A COUPLE of years ago, I met my friend Paul Chingoka at the funeral of a mutual friend I was undertaking.
By Philip Mataranyika
Surprised that a whole chief executive officer was performing the role of an undertaker/driver at the funeral, Chingoka asked me why I had not assigned that responsibility to one of Nyaradzo’s hearse drivers.
My response was instant.
I told Chingoka that my dear departed colleague had requested that in the event that he predeceased me, I must wash and dress him and also be the undertaker/hearse driver.
Because I had obliged to his request, I had to follow through on our verbal agreement – after all, my role as chief executive officer makes me the chief undertaker of the Nyaradzo Group.
Big as Chingoka was, he literally looked down at me and said; “Young man, will you do the same for me should I predecease you?”
I looked up at him and I did not hesitate in my response as I replied in the affirmative.
It was, therefore, with a deep sense of duty and heavy loss that when I heard of the news that Chingoka had breathed his last, I knew I had some work to do.
While I am happy that I was able to respect our verbal contract by fulfilling what we had agreed on, like the rest of the tennis loving people of Zimbabwe and those who love sport in general as well as the Chingoka family, Chingoka’s passing has left a huge void that is not easy to fill.
Born to Anna Pazvichaenda and Douglas Chingoka on May 9, 1951, Paul grew up as a naughty, but lovable boy, with everyone drawn to him.
From an early age, it was obvious that he would grow to be influential in his lifetime.
And when fame came his way, he didn’t allow it to get to his head. He remained humble and approachable.
To the world at large, Paul will be remembered by the great strides he made for Tennis Zimbabwe (TZ).
He took tennis, then an elitist sport, to the ghetto, and demystified it. He gave access to everyone interested in the sport.
It was during his tenure that the legendary tennis-paying family – the Blacks – raised the national flag high at international tournaments.
Even when he left tennis for the bigger Olympics office, Chingoka continued to give his all to tennis and country.
Zimbabwe’s tennis history definitely holds a couple of chapters on Chingoka’s contributions and achievements.
Though he is gone, his legacy and the work of his hands live on.
Chingoka’s death comes at a time in our country when such wisdom and experience would have gone a long way in trying to rebuild a failing sporting culture.
Hopefully, future administrators can look back to his time and borrow on his ambassadorial qualities that saw him being able to manoeuvre in the international circles and bring back Zimbabwe’s sporting glory.
One of Chingoka’s nieces described him in her eulogy as an example of what a father should be like, as he always took time out to interact and understand his two sons, their nieces and nephews.
This was also echoed by many of his friends, among them Albert “Godfather” Nhau, who was the director of ceremonies at Chingoka’s funeral, who spoke about how generous he was – giving out the best to everyone around him.
His hands were always open to welcome and help.
Taking from a speech made by one of his nieces, the dash to be inscribed on Chingoka’s tombstone between his date of birth and date of death shall assume a deeper meaning than just a punctuation mark.
In his case, the dash will summarise a gripping life history that could not be told in one biography.
He touched and changed many lives while he still walked the face of the earth.
A towering figure, he had a heart to go with it.
He leaves a legacy that must be emulated and will be remembered into posterity by his family, community, country and the world at large.
As I reflected on Chingoka’s life, it hit me that his candle was put out on a Friday the 13th, a day which is ill-famed for being an unlucky day.
Just the mention of this dreaded day, it springs up superstition and fear of freak occurrences.
Some of the ugliest disasters occurred on Friday the 13th, inflicting deep scars on communities that reinforce negative perceptions around this day.
A number of popular figures tragically lost their lives on this day, among them maverick rapper, Tupac Shakur, who was fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting incident on September 13, 1996, at the age of 25.
For the Chingoka family and friends, tennis fans and indeed a very big number of Zimbabweans, Friday July 13 left an ugly scar that not even some of the world’s best surgeons could heal through plastic surgery.
It’s a day that would sadly be remembered for the death of an affable gentle giant, our beloved Chingoka.
To his wife, Abby and their two sons, Patrick and Gwinyai, your loss is our loss too.
May Chingoka’s dear departed soul rest in eternal glory.
lPhilip Mataranyika is the group chief executive officer of Nyaradzo Group. He writes here in his personal capacity.