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Dr Matifadza Nyazema – The Woman who does not take no for an answer

Matifadza Nyazema

By Tapfuma Machakaire 17/10/2022

An upbringing by hospitable Catholic parents who looked after scores of relatives at their Mbare home produced a renowned female entrepreneur, who now runs a luxury boutique hotel in Victoria Falls.

Matifadza Nyazema says growing up she witnessed her father’s hospitality as he welcomed every relative to their Harare home. Such hospitality inspired Nyazema to venture into the tourism industry where she is now welcoming tourists from across the globe.

“An interesting statistic is that I have 56 first cousins. I know I counted and actually wrote a story about it. All of those cousins, all of their parents at one time or another came to live in our house because we were the Harare city people. What I remember most is that everyone was welcome, and I am just talking of immediate family.”  Nyazema told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube in an interview.

Mbano Manor Hotel is situated 200metres from Victoria Falls National Park in a town where humans, wildlife and nature interact.From the comfort of the luxurious rooms of the hotel it is the norm to hear lions roaring in the distance.

Mbano Manor is the ultimate destination for nature lovers where the bushveld wraps itself around the hotel buildings. “With the construction, we only took down two trees,” says Nyazema. The idea was to build a small, exclusive lodge that would match anything Kruger or the Serengeti had to offer.

Nyazema conceptualised and developed the luxury boutique hotel that comprises 19 suites, becoming the first black female Zimbabwean to achieve such a feat.

She says the idea of investing in Victoria Falls was born out of a school trip that she took to the resort town when she was a kid.

“When I was seven or eight years old my father took us to Victoria Falls. He took his school. So, we went by train. I was very young, but I remember it very well. It was me and my older sister. That was a lasting memory for us.”

Matifadza Rukanzakanza was born on her grandfather’s farm in Msengezi Mashonaland West Province. Her parents then lived in a nearby small town, Kadoma in Rimuka high density suburb. Her father was a teacher and the mother a nurse. The couple later moved to Harare where Matifadza enrolled at Chipembere School in Highfield before the family moved to Mbare where her father had been elevated to the position of headmaster at Gwinyai Primary School. Easy access to the library at her father’s workplace enabled Matifadza to develop a culture of reading. She did her secondary education at St Dominic’s Chishawasha and later St Ignatius College.

Mati as she is affectionately known studied journalism in Nairobi Kenya through a Danida scholarship and worked briefly as a sub editor with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation in the early eighties.

She later did a Bachelor of Administration and Political Science degree at the University of Zimbabwe and joined the Zimbabwe Tourist Development Corporation in the public relations department before moving to marketing.

Mati later got a scholarship to study for a master’s degree in international hotel management in the United Kingdom. On her return home she joined Zimbabwe Sun Hotels, as reservations manager. In 1992 she joined British Airways as sales manager and later rose to area marketing manager for British Airways sub-Saharan Africa based in Johannesburg.

“I was part of a global marketing team. We would rotate meetings around the world. All of that laid the foundation of what you are witnessing today. I have so much experience from so many countries and I’ve actually stayed in some of the best hotels in the world.” Nyazema told a visiting Sunday Times reporter.

Between 2006 and 2016 Nyazema worked as the executive director of the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg South Africa.

When she decided to embark on the project of constructing a hotel in Victoria Falls, Nyazema invited Norman Wallace a former employee of Tsogo Sun in South Africa for a meeting to discuss the project. Wallace was accompanied to the meeting by a renowned interior designer, Ryan Illgner.

“The magic of this place is you have hoteliers who sat round the table and designed a hotel before involving an architect. The three of us knew the five-star standards, we knew what works and doesn’t work.”

Nyazema says the actual construction was tough as most of the materials had to be imported from South Africa. Her inspiration behind Mbano Manor Hotel’s architecture was a trip to the island of Bali, Indonesia, where she stayed in a secluded hotel situated in a tropical forest.

“It was exclusive and secluded it was absolutely amazing,” she says.

An estimated US$7million was required for the project, money which Mati and husband, Norman Nyazema, a renowned professor of pharmacology and businessman, could not afford.

