…Honoured as an inspirational business icon.
ONE of the world’s greatest English poets William Shakespeare in his book ‘Twelfth Night’ could not have put it any better when he said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
This is what was echoed by most speakers last Saturday at the 75th platinum birthday celebration held for Mutare real estate mogul Joseph Tendepi Sanhanga, who was honoured as one of the greatest businesspeople ever produced in Mutare. This follows his prolific business career that spans over four decades (40 years), as an entrepreneur that excelled in retail, manufacturing, commercial farming, entertainment and real estate.
Speaking on behalf of the business community, popular entrepreneur and socialite, Tendai Chitowa said he was awe-inspired by Mr Sanhanga’s lifetime achievements. He added that a golden jubilee birthday (50 years) is special, but a platinum birthday (75 years) was more special, thanking his family for honouring him in such a splendid way on his 75th birthday.
“I also come from Honde Valley and can stand here proud. You have been a motivation to many who grew up aspiring to follow in your footsteps in business. At 75 years you have set a firm foundation for yourself through vast investments and you are still going strong in business. You taught us a lot as indigenous businesspeople from all you have achieved in your life,” said Chitowa.
Sanhanga started his business career at the age of 32 just after Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980 and has been in business ever since for the past 43 years up-to-date. He was the first black chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) in Manicaland and went on to become the first black businessman after independence in the new Zimbabwe, who built and owned a commercial building in a central business district (CBD). The remarkable achievement drew the attention of the then President of Zimbabwe, the late Robert G. Mugabe who commissioned his double storey building, Sanhanga Centre, in Mutare in 1992.
The deputy Minister of Sports, Youth, Arts and Recreation Tino Machakaire also spoke highly about Sanhanga as an astute businessman who contributed immensely to the development of Mutare and Manicaland at large. Hon Machakaire, who is a well known youthful and affluent businessman cum politician, with most of his enterprises in transport and real estate, attended the after-party in the evening accompanied by an entourage of legislators from Mashonaland province, Harare businesspeople and some popular musicians, the likes of Diana Samkange and Peter Moyo who were billed to be surprise birthday acts, had they come early on time for the party. They were in transit from the inaugural 2023 harmonised elections Zanu-PF national campaign launch presided by President Emmerson Mnangagwa which was held on the same day in Chipinge. He urged youths to take a leaf from Sanhanga, citing that the sky is the limit for those who are hardworking and have ingenuity.
“Who does not know Sanhanga Building in Mutare? This is a good legacy to leave behind. You will be celebrated by many for years to come. Some of us are following your footsteps in real estate because we learnt a lot from your investments and realized that as fellow indigenous entrepreneurs we could also invest in this sector and become successful businesspeople,” said Hon Machakaire.
Adding, “I also grew up from a poor background. As I was growing up, Mr Sanhanga you were one of those people that inspired me in Mutare, which is why I came here today with all these distinguished people without fail to honour you. I came late due to pressing commitments as you know we were in Chipinge today with the President (E.D Mnangagwa). You were the first black businessman to build and own a building in the CBD in Mutare and Zimbabwe at large after independence, which was a big achievement. When I worked in parastatals and private organisations, I always had an ambition to one day own my own building because of such men like you. There were also the likes of Mr Mushambi (Samuel) and the late Dr Oliver Mapunga from Mutare. They were all an inspiration to me and I learned a lot from these great visionary businesspeople,” said Hon Machakaire.
In a speech read by retired reverend Steven Maingamhuru on behalf of Patrick Ndlovu, the national chairperson of the Zimbabwe Senior Citizens Association, a registered trust that stands for the rights of the elderly people, he said it is good to see the elderly being celebrated for their contributions towards the development of the country.
“We formed this association two years ago and Mr Sanhanga is our treasurer. We want to stand for the rights of our elderly. As the elderly we all deserve to be acknowledged and be respected after years of dedicated service to this country in various economic sectors. We are glad that today we are celebrating our own who is still very successful and enterprising at this age, so our message is that as a nation let us not forget our elderly, rich or poor,” he said.
The Anglican Diocese of Manicaland Bishop Erick Ruwona who blessed the cake ceremony said reaching 75 years is a blessing.
“A lot of businesspeople succumbed to many temptations and many pandemics that have come and gone over the years, but you are still standing strong and resolute. Thank you for being the generous giver that you are throughout all these years in business. The lesson to all of us here is to make good use of our time on earth by being a blessing to others and leaving inspirational footprints,” said Bishop Ruwona.
His wife, Snikiwe Sanhanga whilst officiating the unveiling of a lifesize portrait in his honour said Mr Sanhanga is a remarkable man that has dedicated his life to his passions.
“To be who I am today is because of this great man. He has dedicated his life to his passions. This is why he has achieved many extraordinary things in life. From his first thriving, notable bookselling business EBS to the groundbreaking of Sanhanga Centre, his journey has been a testimony of his character and unwavering belief in the potential of developing this great nation Zimbabwe,” said Mrs Sanhanga.
Kevin Sanhanga, his eldest son, giving the welcome remarks said as his children they were all raised with love and always taught to be hardworking.
“We are happy for him that all his hard work over the years paid off. As his children he always taught us that through hard work and determination we can achieve anything. He has also been a role model to many and inspiration to us all in our community and has built a rich legacy that we are proud of as a family,” said Kevin.
A dedication song for the prominent real estate magnate was penned and performed as a special tribute song by Mutare’s budding gospel diva Amai Petronella Mukanganwa. The song titled ‘Honaiwo’ speaks about God’s blessings. It speaks about how God’s blessings can transform one’s life from poverty to riches, or from being a nonentity to an iconic and revered person, which is testament of Sanhanga’s life.
From humble beginnings the village boy from Honde Valley in Zindi village rose to become a household name in the country’s business circles. Sanhanga like most black youths in Rhodesia (before independence) worked low end jobs and his first job was for the books and stationary retail giant Kingstons (Ltd). He however told himself immediately after Zimbabwe attained independence that he would never work for anyone again and set off his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 32. From 1980 till present-day he never turned back on his pledge and has ventured in many innovative and pace setting business enterprises in Mutare, and at one point owned over 20 houses in low density suburbs in the eastern border city as well as several commercial stands. He is the owner of Valley of Kings (Irene Township) just outside Mutare, which he acquired in the 1990’s. This is the awe-inspiring story of Mutare’s real estate giant, Joseph T. Sanhanga.
Below are some of the highlights of Sanhanga’s 75th platinum birthday party in pictures: