Edward Nyanyiwa ‘Eddies’ Pfugari

Born at Howard Mission in Chiweshe in 1934, Pfugari always found it rather hilarious that he did not remember his exact birthday.

As a young boy, Pfugari and his siblings were fortunate. They had a decent education and all the comforts that came with their rural life. The entrepreneurial flair and gift to take risks and the desire to create a business, was inherent.

His polygamous father, Nyanyiwa, who died in 1978 was rich and was one of the pioneers of rural shops, popularly known as general dealers.

When his father was issued with a hawkers’ license in 1938, he immediately became Pfugari’s mentor as he watched how he ran their business.

Pfugari’s mother Mary who also died in 2010 aged 110 was one of his father’s eight wives. Pfugari came to Harare, then Salisbury, in the early 1950’s immediately obtaining a drivers’ license, fulfilling his childhood dream.

“I took the driver’s test and passed on March 11, 1950. I immediately secured a job as a driver for a departmental store along First Street, but only worked there for three days,” he revealed.

Just like many black people Pfugari became a victim of unfair labour practices and racism that characterised the country back then.

Just like many black people Pfugari became a victim of unfair labour practices and racism that characterised the country back then.

“While at work, I noticed that the knees of most black workers were very hard, rough and dark. I discovered that they cleaned the floors while on their knees at all times,” he explained.

Pfugari had just returned from one of his routine driving assignments when his employer ordered him to trade his driving job for the floors.

“The white man said ‘Pikinini, remove the driver’s jacket and clean the floors. It being a Friday, Pfugari would only appear in court the following Monday. “While in detention, some of the inmates coached me on what to say in court. Hoping for mercy, I told the two white policemen that my dad had sold all his cattle to get me to Salisbury and get a driver’s licence,” he added.

“The white magistrate knew I was innocent since I had been asked to do a job that was not mine. He verified my licence and found it valid.

They were still determined to get me out of Salisbury. He then told my employer that he would help him and charged me with the Vagrant Act.

“I was banished and could no longer work in Salisbury,” he reminisced.

Back in Chiweshe, despite his father’s wealth, Pfugari pondered his next move. The “walk of shame” from the bright lights of the city is not what he had anticipated. Two years passed while he helped his father by driving their lorry and doing other chores for the rural business.

“I left Zimbabwe for South Africa in 1952. It was easy since no passport was required by then. “In South Africa, I took another licence and worked at a train station,” he revealed.

It was in Sofiatown where the young Pfugari would rub shoulders with the likes of Dorothy Masuka and Mirriam Makeba.

“We would attend the same movie theatres. I also married my first wife there. We divorced before I returned home,” he said with a chuckle.

“I was always immaculately dressed. I was featured in three different newspapers as the best dressed man in Johannesburg. Even back in Salisbury, I was the best dressed,” he bragged.

It was while in South Africa that Pfugari found his love and passion for the property business. It only took one encounter with a Dr Nqumalo, who owned many houses for him to finally carve his future.“I asked him what all the houses where for and his answer inspired me,” he said.

Pfugari eventually returned home in 1962 and bought his first house in Egypt Highfield, Harare. Just as he was preparing to go back to South Africa, he mysteriously fell ill and all prescribed medicines just did not work.

Revealed Pfugari: “I even stroked and doctors told me that I was a write off and should go to the village.“Guta ra Jehovha (GRJ) church members prayed for me and I was healed. I repented and never left that church.”

True to his word, Pfugari never left the church and wore his church uniform every day of his life up to the time of his death.

Back in the 60’s he also worked for a swimming pool construction company. This was to become his passion for a while.

“We constructed the swimming pool at Zimbabwe House. I even thought that would be my line of business,” he said.

His first business, a café in the backyards of Harare’s Highfield high density suburb started off modest.

“We would cook our food in those black Kango pots mainly used in households. I had seen the concept of cooking sadza in backyard eateries in South Africa. We would only know how much we made that day at 11pm.

“I aimed bigger and always did things differently,” he disclosed.

As he had predicted, the business was an instant success and Pfugari moved into the CBD where he opened his first restaurant at Charge Office in 1978.

It was not easy, indigenous people could not access financial resources because of lack of collateral security. In any case, institutional racism was a barrier for many. Pfugari, however, explained how he clearly outwitted the system.

“The white owner said he did not want Africans. He feared we would only cook sadza and open butcheries thereby lowering standards. I doubled the money he was charging and the business was mine,” he explained.By 1979, Pfugari opened more restaurants and butcheries down town Harare.

