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Doug Munatsi: It’s time to serve

Veteran banker Douglas Munatsi says he decided to leave a comfortable life in the corporate world to take up the position of Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (Zida) CEO, as he saw it as an opportunity to serve.

Munatsi (DM), a co-founder of ABC Holdings (now BancABC), told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the platform In Conversation with Trevor that he found it more useful to help in reviving Zimbabwe’s economy as a civil servant rather than be a critic on the sidelines.

He also spoke about Zida’s vision, among many other issues. Below are excerpts from the interview.

TN: Douglas Tawanda Munatsi, welcome to In Conversation With Trevor. I am absolutely delighted that you finally found the time to sit down with me and have this conversation. Welcome.

DM: Thanks for having me, Trevor.

TN: Doug, you are an investment banker. You are a farmer. You are a fitness fanatic. You’re a golfer. Founder of First Merchant Bank and Heritage Investment Bank, which you then built up into ABC Holdings.

Co-founder of DBF Capital Partners, and now founding CEO of Zida. When you look back at your life, is there anything that surprises you about how your life has turned out?

DM: I guess I can say that, because I think my kind of life has always been that sometimes people think I am an extrovert, but by and large, I think I am an introverted person.

I debate and I discuss a lot of stuff within myself.

TN: I don’t believe you’re an introverted person, absolutely not, hahahaha, but anyway…

DM: Okay, yes so I do a lot of personal discussions, I walk, you know, through processes.

So there is an element of people being surprised by who I have become.

Many people I probably grew up with in Mufakose and everywhere else would never have thought that I would have done the kind of things that I have done.

I always, however, had an inner conviction that if I am given an opportunity to do something,
anything, I probably would do it to the best of my abilities and with conviction and without holding back.

So in a way the journey I have travelled personally, I really give all the glory to God, because a person like me should never have been able to do and achieve the kinds of things that I have achieved, I think.

TN: From a humble beginning. We will get to those humble beginnings. One thing that fascinates me looking at your journey is your selection of subjects.

I am wondering, was this deliberate in that you did BBS? Then you did an MBA in Finance with the American University in Washington.

Then you completed a Harvard Business School Advanced Management Programme. Was this all deliberate? Was there serendipity this? Talk to us about that.

DM: I would say, perhaps again, I just think that when God has ordered your pathways and your footsteps it happens the way it happens.

Oftentimes you want to do certain things and I think during high school at some point I thought I would like to do medicine, you know as normal kids do.

Then I had a teacher in high school, who was a kind of propagated accountant. He drove big American cars.

He had just come back from South Africa and he would talk highly about, you know, Durban, where he was and he went to school there and worked there.

So he kind of inspired me a little bit to say maybe this is the way to go.

Then, of course, most of my friends when I was in high school were doing accounting or one such, so it became that I was then drawn to those kinds of subjects and ambitions and you know, birds of a feather I would say.

So that is how I kind of gravitated towards that.

Then later on in life, of course, I mean my career started in banking and I have been a banker through and through.

So you can say that most of the training that I then looked for was to enhance my skills and my understanding of that area.

TN: What I always find interesting looking at people’s lives and their journeys, you know looking at your career and your education, it’s as if God has been preparing you to be the founding CEO of Zida?

DM: Well, I guess maybe we need to ask the president about that.

TN: Hahahaha.

DM: I think that, so should we talk about Zida?

TN: Let’s talk about Zida. You are over a year now?

DM: Just over a year.

TN: You were appointed exactly just over a year ago 1st April 2020. Let us talk about Zida. My question in talking about Zida is what went through your mind when you got the call that you had gotten the job?

DM: Well, the issue really is that as the president said at the launch of Zida, he said that part of the reason why he appointed me to run Zida is because he always used to bug me and trouble me with such issues.

So, he said well this was now an opportunity for me to put to practice some of the things that I always used to say in his ears.

