By Robert Basvi — Zimbabwe Jazz Community Trust CHAIRPERSON
May 2016 saw the birth of the Zimbabwe Jazz Community Trust founded by jazz maestro Filbert Marova. He invited Freddy Mbirimi, Clancy Mbirimi, Tinashe Mukarati, Vambe Jirira (VJ) and myself to help him launch this dream of the Zimbabwe Jazz Community.
I remember our first meeting was held at Filbert’s offices and studio in Milton Park. That same day I met VJ for the first time and little did I know that I would instantly click with him and become very good friends. VJ was years my senior, but we a had rare meeting of minds and I learnt a great deal from his years of experience in journalism, travel and the music industry.
When the news of his sudden death touched my ears through a phone call from Filbert, I was shattered. I felt my whole world crumbling to pieces. I could not accept that VJ, my friend, who I had chatted with not so long back on June 12, was no more. The last time I had come to Zimbabwe I had a tight schedule, but somehow something kept telling me I should not leave without going to see VJ.
I remember, a day before my flight, I drove to his home in Ruwa and passed through a local supermarket getting him his favourite drink. When I got to his farm and knocked on his door, we greeted fondly as we had not seen each other for over six months. Earlier on May 25, 2019, my family had held a birthday party (although the actual birthday is on the 30th) for me as a send-off too as I was leaving home for a work assignment. VJ came and graced this party and spoke so generously about me as a guest speaker. Such was Mukanya’s love, much as he was brutal with the truth, he was also very loving and lavish in his praise. I remember during my last visit with him at the Ruwal farm, we discussed a lot of issues including his plans and my plans and the state of Zimbabwe’s economy.
I loved reading the posts on his WhatsApp status for their insightful analysis and informative candour. He is one of my biggest inspirations of the writings I post on my WhatsApp status and Facebook because whenever I spent too long a time without coming up with some writing, he would nudge me to write.
Mukanya was testament to the truth that if a profession is ingrained in you, you will always shine and stand out even long after retirement. VJ was a researcher and scholar par excellence. I remember in one of my chats with him he had asked me about the Pakistani International Airlines crash and the absurdity of how the accident happened. When we then went into a discussion on the issue I was amazed at how much Mukanya knew about some technical intricacies of my aviation profession especially aircraft. He told me he had always had a passion for aircraft.
Mukanya was one friend who always reminded me of my value and implored me to never settle for less than my worth. He was a rare inspiration who had unique ways of encouraging others to do more and achieve more. He was very generous with his time and resources and was a proponent of service without payment in leadership. He taught me the value of service in leadership. He was a great negotiator and astute writer. He is the originator of our Zimbabwe Jazz Community Trust constitution and author of most of our press releases. I have personally lost a great friend and I will fondly miss him.
Zororai murugare Mukanya, VaJirira. VJ rest in eternal peace.