Isabel Shanangurai Madangure was born in the Chivi district of Masvingo Province on September 2, 1938, the daughter of Dutch Reformed Church priest and prison chaplain, the late Rogers Tayengwa Madangure Moyo, who was also a member of the Mugabe Chieftainship of Masvingo.
She did her schooling at Chivi Mission and Morgenster Missions and at the age of six, the then young Isabel made history when she read the first Shona Bible at its launch in 1944 in front of a selected congregation.
This was just to be the beginning of her illustrious career.
Isabel enrolled for a teaching course at Morgenster Mission where she qualified as a primary school teacher. She started her teaching career in the 1960s in Nyashanu, Buhera, before transferring to Harare where she taught at Kuwangira and Tsungayi primary schools in Highfield until the mid-1970s.
One of Zimbabwe’s first black businesswomen, Isabel left teaching to launch a career in business where she ran Madangure Store at Machipisa Shopping Centre in Highfield, then a hotbed of the African political movements.
Always a trailblazer, she became one of the first black female hoteliers when she opened the well known Madangure Hotel in Seke, Chitungwiza, at around the same time as the late former Harare Mayor Solomon Tawengwa built the famous Mushandira Pamwe Hotel in Highfield. Both hotels were to become meeting and hiding places for key figures in the liberation struggle.
At independence Isabel’s tenacity saw her expand her business empire and she became one of the first suppliers of fresh produce to the Zimbabwe National Army.
She then ventured into the property market, acquiring several flats in Bulawayo and a farm on the outskirts of Harare.
Always a keen politician, Isabel formed her owned political party, the Zimbabwe People’s Democratic Party, in the mid-90s, culminating in her contesting the presidential election in 2002.
Those who watched her on political debates on ZTV will remember her for her sharp wit and strong views on how she felt the country should be run, unfettered by the fact that she was in a race against political heavyweights such as President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Despite being a woman of high energy in her ambitious business and political pursuits, Isabel was a dedicated family woman, fending for her three sons and one daughter. Her only daughter Elisabeth, who is now a biochemist in California, US, described her as a compassionate and very hardworking woman.
“She wanted what was best for her children. She had so much love. Mummy was bright and as a girl she made me believe that everything and anything is possible,” said Elisabeth.
Isabel was admitted into hospital six weeks ago after a fall at her home in Mandara which caused a clot in her brain. She was hospitalised at Avenues Clinic and AMI Hospital in Harare for six weeks before being airlifted to Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she died on Thursday afternoon.
Isabel is survived by four children and nine grandchildren. In her, we have lost a sister, a mother and a granny to many. Zimbabwe is only poorer with her departure.