Takesure loves to write about life changing lessons he has learnt over time. He draws much of his inspiration from events in his own life.
Meeting My Sammy
I joined The Burger Giant in May 1996 as clerk in their Banking Department. It was just over three months after I graduated with a Business Studies degree from the University of Zimbabwe. A clerical job didn’t appeal to me but it was all that was available. My father encouraged me to take the job arguing that there were huge opportunities for growth in a large corporation such as The Burger Giant. Besides I had college debt to settle. “You’ll soon rise through the ranks.” He said “Only you have to work hard,” he urged. I took his advice and took the job.
Sammy and I met for the first time in August of 1996. She came to our department with a team of external auditors. Coopers and Lybrands Chartered Accountants firm had just hired her as a temp assisting the audit team with data entry. When I set my eyes on her for the very first time, as they were introduced to us, my heart skipped a beat if not two. She was such a mesmerising beauty, the kind I had never seen in my whole life. At that moment, I made a promise to myself that I would pursue her. She was the girl I had been waiting for all along. I saw my future wife in her, in that very first meeting!
The auditors were allocated an office at the back of our building so we barely ran into them. You had to go to their office if you wanted to see them. I didn’t want to see the auditors, I just wanted to see Sammy. Every time I made my way to their office hoping to talk to her, the office was full. There was no chance of talking to her in private. I just wanted to introduce myself and invite her for lunch or something. It wasn't until the third day of their assignment that I got the chance to talk to her. She had a lot to do so remained behind whilst the rest of the team went for lunch.
“I’m Takey Danga Junior, my friends call me TJ,” I introduced myself “How are you today?” I continued trying hard to sound myself. “I’m very fine, thanks! How are you?” She replied “We met three days ago, I’m Samukeliso Mo Phiri. You can call me Sammy.” She continued. “I’m very fine Sammy!” I replied, pleasantly surprised that she was very friendly. I expected to be quickly brushed aside before I could come up with my next line that I’d be too embarrassed to even say good bye.
We had small talk for about ten minutes. She had a lot to do so I had to leave. I said good bye and left their office. I couldn’t believe I had just talked to the girl of my dreams. It felt like a beautiful dream, but it was much better than that, it was real! I brought her breakfast the following morning which she said she enjoyed very much. I was making progress, I thought. Next I asked her out for lunch. She said she was busy, but she could do a movie after work instead. I couldn’t believe my ears!
We went for a movie at Rainbow VistaRama® at Avondale, about three kilometres north of Harare Central Business District. It is there that she told me she was only eighteen and still in high school. She was only in the job for the duration of the school holidays. All along I thought she was in college. I was twenty two at the time and didn't think there was such a huge age difference between us. It didn't matter to me that she was still in high school. I was so into her! After the movie we went for ice cream at nearby ice cream parlour. Thereafter I took her home in a cab, I didn’t have a car at the time. “Thanks TJ for the movie and ice cream,” she said as she got out of the cab. “It was all my pleasure!” I replied. “See you tomorrow.” I continued.
We saw each other after work almost every day thereafter. We were now inseparable, I was already in love, not sure if she was, still we were having a great time. Time flew by and she was back in school for the last term of her high school life. I saw very little of her during that time as she was preparing for her final exams. She was always busy with revision classes and I didn't want to disturb her.
Sammy wrote her final exams at the end of the year and passed. She enrolled for a National Certificate in Accounting and Finance at Harare Polytechnic the following April. We continued dating as she went to college. Not a single day passed without seeing each other. We were now madly in love. I proposed and she accepted, but she insisted that we would get married after her graduation in a year’s time. I didn’t mind waiting for her, she was more than worth it!
She graduated in June 1998 with her National Certificate in Accounting and Finance. Wedding preparations started in earnest and we were married two months later, exactly two years after we first met. We went to Walvis Bay in Namibia for our honey moon. Walvis Bay is such a beautiful place. It was our first time there and we had a time of our lives. We have gone there for holiday several times over the years. Even the kids love the place very much!
After the wedding, Sammy registered for the National Diploma level of her course and continued with her studies. She, however, fell pregnant with OJ midway through her academic year. The pregnancy made her sick frequently so she dropped out of the course on finishing that academic year. We agreed that she would go back and finish her studies as soon as the baby was old enough to be left with a minder. This, according to her at the time, would be after the baby was about a year old.
