FOR many years, the sight of grass set brothers Shupai and Trust Chakanetsa’s imagination ablaze. The brothers have been able to visualise, and subsequently bring to life, multiple captivating thatch structures that adorn hotels and restaurants around the country.
Phillip Chidavaenzi Senior Features WRITER
Zimthatchers was born when the thatching company that Trust worked for folded in the early 1990s. He teamed up with Shupai and their cousin, Tongerai Arifandika to venture into the deep on their own in 1994.
Shupai left John Sisk, where he had been doing carpentry apprenticeship. The passion for thatching had been instilled in Shupai during his college days as he watched his elders engage in the enterprise. In a wide ranging interview, Shupai said although thatching was more like an art, a short stint he did in carpentry came in handy as the two practices were intertwined.
“It’s like an art,” he said. “I once did my apprenticeship with John Sisk, specialising in carpentry and that has also helped me.”
In their practice, Shupai said they specifically used gum poles in making their trusses.
They also prefer the use of thinner grass in their thatch works. He said: “Sometimes we use thicker grass, but its problem is that it absorbs moisture and keeps it for too long thus it rots quicker than thinner grass.”
The entrepreneur said they were sensitive to the tastes of their clients, most of whom prefer classic, top-of-the-line products.
“We do professional jobs so our charges are also professional,” he said.
“Those who know can tell the difference in thatching. They can pick it out if you do a shoddy job.” Shupai said the lifespan of a properly thatched roof is between 15 and 20 years, after which it would require a re-thatch.
“The structures are professionally done by skilled carpenters,” he said.
“The difference in professionally done thatch is distinguished by the years which the thatch remains intact. “When the thatch is not done properly, in a few years one will see the free-falling of the grass.” Their most common jobs include thatching for structures such as gazebos, houses, lodges, country houses and chalets.
Their prices for any job are pegged at 45% of the material cost. He said they used their work as advertising and that helps to create more jobs for them. “It is important to do a good job because in our business that is often used as a reference,” he said. “You can always refer a new, potential client to some of the works you have done and that can easily convince them.”
They have done jobs not only in Harare, but in other parts of the country including Domboshava, Kariba, Mvuma and Mberengwa.
Competition, the upcoming businessman said, was tight and it was only the tough who would last the distance.“You can train someone this year and the following year they will leave you and start doing their own thing, but using the name Zimthatchers to try and gain credibility,” he said.
The company has a staff complement of six.
In their business, the period from February to April is regarded as off-season, but business picks up around May until the end of the year, Shupai said. In a good month, he said, they could do an average of four jobs concurrently but the challenge they were facing even during the peak season was that the industry had become saturated with many new players.
Zimthatchers, have set their sights on regional markets as the local market was continually shrinking due to more players in the industry.