Surrounded by low hills and lying 97 kilometres west of Masvingo, the Midlands mining town of Zvishavane is popularly known for its asbestos and lately its platinum wealth.
Little however is known about the local motorsport family that has emerged from the small town to conquer the sport in Zimbabwe.
Father Mike Ngonidzashe Mawarire and his sons Tony, Tafadzwa and Mike Junior have accrued an avalanche of medals among them, such that they are fast running out of room to display them.
It all started with Mike Senior back in 1984 when motocross was a hit among mine workers, although then it was still white dominated. He became the first black rider to take up the sport, earning countless medals in the process.
Almost three decades on, Mawarire is a proud father who has seen his children retrace his footsteps; becoming household names in local motocross.
Standardsport visited Mawarire’s Zvishavane residence last week for an exclusive interview with the 51-year-old motocross devotee.
“One thing I am very proud of is the fact that I was the first arrow to be shot. I managed to break the barrier for black people in a white dominated sport and when I started, the environment was not as it is now. I had to endure a lot of racial hostility from some whites, but my mind was always focused on winning,” he said.
He added; “What I want to see now are my boys at the top, I want to see them graduate from boys to men and I believe they can do it given the platform and adequate sponsorship. I have financed my children from my own pocket from the word go in such an expensive sport.”
His eldest son, Tony, who has since given up competitive motocross, was the first to cause a stir on the local scene but the economic situation in the country forced him out of the sport back in 2008.
Of late Tafadzwa, now 17, has easily been the best Mawarire sibling in motocross in terms of medals won, boasting of an Africa Cup win he scooped in Uganda two years ago among many local accolades. Mike Junior, a year younger than Tafadzwa, recently joined his brother in the 125cc.
Tyler (12), the youngest of the Mawarire riders who is now in the 85cc class, has had his fair share of podium finishes at national events and is showing signs of improvement with each passing race.
However, Mawarire reckons Mike Junior is arguably the best rider among his sons as he is more aggressive in approach than the others.
“I always wanted Tony to be the best but he was a bit soft and would always finish second, even in races he could easily win. His young brothers are more aggressive, especially Mike who loves off-road indura and is probably the best in the country and I think he is slightly better than Tafadzwa,” Mawarire said.
Motocross is a religion in the Mawarire family and the children know no other sport except the one they were christened into.
Said Mike Junior: “I have not done any other sport in school. In fact, I hate most of the sporting disciplines, especially soccer. I have always wanted to do motocross ever since I was young and I hope I will one day compete at the World Motocross Championships.”
“Currently I am not racing because I’m preparing to write my Ordinary Level exams. I will definitely bounce back at the Summer Series in December and then take the sport more seriously after that,” he told Standardsport.
Tafadzwa on the other hand tried his hand at basketball but he did not last in the sport.
“I have tried basketball, once but naturally I had more love for motocross so it did not work out for me at all. My dream is to turn pro and race motocross in Europe but I feel age is not on my side, l also want to do South Africa motocross and off-road and win the African Championship,” he said.
Tyler did not have much of a choice on which sport to pursue as all his heroes are motocross masters, but being the youngest, he may just end up the best of the crop.
The biggest challenge facing the Mawarires however, is sponsorship.
While they have always been present at any national meet, the costs have been heavy on Mike Senior as he has spent an excess of US$100 000 over the years for his sons to compete.
He believes his children can do more with sponsorship from the corporate community.
“I think my boys can rewrite Zimbabwean motocross history with sponsors helping out. The Mawarires can do wonders with everything available. They can easily be the best drivers ever to come out of Zimbabwe,” he said.
Mawarire dreams of establishinga hub for the sport that once created a euphoric buzz in Zvishavane, back in the day when it was white dominated.
Plans are at an advanced stage to create a Bog wheelers club in the mining town, as well as the construction of a new motocross racing track — developments which will see national meetings coming to Zvishavane.
Having done his bit, Mawarire believs it is time he hanged his boots. He will bid farewell to competitive racing with a southern Africa motorbike tour which may stretch to Kenya and Uganda motorbike tour with a friend from Germany in the near future.