Fare-thee-well Matan

HARARE - For many years, it had become a tradition for me to pass through Wise Owl Motel for refreshments on my way to our service centre in the mountainous city of Mutare. 

While staff at the motel has always been friendly and welcoming, my attachment to this beautiful facility — nestled in the heart of the scenic Christmas Pass — was on account of the special relationship I had with renowned businessman and owner Hlanganiso Matangaidze. 

For that reason, Wise Owl Motel became a place where I would make a detour and stop-over to touch base with my good old pal before completing the rest of my journey. 

A jolly-good fella, Matan — as many used to call him — loved his whiskey at the time. His story-telling, witticism and humility were legendary. 

No wonder it was easy for him to get along with anybody, including introverts who could not resist his thoughtful and infectious smile. 

From the time we shared information about our totems, Matan and I never addressed each by our given names, but would rather address each other by these. I called him Murambwi while he called me Nyati as we celebrated the animals of our totems. As in many African cultures, we all believe our totem animals are invincible, and in turn make us so. Matan would often jokingly refer to me as his favourite dish, as it is well known that lions terrorise buffaloes out in the wild, given my totem of Nyati while he was Shumba. 

To counter back, I would remind him that once in a while, even lions get gored to death by a herd of buffaloes.

Each time we met, we talked business and discussed politics. What was consistent about Matan was his love for his country; his commitment to the indigenous cause and his conviction that black business people can succeed in running businesses as much as their white counterparts, a feat he proved wasn’t beyond him by successfully establishing and running a number of business enterprises. 

I stopped this routine of making a detour at Wise Owl Motel before reaching the foot of the famous Christmas Pass a few years ago because Matan was rarely there.

I eventually got to know that “Murambwi” as I affectionately called him was a bit under the weather which forced him to take leave from imbibing his favourite whiskey in line with advice from his doctors. 

His eyesight was also forcing him to either work from home or rely on aides. 

Here and there, I would get to meet him in Harare whenever he made himself available for business or his dialysis sessions, which were taking a toll on his health. 

His wife Vongai, along with her brother Jimmy Mangoro of the Sunbright Printers fame were always by his side to cheer him up and keep the business running. 

Not very long ago, I later got to know that Matan was now getting his dialysis done at Murambi Garden Clinic in Mutare instead of travelling all the way to Harare for the service. 

It was at this 35-bed facility, which has a dialysis unit attached to its High Dependence Unit where my good friend breathed his last on December 29. 

As usual, the Murambi Garden Clinic did all they could to save the life of my good friend Matan, but because his time was up there was really nothing they could do to bring him back. 

To Dr Ralph Kitcat and team, thank you for having been there for Matan. 

Kitcat is the chairperson of the board of trustees which runs the clinic, whose other members include John Walker Pfumojena, D Becker, M. Muzorewa, Mrs Bhadella, G. Lock and J. Rickard. 

These are all great men and women who dedicated themselves to work for the hospital without expecting a penny in return for their efforts. 

Matan may have departed from us with his remains interred among the finest sons and daughters of Manicaland at the provincial shrine in the eastern border city, but his legacy will be with us forever. 

Born Hlanganiso Tandiwe Matangaidze, Matan was born at Zvamavande Hospital in Shurugwi on March 3, 1963 to Peter and Matilda Matangaidze. 

He was the sixth of seven siblings (Susan, Joyce, Faith, Tamall, Victoria and Tapiwa) and their eldest son. 

Hlanganiso began his education at Vungwe School. 

He went on to high school, initially at Tegwani in Plumtree followed by Bernard Mizeki College in Marondera. 

On completion of his “A” levels, he enrolled for a Bachelors in Economic History at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ). He was one of only two students to graduate with a First Class pass with honours. 

It was during his time at the UZ that he met his life partner who would soon become his wife, Vongai Matangaidze (nee Mangoro). 

Hlanganiso was first employed at the National Archives, he left and served as a committee clerk at the Parliament of Zimbabwe before joining the Bank of Credit and Commerce, now CBZ. 

He was always a top achiever and rose through the ranks to become the bank’s Mutare branch manager, where he championed  the black empowerment cause by facilitating loans to capitalise the businesses of several black entrepreneurs. 

As a young man, his desire to be an entrepreneur drove him to take the daunting step of starting his own business. This saw him successfully founding Matan Holdings and Matan Trucking, both in 1994. 

It was from here that his nickname by which he was now popularly known by, “Mdhara Matan” was formed. 

From here, he established other successful businesses within the construction, entertainment, manufacturing, hospitality and finally the farming industries with the acquisition of Green Valley Estates. 

Along with his wife Vongai, they own managed each one of these businesses successfully which is a testament to their combined work ethic. 

His various achievements earned him recognition by the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) which awarded him both Provincial and National Awards. 

The ZNCC went on to elect him chairperson of the Mutare Branch and later, national president. 

Hlanganiso was an active member of the Zanu PF from his youth and served Mutare City Council as a special interest councillor responsible for financial management. 

He was also an active member of both the provincial as well as national party fund raising committees. 

He was a family man whose generosity was unparalleled. 

Many can attest to his loving nature. 

He took the time to have a personal relationship with each of his family members. 

Three of his sisters preceded him in death. 

Hlanganiso and Vongai made it their mission to ensure that those who were orphaned were taken care of. 

In spite of his political beliefs, he would connect with everyone, which made him an outstanding entrepreneur and the go-to person for those who needed help. 

He never boasted about his achievements or contacts, which is why even former president Robert Mugabe preferred to put up at his house on many of his visits to the eastern Highlands. 

Apart from his generosity, Matan’s humility was amazing considering his many achievements. 

John Ruskin once said, “the first test of a truly great man is his humility”. 

Because Matan passed the test, losing him is a great loss not just to the Matangaidze and Mangoro families, but to his friends, the business community and indeed, the whole nation. May his dear soul rest in eternal peace.  — Philip Mataranyika

• Mataranyika is the chief executive officer of Nyaradzo Group. He writes here in his personal capacity. 


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