Charles Dziruni- a war time entrepreneur who could not be shaken

By John Masuku

As we remember my father-in-law, late Manicaland businessman Mr Charles Marume Dziruni who died on January 15, 2000 we celebrate his perseverance and patriotism during the bitter liberation war despite one of his three well stocked general dealer shops known as Chimbike Store in Gandanzara area being burnt down by Rhodesian soldiers and his brand new truck reduced to rabble after stepping on a land mine originally targetted at the enemy forces  by freedom fighters. Information from the guerillas for Mr  Dziruni to avoid the mined road at uNgweme on the fateful day had not reached him on time. Despite the truck being reduced to a heated iron scrap his long time driver Caleb Rashama popularly known as Sarashama had emerged out of the blast unscatched.

With four of his own children having crossed to Mozambique to fight for freedom and one of them not returning home at Independence Mr Dziruni known as ‘Mr C’ in family circles rendered relentless support to the ZANLA forces which operated in his area resulting in Rhodesians singling out his businesses for destruction.

“Baba  Dziruni was saved by a guerilla commander named Captain Mago who vowed to protect him because of the unwavering support he gave to the freedom fighters in the form of food and clothes”  said ‘Mr C’s surviving spouse Lillian (nee Dodzo)

Those suspected of aiding so called “terrorists” by the Rhodesian soldiers were taken to  Downs torture camp at Mutasa District Commission offices  and severely assaulted.

“Among the soldiers, Nduna and Pandaberry were the most  notorious,always  wrecking havoc and traumatising many innocent villagers including Baba who was briefly detained at times as they interrogated him about his association with ‘the boys’ and quizzed him about the whereabouts of his children who had ‘crossed’.”

Mr Dziruni had established his general dealer shops in stages from late 1950s since returning from South Africa where he worked in Cape Town hotels to raise money to go into business back home.He started with Gonde Store in the Chiremba area on the shores of Osborne Dam followed by Chimbike and finally Nyagambu Store, Rongorayini in Dziwa near Bonda Mission where, at the original ‘paruware’ (rock)  family homestead he had grown up and learnt with the late first ZANU Chairman Herbert Chitepo in primary school.

“When Sekuru Charles ventured into business he used rural buses plying routes connecting these  places with Mutare and Rusape to transport goods.As his young nephew living with him I would wait at the bus stop with a bicycle to ferry his very heavy loads to the shop a long distance away” narrated the late Josphat Mutamuko twenty two years ago as we waited to collect Mr Dziruni’s body for burial from Bonda Mission Hospital where he had been lovingly attended to by staff who included his well liked maternal uncle Hector Sadziwa a

male nurse highly respected by the community as “Dr” Sadziwa.

At all his shops Mr Dziruni, as an approved buyer of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB)  assisted many peasant farmers to sell their produce easily.

Back in the 1970s, besides the nearby Rugoyi Clinic and few neighbours  Mr Dziruni was one of the few owners of a telephone which the wider Gandanzara and nearby communities used for emergencies when calling relatives in far away towns and cities about family news including whispering in hushed slang about the escalating bush war. 

With the coming of Uhuru in 1980 there was no long-lasting celebration for Mr Dziruni and many business persons including bus operators who, despite enduring heavy war time losses were expected to pay up their huge tax arrears.Many enterprises folded and Mr Dziruni  got very depressed. By then I had married Agnes affectionately called Ekkie, one of his many daughters and got to know about his reprieve engagement missions with Manicaland homeboys namely Maurice Nyagumbo, the first Minister of Mines, Didymus Mutasa,Speaker of Parliament and home girl Naomi Nhiwatiwa then Deputy Minister of Information,Posts and Telecommunications in Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s first post Independence cabinet as well as top posts in the ruling ZANU(PF) party.

The three politicians  received him very well and openly acknowledged his admirable contribution of assisting freedom fighters on the war front as that information had filtered to them at the rear in Maputo.But despite promises to assist him and all concerned business people they stated that there was no deliberate pronouncement on war tax exemptions and indeed nothing ever changed as the taxman pounced on all defaulters.

Never to allow setbacks to overcome him Mr Dziruni took advantage of the huge demand for pork at the time and went into piggery in order to raise substantial capital for compliance and  business recovery.

In no time he stabilised fast to even became a pioneer of rural electrification in his area, something which later benefitted nearby schools like Dope and areas like Masowe and the Osborne Dam construction in 1991.He further sponsored sports tournaments and donated trophies and prize money especially at schools near his stores while expanding his own businesses to include hairdressing, butchery, restautant, welding and carpentry shops.

A  loving, progressive and  generous polygamous family person whose other  wives were from Mtetwa,Mwando and Kororo families within his business catchment areas, Mr Dziruni bore several children now scattered all over the world including Kathmandu,Nepal in the Himalayas, India, Australia and the United Kingdom while some are successful farmers and transport operators with others keeping his legacy businesses alive. He invested in giving his boy and girl children equal educational opportunities thus grooming them for descent  jobs and entreprenuership, locally and abroad.

I personally experienced ‘Mr C’s’ business acumen,humility and warm fatherliness on my first visit to my wife’s home in Gandanzara soon after Independence when he asked me to join him on one of his all day restocking trips in Mutare.

As I jumped to the back of the truck to join loaders he quickly invited me to come and sit next to him in front while Sarashama drove all the way thereby providing himself with an opportunity to know more about my broadcasting job and family in Harare and Matebeleland.

The ordering and loading of goods  for his three shops took us up and down Mutare’s  fully stocked wholesalers where ‘Mr C’  proudly  introduced me to his friends and business associates mainly of Indian decent as his son-in-law who was a radio and television personality with many recognising me from radio shows and their black and white  TV sets of the time.

But what an ‘uneasy’ trip it was for me – full of faked descent laughter and conversations by a township-raised new Ndebele mukwambo (son-in-law), radio celebrity not yet fully acquainted with his respected and well off Manyika father- in- law.However,we became very close for over two decades to the point of being the last person to accompany his body deep down into his final resting place at Dziwa cemetery, bordering Mbaza Primary School, near Bonda Mission.

Rest in eternal peace Soko, Babazala Ncube!

John Masuku is a veteran radio/television broadcast journalist and media trainer. Contact him on: Email: @john_masuku

Sunday Mail & Radio VOP