-judge.

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