So, I think that yours and my generation,we are a bit fortunate in some sense.

The time that we went to university, I mean I remember I had about three or four job offers at the time.

That does not happen very often today, obviously it still does for maybe the one or five percent top ones, the achievers.

In general, however, it is a different time.

So when we did what we did, going through entrepreneurship and so forth, there is a sense that our generation has let down our country.

We have gone through quite a period of real regression.

We have gone backwards and I think we can talk about that as well.

So the idea that you want to always be, you know, on the sidelines criticising and all those things is also one that is not necessarily positive for the country.

So when the call came I reflected, obviously consulted my family, you know, to have to deal with a civil service father, who has never worked in government all his life.

It is time to serve.

I think I can make a difference, that is what I really believe in.

I mean it is easy to be on the sidelines, but to be a participant is more difficult.

I feel that I need to serve, I need to do my part, and we can criticise later on, but show us what you can do.

TN: You essentially, correct me if I am wrong, but I get the sense that actually we would tease you and say that you had been unemployed because you were working for yourself.

I get the sense that you actually sacrificed quite significantly to take up this position. Is that a correct reading of the situation?

DM: That is very correct. I would say that since leaving Banc ABC in December 2014 we have been building DBF Capital Partners and really having a really enjoyable corporate life.

The three of us with our team, we have been lucky and you know everything just seems to be going really, really well.

So I mean it was not an easy life to abandon to serve, but, you know, we all have to serve at some point.

TN: That’s interesting. So with the sacrifice, with everything that goes with that sacrifice, financial position and so forth, the call to serve for you was much more important than anything else? Let us just dig deep into that?

DM: Yes, Trevor. I think that you and I, we have been through this.

We think that there are solutions that we can provide for certain challenges that are in our country and, therefore, when you are called upon to put into practice some of the things that you often lecture other people to do, that’s the real test.

What do they say?

That is when the rubber meets the road, right?

So yes, I think that  is really what it is to serve your country.

Also I think you and I having lived outside the country for a long time, you realise that it does not give you satisfaction to see other countries progressing, to see other people doing the kinds of things that you think we should be doing in our country and you remain not contributing, not putting your hand to the plough or in the skin in the game.

So it is really about that, about putting a bit of your own contribution because very soon we might not be able to do so physically and otherwise.

So it is really a time to put to practice, to whisper quietly to the leaders to say we think we can do this slightly differently.

We think we can improve if we do this, we think we can improve our lot if we approach things slightly differently.

You know coming from the private sector, obviously you always think you know better, you know best.

TN: Right.

DM: So now let us put to test what we think is a solution for the country.

TN: Unpack for us the big vision for Zida, the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency, that is it? That’s the name?

DM: That is correct.

TN: Unpack for us the big vision. As you do that, I want you to share with the viewers what success would look like for you when eventually your term is up.

What’s the big vision and what’s the success picture for Zida?

DM: I think the president has said this also openly, to say that quite a number of people had told him that one of the countries which has really pulled itself up and is a shining example of success is Rwanda.

So when he went to Rwanda he asked President (Paul) Kagame what it is he had done that makes Rwanda look so good in front of his own countrymen, Africa and the world.

President Kagame shared with him about RDB [Rwanda Developmernt Board], which is the equivalent of Zida in Rwanda.

To the extent that President Kagame offered my opposite number to come to Zimbabwe to share what they have done, what they have done differently and that is where the journey starts.

So it is really about how do you create a transformative agenda, which would bring change to Zimbabwe?

I think first of all in the first instance you have to see the president had the humility to ask a smaller country, Rwanda, to say how did you do it?

What can we do?

So that is the charge, that is the challenge that the president placed on me.

You know he said this at our launch, he said “Maybe the student can teach the teacher.”

  • “In Conversation with Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on YouTube.com//InConversationWithTrevor. Please get your free YouTube subscription to this channel. The conversations are sponsored by Titan Law.

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