Nyazema started the search for money in SA after putting together a comprehensive 44-page prospectus with all the financial projections. But no-one was biting.

“The Industrial Development Corporation even flew investment professionals to Victoria Falls to inspect the site but decided against investing.”

Eventually pension funds investing on behalf of sugar producer Tongaat Hulett and banking giant Standard Chartered came on board with construction funds.

“I probably made over 100 presentations for money, I’m not exaggerating. I know where every bank in town is. I know where every pension fund in town is,” says Nyazema.

After two years of building, the hotel opened its doors in January 2020. It has 18 employees mostly locals from Victoria Falls area. Nyazema’s spirits were not dampened when six weeks after the hotel opened its doors the Covid-19 pandemic struck which saw the country going into a lockdown.

“We believe in our country and we believe in the success of our country and we are going to do our two cents’ worth to actually make it a success.”

Matifadza is a Shona word which means you have made us happy. If Mati has not made her family and country happy, then who deserves that accolade?

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Zimbabwean names are still haunted by the ghosts of colonialism – Yahoo News

In African cultures, the names given to children play an important role because they are often laden with meanings.

As a team of professors of literature, linguistics and onomastics (the scientific study of names and naming practices) we have shown in our research that the names parents give their children at birth can help us make sense of many things, including a family’s heritage and events in history.

Our most recent research paper analyses naming practices in Zimbabwe. It shows that Zimbabweans in the former British colony in southern Africa still often choose English names like Robert or Oliver over traditional ones like Vulindlela or Ntombenhle.

We conclude that names make it possible to understand the effects of colonialism and, in more recent years, the importance placed on restoring tradition. Embracing traditional practices matters as a way of keeping culture alive so that people can benefit from its knowledge.

Relics of colonialism

English-language names are abundant in Zimbabwe today. This could be one of the effects of the introduction of colonial languages and the displacement of indigenous languages. It demonstrates the difficulty of erasing the mentalities acquired in the colonial era.

We argue that British missionaries and colonisers “invaded” the “mental” space of the colonised and significantly changed the way Zimbabwean people use English and indigenous languages to name children.

Read more: How schools use language as a way to exclude children

“Typical” English names maintain a connection to a time when schoolchildren would often be given new, English names to mould them into British-like subjects.

Names in literature

Literary works can help us better understand names and naming patterns. Celebrated Zimbabwean author Yvonne Vera’s novel Butterfly Burning, for example, shows how names in Zimbabwe’s Ndebele language were progressively abandoned for English ones.

This change saw the use of abstract English names such as Gilbert instead of meaningful indigenous ones like Vulindlela, a boy’s name meaning “open the way” that expresses the parents’ hope that the child will bring good fortune to the family.

This cultural shift can be considered a form of erasure of a significant component of indigenous cultures. Such erasure is part of the larger-scale losses suffered through colonisation. This cultural loss was never fully recovered even in the decades after independence in Zimbabwe in 1980.

Naming practices in Zimbabwe today

There’s evidence that, in the last couple of decades, parents in Zimbabwe use both English and indigenous languages to name their children. Naming practices from colonial times live on.

In Zimbabwe these English names fall into different categories. There are typical English names like Ashley and Jean. There are also biblical names, like Isaac and Peter. We also find Africanised biblical names such as Jowero (Joel) and Mateu (Matthew).

And then there are “Zimbabwean English” names like Decent and Choice: English names translated from indigenous names. Zimbabwean English names offer an opportunity to understand the potential of drawing from traditional African knowledge – where names record personal experiences and aspirations – through using English. Colonial entanglements reveal adaptations of traditional forms.

We also notice “religious” names translated literally from indigenous names – like Takomborerwa (We have been blessed). The alterations are clear effects of colonialism, emanating from the establishment of Christianity. Examples of these “vernacular Christian names” include the Shona language names Tapiwanashe (We have been given by God), Tawananyasha (We have found God’s grace) and Anotidaishe (God loves us).

Biblical English names and Africanised biblical names

Like the English language, Christianity was at the heart of colonialism in Africa, spread through missionaries. This saw the increased popularity of biblical English names in Zimbabwe.

