By Philip Mataranyika
Self-made Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, has posted numerous video clips on social media through his Jack Ma Foundation most of which have made a lasting impression on me.
The Alibaba Group founder and Executive Chairman is one of those who ignited in me the passion of spending time with and mentoring the youth through one of his video clips titled “How to be successful in your 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond”.
Jack Ma advised thus: “When you are 20 to 30 years old, you should follow a good boss [and] join a good company to learn how to do things properly. When you are 50 to 60 years old, spend time training and developing young people – the next generation.”
After I turned 50 six years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to take Jack Ma on his advice. I decided to go outside of the Nyaradzo Group and extended my circle of friends and family to include a number of youths. Unfortunately, I turn 56 today with a heavy heart – having lost a promising generation 30 I had adopted as a son, Zororo Makamba.
Zororo and I would meet once a week depending on our schedules. We would sit and talk for hours. Instead of me dishing out business and life lessons, I would find myself learning more from him. Zororo was not only eloquent, he was knowledgeable. More than that he was a visionary. I used to chide him saying he was an old man trapped in a young man’s body.
Zororo was involved in and started a number of electronic media broadcast projects all of which touched the hearts and minds of many across the globe. Like his father James, Zororo was capable and had a grip on most issues from politics, education, science, health and business. Through his “State of the Nation” weekly broadcast, Zororo touched on many issues. In one of his clips he talks passionately about our health system which he said needed a revamp. It is as if he had a premonition for it is our health system that let him down.
When Zororo turned 30 on the 17th of January, which was a Friday, he called to remind me of it. I asked him if there was anything organised for this important milestone given also that he had spent time in hospital, he said there was.
I would be one of the invited guests to toast to his 30th birthday at the Makamba’s Blue Ridge family Farm, just outside the capital city, along the Harare-Murehwa Road the following day.
When Zororo introduced me to his mother Irene, I took the opportunity to commend her for the wonderful work she did bringing up a gentleman, a patriot and a visionary, blessed with so much talent, amazing ideas and energy, a rare combination.
I was to see him again when we hosted a luncheon for two exceptional Zimbabwean students both of whom are Oxford bound on a Rhodes Scholarship, Cephas Svosve and Andile Dube. Zororo was excited to see these two fine young lads that he dedicated some seconds on his “ State of the Nation” episode flighted on the 10th of February.
I was saddened to learn on Monday (March 23, 2020), that Zororo was suddenly called home – less than three months after we had popped the champagne bottles to celebrate his 30th birthday.
Zororo had been admitted at Wilkins Hospital after his condition deteriorated when he came back from a visit to the States. According to media reports, he was the second confirmed case with coronavirus, which he could have contracted during his week-long trip to New York, in the United States.
As I mourn Zororo’s devastating death, may his passing jolt all the youths of Zimbabwe and the rest of the world to take a leading role in the fight against this virus whose death toll is now more than 20 000 out of more half a million recorded cases – with Italy and now Spain being the worst hit.
A communicator-par excellence, Zororo had a great passion for his work and would have made a huge difference in raising public awareness about the disease, which gave him absolutely no chance to add his voice. On his return from New York, he dived back to work without realising he had contracted the virus. He held meetings and socialised with a few friends. Had Zororo known he had it, he would have been the first to make noise about it. It is therefore important that we follow the WHO guidelines so we can have a fighting chance of curbing the spread of this virus and end the pandemic. In cases where one may have been exposed to the virus, self isolation for the incubation period of 14-21 days is important and we must always practice social distancing. I guess heaven also needed his talents. This is a young man who stood out among many youths of his generation and became an enigma that would lift my spirits each time I interacted with him.
I came to know Zororo through my eldest son, Nigel.
They had known each other since their high-school days at St John’s College and Peterhouse, respectively. That they were in different schools mattered little, as they both shared the same passion for sport and entrepreneurship.
They were also both tech-savvy, and together they helped me a great deal in getting to grips with the fast-changing world of technology.
While most of Nigel’s friends are ardent golfers like me, Zororo had no interest in stepping onto the greens. Because I never had the chance to play golf with him, ours was therefore an intellectual discourse whenever we got to meet.
On the many occasions we met, Zororo would be in the company of his trusted confidante, Henry Hakulandaba – a creative director and photographer at Eleven Dogs Inc, a company they co-founded in the digital media and broadcasting space. I considered Zororo to be one of my “many sons” adopted from friends and relatives with whom I would meet regularly to discuss life in general, share experiences and ideas and help shape their future.
Even though he is gone, Zororo had already made a mark at a tender age with several accolades under his belt, among them;
2016 – Winner “Outstanding Screen Production” National Arts Merits Awards (Zimbabwe’s Emmys)
2016 -“100 Most Influential under 40” (ranked 33) Gorindemabwe Trust on African leadership
2015 – “100 Most Influential under 40” (ranked 37) Gorindemabwe Trust on African leadership
2015 – Winner “Best Male Achiever” Zimbabwe Youth Achievers Awards
2014 – “100 Most Influential under 40” (ranked 39) Gorindemabwe Trust on African leadership
2012 – Winner “MVP award” at the National Team Selling Competition
2012 – 2nd place World Collegiate Sales Competition. All of which was in recognition of his outstanding work, mainly in the field of broadcasting where he was the producer of “State of the Nation” with Zororo Makamba and other popular productions that helped unpack several complex topical issues in Zimbabwe.
Zororo was also the current host and executive producer of “Point of View” with Zororo Makamba, an opinion based political web show which he launched in February 2016.
It’s sad that while I was at Zororo’s 30th birthday party in January this year, today I celebrate mine, terribly miserable and devastated because Zimbabwe has lost an outstanding young man who had such a promising future.
Zororo had refreshing ideas on how this great nation, with such immense upside potential, could reclaim its place among the community of nations.
Instead of pursuing his dream and passion in the United States, where he attained his higher education, Zororo had made a good and inspiring start by coming back home to join his fellow countrymen in search of the elusive Zimbabwean dream. Soko, you will be sorely missed.
My heartfelt condolences go out to Mukoma James, Maiguru Irene and his fiancée Nyari Mutezo. It’s not your loss alone: We have all lost a humble, gentle and visionary young man who was way ahead of his time. He always had a point of view.
Soko, may your soul rest in eternal peace.
Philip Mataranyika is founder and chief executive officer of the Nyaradzo Group