‘Doug was not just a partner; he was more than that to us’ – Beki Moyo’s moving tribute to friend Munatsi

Douglas Munatsi with friends Danisa Zulu and Beki Moyo, Stellenbosch, 2017

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Beki Moyo, a long-time business partner and friend of Doug Munatsi, has written a tribute to the revered bank executive who died in his home earlier this week.

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Doug was a first-generation entrepreneur.

At the tender age of 33, he, together with renowned businessman Oliver Chidawu, co-founded Heritage Investment Bank in 1995 and was appointed its Managing Director. He quickly realised that to compete in a market with over 30 financial institutions, one needed scale.

Through his contacts with Anglo American executives, including Kalaa Mpinga, in 1997 he facilitated the merger of Heritage Investment Bank with the largest and most successful merchant bank then, operating as First Merchant Bank of Zimbabwe. He was appointed Managing Director of the merged entity.

Not one to be easily satisfied, as Zimbabwe was imploding, Doug decided that the next growth phase of the business was to go regional. He engineered one of the largest financial services deals ever undertaken in Zimbabwe. This deal saw the merger of Bard Discount House, First Merchant Bank, udc and ULC Companies that were operating in Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi (LFC), Tanzania and Zambia.

This  culminated in the creation of a regional Bank, aptly named African Banking Corporation, now trading as BancABC. Naturally, he was tasked with leading this new Bank as its first Chief Executive Officer in 2000.

I was then General Manager for Finance of one of the predecessor institutions udc (The Money People). I officially met Doug and Francis Dzanya in 2000. Boy, little did I know it was only the beginning of a lifelong partnership that has endured to this day. Both Francis and I held several positions in the bank. We were appointed Group Chief Operating Officer and Group Chief Financial Officer respectively in 2005, with Doug continuing as Group Chief Executive.

From murky waters

At the time, the bank had just gone through some murky waters and was one of the few survivors of the 2003 banking crisis in Zimbabwe.

Under Doug’s guidance, we embarked on a massive turnaround strategy. As I recall it, at its worst, the bank had a market cap of just under US$4 million. What was worse was that you couldn’t find buyers at that price, but brick by brick we rebuilt the institution. In 2014, just before we left the bank, its assets had grown to some US$2 billion.

We were able to sell it at an effective valuation of just under US$240 million to Atlas Mara, a vehicle that was created and run by former Barclays Bank Group CEO Bob Diamond. Within a short time, it became clear that there was a new sheriff in town.

I remember Doug in very low spirits, saying maybe it was time to leave. I couldn’t believe that he could give up on his baby just like that. On my part, I had long figured that the ship had sailed. I just wasn’t sure Doug was ready for our next adventure.

But clearly, I was wrong.

‘We are determined to keep pushing’.
Munatsi and Beki Moyo (left) in 2013 (pic: Herald)

DBF: a new chapter

Officially, Atlas Mara took over on or about 31 August 2014 and by 31 December 2014, we were out of the bank. We dragged Francis with us, kicking and screaming! We had decided it was time to leave and set up the next project. In January 2015, DBF Capital Partners (DBF) was born.

DBF is an investment holding company owned by Doug, Francis, and myself. We figured if we could start a business with nothing, then surely, we could start a successful entity now that we had a bit of cash. The three of us contributed up to US$32 million by way of debt and equity.

At the time of Doug’s passing, our balance sheet had just gone over US$144 million, and we are in the process of closing two transactions which, if successful, would take us to over US$200 million. It is a testament to Doug’s vision and entrepreneurship. 

We are determined to keep pushing, as this is what Doug would have wanted.

Doug was a serial entrepreneur. He had other thriving investments outside DBF, including one of the largest farming operations in Zimbabwe, and Jacob Bethel Corporation, a company that specialises in heavy mining equipment, just to mention two.

In April 2020, Doug decided to take a three-year sabbatical from the firm as he wanted to serve his country.

He joined a government entity, the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA), as its inaugural CEO. He was clearly a man of many firsts. I am aware that he tried his best to professionalise this business, and had a lot of hope for our country that he deeply cared for and loved.

We are all the poorer without Doug.

With Doug it was not all work and no play. We enjoyed ourselves like there was no tomorrow. We were part of a wine buying syndicate that includes, Mthi (my elder brother), Shakes, Danisa Zulu and Taps.  Of all the members of the wine syndicate, only Taps and Danisa support the Red Devils. The rest of us were absolutely fanatical about Liverpool and used to watch at least two live games a year at Anfield.

We travelled the world with our families and friends.

I will never forget our quarterly Mauritius board meetings, where Doug, Francis and I would work hard and then party even harder after our meetings. Doug was truly an outstanding human being. I remember when Doug stepped down from the SLG Board (one of our investee companies), and Shakes saying we need to have an open invitation for Doug as the meetings and our trips to Durban would never be the same without him.

How can I forget us traversing the length and breadth of the US on a fund-raising mission from LA to Washington and dancing to Drake’s tune, We started from the bottom now we’re here. What a journey!

I know how much his mother meant to him and what he meant to Gogo and the whole Munatsi family at large. 

No words can comfort her. We just must trust in God, as difficult as this may be right now. Auntie Bindzile, Musa, Bongi and Junior, we share your pain.

Doug was not just a partner; he was more than that to us. He was a friend, a brother, an uncle to our children and above all an incredible human being.

We must celebrate a life well-lived. I am certain this is what Doug would want us to do. I don’t know how we will operate without him, but we will certainly endeavour to make sure that this legacy lives.

As the saying goes, the good die young.

Rest forever in eternal peace my brother, till we meet again.

OBITUARY | Doug Munatsi: ‘It was not an easy life to abandon, to come and serve my country’