“Africanised biblical” names are related to Christian biblical names, adapted to “fit” indigenous language rules of grammar. Since the translated Bible remains an “English book”, Africanised biblical names do not become indigenous names, rather they remain biblical English names. For instance the Shona name Ruka is adopted from the biblical name Luke. Ruka is simply a Shona version of Luke.

Zimbabwean English names

Besides typical English, biblical English and Africanised biblical names, a large category of Zimbabwean English names are popular at present. These have also been called “non-standard” English names to disrupt the dominance of British English that created tropes like “hilarious names”. Examples of such names are Bastard and Darling – used in Zimbabwean novelist NoViolet Bulawayo’s award-winning novel We Need New Names.

The majority of Zimbabwean English names are literal translations of indigenous personal names, illustrating the enduring power and assumed prestige of the language of Empire. At the same time, translating indigenous names shows a clear interest by Zimbabweans in retaining indigenous values and naming patterns.

Refashioning imperial debris

In these uses of English names with and without indigenous equivalents, the long-term effects of the language of colonisation are made visible.

Read more: How the history of Zimbabwe played out on the country’s cricket fields

So, on the one hand, these names tell a story about how indigenous ways of life were looked down on and how this colonial disdain still influences people’s naming choices. This could be a result of an internalised colonial mentality in which the English language continues to index the power and prestige that it accumulated through the violence of the colonial era.

On the other hand, we see how these Zimbabwean English names draw on longstanding indigenous traditions and creatively reclaim the English language for local purposes. From this perspective, we interpret naming trends in Zimbabwe as a creative refashioning of imperial debris that helps keep traditional knowledge alive.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. The Conversation is trustworthy news from experts. Try our free newsletters.

It was written by: Tendai Mangena, University of Leeds.

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Tendai Mangena received funding from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for the project on Names in Zimbabwe and the diaspora on which this work is based.

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Letters: A review of the August 23 elections – NewsDay

It is with great embarrassment that we find ourselves celebrating the absence of violence as the primary measure of a free and fair election.

I WRITE to you today with a heavy heart and a deep sense of concern regarding the recent Zimbabwe elections held on August 23-24, 2023.

As a proud Zimbabwean, I feel compelled to express my dismay at the state of our electoral process and the alarmingly low expectations we have set for ourselves as a nation.

It is with great embarrassment that we find ourselves celebrating the absence of violence as the primary measure of a free and fair election.

Are we truly content with defining the credibility of our democratic process solely on the premise that we refrained from brutalising and killing one another?

Such a mindset is not only disheartening, but also an insult to the principles of democracy that we should hold dear.

While the ruling Zanu PF party may argue that the elections were free and fair due to lack of widespread violence, we must not allow ourselves to be deceived by this façade.

The numerous irregularities that plagued the elections cannot be ignored.

The banning of opposition rallies, the exclusion of opposition voices from national television, and the manipulative tactics employed by fringe groups like Forever Associates Zimbabwe are blatant examples of the erosion of our democracy.

Furthermore, the deliberate hindrance of the opposition’s ability to participate fully in the electoral process, including the delay in delivering voting materials to their strongholds, are grave injustices.

By forcing citizens to vote in darkness and disenfranchising them, we undermine the very essence of democracy and disregard the fundamental rights of fellow Zimbabweans.

We must not allow the absence of violence to blind us to the truth.

Our elections have become nothing more than a farcical display, designed to deceive the international community while leaving us, the citizens, disillusioned and disheartened.

It is high time we demanded true accountability and transparency in our electoral processes.

As Zimbabweans, we must rise above the complacency that has engulfed us.

We must unite in our demand for meaningful reforms that address the systemic issues plaguing our electoral system.

This includes dismantling barriers to political participation, ensuring equal access to media for all parties, and establishing a genuinely transparent and inclusive electoral process.

It is imperative that we reclaim our dignity as a nation and restore the faith of our fellow citizens in the democratic ideals we hold dear.

We cannot allow ourselves to be content with this illusion of democracy.

We must strive for real change, for the sake of present and future generations.

I implore you, esteemed editor, to use the power of your platform to shed light on the plight of our electoral process.

