By Hopewell Chin’ono
Chief Nyamukoho died on Thursday. He was a man of great contradictions, unwavering and doggedness determination, and above all, he was a man loved and loathed in equal measure.
I am writing about how I knew him as Samson Katsande, an astute and ruthless Buja businessman, and one of the first black millionaires in colonial Rhodesia with businesses in Harare, Murewa and his home area of Mutoko.
My father was a civil servant at Murewa where Samson Katsande ran the biggest retail outlet called Mapereke Stores.
I became friends with his son Rockie, and his little sister Tino became my little sister too.
Today she is known as Tin-Tin the radio broadcaster, or Joyce the actress in Studio 263!
Our friendship was not built on what my family had, but on us just being young kids growing up in Murewa.
My father was not wealthy or rich, yet Rockie’s dad was one of the richest businesspeople not only in Murewa, but the whole country.
As kids growing up those things meant nothing to us, however I felt the weight of their wealth when it was my turn to hang out at their home, which was behind their massive retail complex.
When I took out my wire made cars, Rockie brought out battery powered toys, he would ask me to choose the ones I wanted to play with.
I vividly remember Rockie’s dad attempting to teach me how to play a piano, that attempt was a spectacular disaster.
They had a huge and grand white piano in the hallway of their home in Murewa, to me it was unknown sophistry.
Samson Katsande was a handsome and confident man who was married to an equally beautiful woman, Tino’s mother.
He was a straight shooter who didn’t hide his feelings whether be it anger or joy, and he had that cockiness of a wealthy man who lived ahead of his time.
In 1985/6, ZANUPF sent a sign writer called Kenneth Bute to Murewa Mission which was run by the United Methodist Church, the church’s leader was Bishop Abel Muzorewa the politician.
Bute’s order from ZANUPF was to get rid of all the teachers and clerics sympathetic to Muzorewa’s UANC political party.
As High School students, we were let out of our dormitories at night to go and harass these teachers and churchmen.
Their homes were looted with Bute’s complicit and students sang outside their homes.
Samson Katsande who was a United Methodist church member went to see my father at our humble Government owned home.
My dad was also a church member of the United Methodist.
Both men were sympathetic to ZANU PF’s liberation ethos and efforts, but they were greatly appalled by how Kenneth Bute had trashed the school.
My dad attended a meeting where Kenneth Bute addressed us as students, appallingly in the school church.
My dad stood up and spoke against the abuse of students by using them to settle political issues and scores!
“Kenneth,” my father bellowed.
“You are out of order, this is not what we fought for, and you can’t use our kids to fight your political enemies,”
my father said shaking with rage. This was 1986 not 2021.
For his efforts Kenneth Bute was rewarded by ZANU PF, he became the Deputy Minister for Community and Cooperative Development and Women’s Affairs.
Down at the township as Murewa was called by its locals, Samson Katsande entered into a fight over the same school issue with Senator Agrippa Makunde who ran a night club.
Makunde was the ZANU PF stalwart in Murewa, his farm is where Nyahuni Mission is today.
Katsande had a direct interest beyond being a church member at Murewa Mission, he also gave expatriate teachers cars to use for free when they were going to Harare for the weekend.
He believed in educating the rural folk to help them out of poverty because he had been a schoolteacher before he ventured into business.
He started off buying and selling malt in rural areas where he was a teacher, a real story of rags to riches in colonial Rhodesia.
During the 1980s, Zimbabwe got a lot of European teachers as part of helping the newly formed independent State. Katsande made it his business that those expatriate teachers that were at Murewa Mission were to be comfortable.
“That is my contribution to the community,” he would emphasize to my dad when they were discussing about the state of affairs at Murewa Mission.
He gave a Canadian teacher called Mr Samonsky a Datsun Pulsar to use.
Not surprisingly, Katsande had a garage in the backyard of his shop which was like a car sales center.
I first got to see left hand cars in that car yard, and I remember that my favorite was his black Pontiac.
As the battle for the school spiraled out of control, and as he engaged verbally with Makunde in that battle, he told my dad that they would lose if they relied only on their moral battle plan.
“Crispen, I have a joker in my back pocket, wait and see,” he told my dad on a Saturday afternoon outside his huge shop.
Katsande did not make empty threats, once he spoke he would deliver whether it was joyous or nasty.
Almost every retail product sold at Murewa Township was delivered through his big retail operation for convenience’s sake.
It was easier for Lobels, Delta and even newspapers to be dropped off at his huge shopping complex as opposed to the trucks to deliver to 30 shops at the township.
The other shop owners especially the ones who had shops in deeper rural Murewa would then pick up their goods from Mapereke Stores.
Katsande and my dad lost their moral crusade because ZANU PF wanted the teachers and clerics out at any cost.
The teachers and clerics were supposedly sympathetic to Muzorewa and similar programs were being done in the cities across the country against Muzorewa’s supporters.
My dad and Katsande argued that the ZANU PF political crusade against teachers and clerics was disruptive to classes, but ZANU PF didn’t care about the consequences.
Every night we would go to the homes of the targeted teachers and clerics, and sing to irritate them, and the looting of the church food meant for poor community members was routinely encouraged.
ZANU PF didn’t want the church to have any influence in rural communities, more so from a church led by Bishop Muzorewa.