He was also happy, the country was to finally become independent in a few months’ time.But he still craved for more and wanted to put his profits to good use. “In 1979, I bought my first farm, Evington now Samaita Farm from Edward Scrace. The farm is in Beatrice. I wanted to expand my horizons and also build a roadside restaurant and store at Red Acre farm also in the same area,” he said.

Building Knowe Suburb Then a few years later, an advert in the newspaper captured his attention. It would fulfill his dream, that of owning a township.“The advert was for the Knowe, a farm in Norton. I sold Evington Farm to a Mr Tubu. He also sold it to the late liberation war hero Tichaona Jokonya.

“I bought the Norton farm and cleared my debt between 1984 and ‘85. My dream was to develop a township.

“I applied for a permit to build a township and permission was granted in 1996,” he added.

Developments at Knowe started slowly, eventually peaking and blossoming into Knowe suburb.

Knowe attracted the late internationally acclaimed music superstar and national hero Oliver Mtukudzi who set up his residence in the suburb.

Sadly, Knowe residents still mourning the death of Mtukudzi have been robbed of Pfugari, the developer of the residential area.

Pfugari was innovative and would always come up with new business ideas.“I would also buy old houses in Harare and renovate them for resale. I am currently building 14 cluster houses along Oxford Avenue in Highlands,” Pfugari said back then.

He said he also owned properties from number 32 to 42 Mbuya Nehanda in the CBD just to name a few.

Whitecliff In 1998, a now established Pfugari came across another advert also for a farm, Whitecliff, just after Harare’s Kuwadzana Extension high density suburb.

“The farm was owned by a Freddy Smith. He had two farms. Through lawyers Baron and Venturas, using my savings, I bought Whitecliff and lawyers Manase and Manasa were to buy the other,” he recalled. He did not have enough money and agreed to stagger the payments.

“At one time, I failed to pay the instalments and received threatening letters from the lawyers. I eventually paid up and got the title deeds of the farm, I still have them,” he emphasised.

In 1998, Pfugari applied for permission to develop Whitecliff into a residential area.

“They doubted if a black man could manage such a big project and said they wanted a project manager to do it. I took aboard Mr Ecknet Muguza.

“The project took off as the first survey was carried out. We received most of our paperwork in 1998. I also sought the services of town planner Markdow Machakaire. The process was published in the newspapers,” he added.

The farm was divided into five phases. After completion of the first phase, Pfugari sold 1 000 stands to various home-seekers who were all given title deeds. A section was also reserved for customers who wanted to venture into market gardening.According to initial plans, the other three phases would kick off at a later stage.

Up to the time of his death, Whitecliff gave him headaches.

The investment he thought as another feather on his property development cap only brought sleepless nights.

It is this same farm that left many people questioning the character Pfugari viewed as “heartless” by those staying at Whitecliff as he never stopped fighting through the courts to get his farm back.

In 2000, a concoction of problems brewed when what he described as “hordes of people” started settling there. “I do not know where they came from, they just kept coming and building on land I had sold to other people. Some also built where they just wanted. I went to then Local Government and National Housing minister Ignatious Chombo who said he would look into the issue,” he said.

Despite countless visits to former minister Chombo, more people kept coming, he could no longer control them and watched them bite off his cherry he worked hard for. “It was just shocking,” he added,” I did not know what to do next. I exhausted all avenues knocking every door I thought I would get help.”

He was to learn that Government compulsorily took over his farm and allocated it to home seekers.

Government also built at least 300 houses under Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle in the area, while thousands others were allocated residential stands to build homes on their own.

“I remember having about 13 meetings with former minister Chombo over the issue, but the issue remains unsolved today,” he bemoaned back then.

Squabbles were to stretch, year after year with no solution. Initially, Pfugari unsuccessfully contested the acquisition of his farm at the Administrative Court before appealing to the Supreme Court.

In November 2013, a Supreme Court order in Pfugari’s favour compelled Whitecliff residents to vacate the farm within five days. Supreme Court judge Justice Vernanda Ziyambi, sitting with Justices Paddington Garwe and Yunus Omerjee, ruled that the disputed land belonged to Pfugari.

The court ordered the Ministry of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development and those occupying the land through it to vacate within five days. But, even with the Supreme Court ruling Whitecliff Farm residents remained put and on three occasions blocked the deputy sheriff from evicting them to pave way for demolition of their houses. But, despite the wealth he stayed in a modestly built and furnished house in Milton Park.