Let us foster public dialogue and encourage a collective commitment to a genuine democratic progress.

Together, we can bring about the change that Zimbabwe so desperately needs. – Concerned citizen


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From Zimbabwean refugee to ‘wine poet’ in South Africa – New

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By Forbes Africa

BARELY two years after his first sip of wine, Joseph Dhafana was head sommelier at the iconic La Colombe restaurant in Cape Town and began to explore making his own wine. His Mosi Wines and Spirits is a household name today.

With its prolific wine region and world-class restaurants, Cape Town has long been the jewel in South Africa’s tourism crown. Yet the industry isn’t powered by good food and wine alone, but rather, by the dedication of its people.

People like Joseph Tongai Dhafana, sommelier, wine judge and founder of Mosi Wines and Spirits. Impressive title aside, it’s Joseph’s story that truly sets him apart.

Dhafana now lives in Cape Town but grew up in Zimbabwe, an entire world away from his current life. He was raised in Chirumhanzu in the Midlands province, by parents who were subsistence farmers.

“I remember waking up as early as 03:00, going to the field to till the land with an ox-drawn plough. Then, when the sun rose I would run back home via the river to take a bath and get ready for a 12km walk to school – sometimes barefoot,” he explains. “These early mornings before school were very tough but they made me who I am today.”

This resilience is what would ultimately change the course of his life forever. In 2008, at the peak of Zimbabwe’s crisis, Dhafana made the difficult decision to leave his home country in search of better opportunities in South Africa. “Leaving was very painful and I had never dreamed of living outside Zimbabwe,” he says.

Initially, he worked as a gardener in Riebeek-Kasteel, a small town 80km outside of Cape Town, which led him to work in the garden for a local bar.

Here, he moved to washing dishes and waiting tables and was soon promoted to barman, where life took another fortuitous turn.

Here, Dhafana celebrated his 29th birthday and had his first taste of wine – a sparkling wine from nearby Riebeek Valley Wine Co. His first thoughts? “I didn’t like it,” he says simply.

“I remember, the wine was quite tart and astringent with cutting acidity and that was very foreign to my palate.” He adds, “Now I can describe it but back then I had no words to explain how I felt. They now call me the ‘wine poet’.”

Despite a rocky start, this taste of wine awakened something in Dhafana, and before long he had enrolled to do a course at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust; he joined the Cape Wine Academy and eventually, the South African Sommeliers Association, the Michael Fridjhon Wine Judging Academy and Court of Master Sommeliers Europe.

Barely two years after that first sip, Dhafana was head sommelier at the iconic La Colombe restaurant and began to explore making his own wine.

“I had saved money and bought grapes to make a barrel each of Chenin Blanc and Syrah… in Riebeek-Kasteel, where it all started.”

Today, Joseph’s Mosi Wines and Spirits – named after breathtaking Victoria Falls nestled between Zimbabwe and Zambia – is a household name.

Regularly appearing on the wine lists of the country’s top restaurants, there is no denying that his hard work and determination have paid off. “Seeing people swirling and sipping my wine just melts my heart,” he says.

“I believe wine is a bottled story and this brand has a lot to say.”

Dhafana’s story is nothing short of remarkable, but as he says, there are a lot of stories like his out there.

“I am proud of the person I am today but I am thankful to those who helped me.”

He doesn’t take this gratitude lightly and now helps others wanting to enter the industry.

“The journey has just started because I am already helping young up-and-coming sommeliers and wine stewards to do better than what I did.” And it doesn’t end there.

Along with his work as a sommelier and a wine judge, he also helped establish and captain Team Zimbabwe at the World Blind Tasting Championships in 2017 and 2018, documented in the documentary, Blind Ambition.

He is a board member of the Black Cellar Club, a non-profit that aims to promote a responsible wine and beverage industry in South Africa and is a judge for the country’s biggest annual restaurant awards, hosted by Eat Out magazine.

Having triumphed over immense challenges, Dhafana’s continued commitment to wine has enriched the industry. “We can’t all be actors or artists to tell our stories but I chose to tell mine by bottling it,” he adds.

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