All morally upright locals including ZANU PF supporters were upset and outraged by this use of politics in school affairs because it affected their kids too!
Katsande put his “joker” plan into motion, he shut down his retail complex, but continued receiving goods from Harare meant for local other shop owners.
He kept them in his huge warehouse, and as a result, Murewa came to a standstill, there was a retail product shortage including newspapers which he freely gave away to teachers and Government workers!
He gave the bread away to the school because he could afford it, he was a real millionaire afterall and one not beholden to party politics.
To give you an idea of how wealthy he was, fast-forward to the 90s, the whole of modern-day Westgate/Red Roofs was his property.
That is why most roads in Westgate/New Marlborough are named after himself, his businesses, his kids, or Buja ethnic names.
People from Mutoko are of the Buja ethnic group, ana Mhanduwe vano rima Mapuno, nekudya Hukurutombo.
Back to the 1980s Murewa Mission crisis:
ZANUPF started negotiating with Katsande because Murewa had been paralyzed when he shut down his businesses.
When he re-opened his complex after the negotiations, he wrote behind all his huge trucks;
“Iyeyo Mukono,” which is Buja for “…that one is a bull.”
Samson Katsande lived ahead his of his time, but he had a weird way of dealing with his kids, unlike other businesspeople, he treated them with military discipline.
They were from different mothers, but you wouldn’t know unless you were close to the family.
His wife at that time had only one child with him, Tinopona.
My command of English was not as good as the Katsande kids, they went to top notch Multiracial schools.
Katsande suggested that I go to the same school with Rockie, but my mum refused arguing to my dad that I should live our own reality.
Rockie and myself would meet during school holidays, and his siblings treated me just like their own brother.
Sometimes I would get too much attention from them such that it would make me feel so embarrassed.
One of his older sisters lived in England, she would spoil us with goodies, they were well brought up and were a humble and disciplined family.
Tin-Tin as Tinopona is now nicknamed would come and hang out with us when we played with our toys.
Their father took great pleasure in seeing us having fun, yet he wouldn’t let Rockie go and play out with other kids in the township.
I left Murewa Mission for Fletcher High School after my father felt that my education was being disrupted at Murewa Mission due to bad company.
That moved Rockie and me apart and it would take years for us to re-connect again.
I was to meet Samson Katsande again in 1998 at the Shamva turn off on Enterprise Road.
I was with my dad, I had just come back from England to spend time with my mum who was desperately ill.
“Crispen,” shouted Samson Katsande at my dad in an excitedly loud voice.
“I developed and sold my property (Westgate/New Marlborough) to home seekers,” he said with excitement exhibiting his usual confidence.
“I continue making much more money such that if we put $100 notes on the ground from here (Shamva turnoff), they will go into Mozambique,” he laughed after that truthful declaration.
It wasn’t boasting, there was a context to that statement.
Katsande had been advising my dad to invest in property development, so he was saying metaphorically “…look at me now, you too could be like me too.”
He had only two sons, Rockie and Rudy who tragically died when we were in our twenties.
Rockie was the only son left to help his dad, his sisters were married and Tino was sent off to California to study film.
Katsande was a difficult act to deal with because his views were incorrigible.
Due to my studies abroad in England, I spent years apart from most of my childhood Murewa friends including my best friend, Farai Siyawamwaya whose dad was also a millionaire businessman.
Before I left for England, my dad sat me down and lectured me about life.
“Your two friends come from wealthy families, they will inherit their father’s businesses,” he said.
“I have NO such wealth, so you will only inherit what I invest in your education, I will give you that, that is the only thing I can give you,” he said
When I met Katsande at the Shamva turn off, he was so happy when I told him that I had read journalism, and that I now lived in England where I was about to start my Master of Arts degree at City University.
He told me about his decision to rent out his properties and live off that income and savings.
That was the last time I saw him. Tinopona’s mum had died in 2004 and Katsande was on his own for some years.
He was a shrewd businessman, he built a shopping complex at Murewa and sold it to another millionaire businessman Kanyasa of the Farai Uzumba fame.
He bought it back from Kanyasa’s kids for a third of what their dad had paid Katsande.
He got involved with a woman related to a family where his brother had been married.
He was now an old man and was no longer in his right state of mind when he re-married in 2016 according to those who met him.
Sadly there was a lot of traumatic stuff that happened between this woman and his kids, such that his kids were not able to attend their father’s funeral and burial.
They were only informed of his death by their father’s workers.
Katsande became Chief Nyamukoho in 2001 and lived at the village where he ruled his area with a ruthless iron rod. He once wanted to build a tarred road from Mutoko to Nyadire Methodist Mission and name it after his mother.
When that name proposition was turned down, he reportedly walked away from the idea.
It was his way, or the highway and I guess that is what made him such a huge success and also destroy his family life especially his relationship with his kids.
They wanted to get their father and look after him, but their step-mother took a court order against them, he couldn’t do anything about it as he battled Alzheimer’s disease.
He deserved a decent passing and burial, but it wasn’t to be.
May his soul Rest in Peace.
Chief Nyamukoho born Samson Katsande in 1931-2021.
Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean journalist and was Africa Journalist of the year in 2008.
He is the current 2020 Gatefield Africa People’s Journalist of the year.