The death of former NewsDay news editor Menart Mafirakurewa last week reminded me of the old Shona adage: “A good person does not live long, only witches and murderers do.”
Dejavu with Kamurai Mudzingwa
Menart was barely 33 when he passed on in accident in the Beatrice area and with him died bundles of potential and a true role model for young journalists.
When Menart first came to join us as a senior reporter from Bulawayo, I barely noticed him.
He looked like your ordinary and average type of reporter and this belied what the man was really worth.
As a chief sub editor, what brought my attention to him were his stories, which had two distinct features: they were well-written, easy to edit and had a strong business bias.
That is when I wanted to know more about who this Menart was.
Initially, I confused him with Owen Gagare and to make matters worse, the two were both good journalists — new and inseparable.
What struck me more about Menart was that he was not part of what I call the “moaning brigade”.
This is the usual group of mediocre employees who waste energy either spreading gossip or blaming the system.
Menart had focus, he was always looking for opportunities and he knew his potential.
He angled himself towards the business desk through hard work and he became the natural choice to take over as the acting business editor.
He transformed the desk within a month.
For the first time since the inception of NewsDay, we were receiving good copy on time from that desk which had become a thorn in the flesh for sub editors.
With very limited staff — two reporters to be precise in Victoria Mutomba and Tarisai Mandizha — the desk became very competitive belying the fact that for a daily paper, it was understaffed.
But Menart could smell an opportunity a mile away. He was aware of the trouble on the news desk and one day he came to me and said: “Chieeef [his trademark way of addressing people], they should give me that news desk I want to try it.”
And when there was need for a news editor, Menart was the natural choice and again, he transformed the desk into a vibrant one under very difficult circumstances.
He set a culture of work, being the good leader that he was.
But Menart was not just a genius at work and a good team builder, he was fun to be with.
He was a typically humorous fella.
One day he came to me and said: “Chieeef, I am worried about my balding head, what will I look like when I am forty?”.
“Try a sangoma, I quipped.” And we both laughed.
Such was the man.
And he was Dynamos through and through, something that surprised me for a person who had grown up in Bulawayo.
He knew that I am a Highlanders supporter and when the two teams played, Menart would organise his work quickly to sneak away and come back after the match.
But when we watched the match with him on TV in the newsroom, and if Dynamos scored, he would run out of the newsroom and come back with one hand high in the air or he would lie flat on the floor in celebration.
And he would make sure I get mocked — which was often because Bosso lost more often to Dynamos.
Menart quickly learned that Harare is a land for the brave, a land for those who are on the lookout for opportunities.
In a short space of time, he had shown young and veteran journalists what good focus and good planning is all about — he bought a stand and built a house, a feat that some veteran journalists have failed to achieve over decades.
When I tipped him that there were stands offered at affordable terms by a land developer, being a man not to miss an opportunity, he bought one and, thereafter, we anticipated being neighbours in Norton in the near future.
Unfortunately, he left us before he could develop that one.
And he was a family man. He would sometimes bring his daughter to the newsroom and the way she frolicked around the newsroom, you could sense a strong bond.
And he would always say: “Chieeef, you helped my family for life,” after I had assisted him secure a place for his wife at a local college by mostly giving him appropriate information.
This is the kind of person you hardly find in young people today.
A person who believes that they should rise in life through hard work.
He showed younger journalists the joy of being a family man, the ethics of hard work and the importance of working as a team.
It is sad that Menart would usually come to the sub editors’ desk and say to Yvonne Gasura, the deputy chief sub editor: “Mother [as everyone calls Yvonne in the newsroom], you will think about me when I am gone.”
We thought it was just leaving NewsDay, but little did we know that we would really miss him for life. Sad but we say Rest in peace Chieeef.