When OJ turned one, she still wasn’t ready to resume her studies. One year turned into two, two to three but still she didn’t go back to college. During our regular conversations, she confessed to me that she no longer wanted to go back to college. She was enjoying being a full time stay at home mum. She instead wanted to pursue her passions of cooking, baking and sewing instead. I didn’t have a problem with that, as long as she was happy. Clearly she was very happy, she just wasn’t sure I would approve.
“How is all that stuff related to accounting and finance? Why would she take two years of her life to get a qualification she wasn’t going to use? Or is there something I’m missing here?” I kept asking myself. As if reading my thoughts, she joked that she would be the family’s finance manager so her finance qualification wasn’t going to waste. We laughed about it, and that’s as far as I took it. Little did I know!
The Women’s Club
When OJ was three and a half years old Sammy put him in a full day care centre and joined a local women’s club. The club was the brain child of one Rutendo Maunganidze, a prominent fashion designer and very successful business woman who grew up in our neighbourhood. It was her way of giving back to the community in which she grew up, a community she called hers! The club was an initiative meant to economically empower local women through giving them proper financial and vocational training along the lines of their passions and hobbies to enable them to earn income from them. It was run by a board of trustees voted into office by the members with funding from membership fees and donations, mostly from Rutendo and her business associates.
Rutendo prided her business success from her passion for clothing design since she was a little girl. She thought she would help women in the community achieve similar success or, at the very least, supplement family income through their hobbies. With the aid of the local councillor, she secured a place for the club at the community centre. She then brought the community women together in a meeting, registered the first group of members, had a lawyer she brought with her assist them with drawing up the club’s constitution and elect the first board of trustees.
To join the club, the women paid a small fee for annual membership. Practical courses were offered to members at no cost with trainers drawn from the nation’s leading vocational and technical schools. The club ran three sessions of courses every year. Upon successful completion of the courses, members were presented with certificates of competence in their respective fields and were expected to put the learned skills to practice by coming together in groups based common hobbies and passions and start earning from their skills. There was a revolving fund in place to assist the graduates with seed capital.
Over the next three years Sammy took several of the club’s courses. She enjoyed the practical nature of the courses. It was fun and learning at the same time, she would always say. She enjoyed every bit of it, especially cooking and baking. Besides earning from catering at local community functions and bake sales, we were sure treated to delicious meals and eats at home. OJ and I loved it, we couldn’t have enough of it! We were very happy she took those courses.
Women In Business
Sammy, neighbours Ratidzo Murehwa and Rudo Mangwiro, and Nyaradzo Matambo wife to Tau the lawyer, shared a passion for cooking. They therefore formed a partnership and started a catering business. The group catered at almost all of our local community functions. They were a common fixture on weddings, birthday parties, church gatherings, club functions and any other function you can think of in our local area. They were occasionally invited to cater at more glamourous functions like The Chamber of Industry and Commerce awards ceremony.
The women were doing well for themselves. With Rutendo’s help they were running their venture very professionally. The venture was able to pay back the loan from the club’s revolving fund together with the nominal interest after three years of operation. Over the same period, the partnership was able to acquire its own equipment, place of business and a truck for business use.
Over the next two years the women grew from strength to strength. Ratidzo suggested they convert their venture into limited company. However she met with resistance from the other members as they thought it would bring on them more statutory responsibilities, responsibilities they were not willing to take. They loved the existing arrangement with its flexibility and thought that made it fun and business at the same time.
After three years, Sammy stepped back from the partnership as she was expecting our daughter, Amara. She became a sleeping partner for the next year as she took care of the baby. The trio of Ratidzo, Rudo and Nyaradzo ran the business in her absence. She would only feature in partnership meetings. She returned on a part-time basis when Amara turned one but only resumed her full partnership duties when Amara was three and in day care.
After close to a decade of running the catering business Sammy and Nyaradzo felt they needed new challenges. They wanted to explore the rest of their passions. They withdrew from the catering business and formed a new garment making factory. They specialized in school, corporate and work wear. The business took off very well and soon they were supplying most of the local schools and businesses. It seemed everything the women touched turned to gold.
Fast forward to the time I got fired from The Burger Giant, the factory employed close to twenty local women. However, it wasn’t doing well anymore. The nation had slid into hyperinflation over the previous couple of years and was facing critical shortages of water, fuel and electricity. This constrained the business’s ability to meet orders on time, which in turn resulted in it losing a significant number of their customers. They were barely managing to survive now. “Maybe it is time to explore the last of my passions!” Sammy thought.
© 2019 Takesure Danga