ALMOST overnight, the late Genius “Ginimbi” Kadungure appeared on the horizon like a shooting star, spectacularly shining so bright and capturing the attention of the entire country with his newfound riches, life of bling and a celebrity persona.
His star rose and he became well-known mainly in social circles – not in business boardrooms – in Zimbabwe and on social media platforms across the region and even internationally.
What attracted attention to Ginimbi was his champagne lifestyle: mainly his weekends of drinking binges of expensive champagnes and his posh cars – Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and Ferrari, among others. It all boiled down to: Where was he getting the money to fund his conspicuous consumption?
Some people claimed he was a hard worker and role model, while others said he was a good example of what was wrong with Zimbabwe; a country where dodgy dealers like smugglers and tax dodgers have become the benchmark of success rather than honest and hard working people.
Born and raised in Domboshava, a rural area about 30 odd kilometres from Harare, he announced his arrival on the country’s social scene when he threw his first all-white party that made front page headlines of a local tabloid, the H-Metro, around 2010.
The man, as it turned out, had thrown one of the biggest parties the country had ever known for a princely sum of US$17 000.
Until then, he had been a nonentity among Zimbabwe’s rich dominated by old money such as Meikles, Van Hoogstratens, Chidzivas, the Bokas, the Molais, the Mutasas and the Kamushindas, among others.
He was also nowhere near the fairly new money such as the Rudlands, the Masiyiwas, Chidawus, the Munatsis and Maphosas.
To an extent, Zimbabwe was somewhat a new country then for a number of reasons and offering new opportunities to various citizens. With Zimbabwe’s historic hyperinflation, considerable monetary value had been decimated prior to 2009.
A new currency regime headlined by the US dollar and other stronger currencies had been adopted in 2009. The US dollar was stable and more valuable and hard to come by.
Against such a background and by all accounts, US$17 000 was a mini-fortune and enough to buy a house in Harare’s high density suburbs. As a business editor at a local business newspaper then, I took home under US$17 000 annually in earnings then. Yet in a night of merry- making, the amount was blown on booze, food and other pleasures.
Ginimbi’s lifestyle marked the arrival of new money in town.
It was time to forget about the John Bredenkamp’s, Nicholas Van hoogstratens, Strive Masiyiwa’s of Econet, the Oliver Chidawu’s and Doug Munatsi’s of this world, the men, who had dominated corporate Zimbabwe in the decades gone by.
Unlike Ginimbi, the wealthy men who had dominated Zimbabwe’s corporate scene above were accomplished, their wealth largely documented and its source known. One could easily map how they rose to the top.
The late Bredenkamp made his money from tobacco and arms trading, Nicholas Van Hoogstraten from a modest stamp collection and property investments in the Bahamas in the 50s/60s, Chidawu and Munatsi had acquired an Anglo American Plc bank, First Merchant Bank now African Bank king Corporation (BancABC) and Strive Masiyiwa had founded Econet, the country’s largest mobile phone operator.
As it turned out, Ginimbi, the big-spending high-flyer had been raised poor in Domboshava, a rural area on the outskirts of Harare’s prime northern suburb of Borrowdale and had struck gold in the gas business so the story went.
Well, no one cared if his story was true.
The mainstream business publications would not have run a story on private wealth of the likes of Ginimbi. Not because it was not a good story, but because its business section was for real movers and shakers in the market.
The real McCoys engineering takeovers, pushing mergers and acquisitions or behind the million dollar capital raises on the market for listed companies on the stock exchanges.
One could try to put a story like Ginimbi’s on the pages, but not without facing dreadful bribery allegations first.
For other newspapers with a different kind of readership, he was a good story.
Authorities too did not pay attention to the new kid on the block that much until tax issues arose.
And year after year, he would throw an even bigger party than the ones before. He is said to have spent US$50 000 on his last party.
He would order the coolest and most expensive vehicle in the world and have it delivered to his Domboshava mansion.
Ginimbi’s company, Pioneer Gases, is a modest operation in the Ardbennie area that wholesales LPG gas for resale to retailers.
On my first visit to the site in 2016, he owned no more than a fleet of four tanker trucks that travelled initially to Indeni Petroleum Refinery in Zambia’s Copper Belt to pick up LPG from a refinery in the area.
Indeni, which is operated by Indeni Petroleum Refinery Ltd (IPRL), was established in 1973 and is located in Ndola in the heart of the key copper-producing region of Zambia known as the Copperbelt.
It is fed with crude oil by the 1 700km Tazama pipeline, which connects Ndola to Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania.
Later on the same trucks, would travel to Durban to collect LPG from Natref, South Africa’s only inland crude oil refinery, a medium sized technologically advanced refinery, highly efficient in refining heavy crude oil. The Natref refinery is a joint venture between Sasol Oil (Pty) Ltd and Total South Africa (Pty) Ltd.
His sister, Juliet Kadungure, was the managing director of sorts at the time. Today, the place looks the same as it did a few years ago; home to an SME.
His place of business has always been disconnected from the illusion perpetuated by the media and social media.
To the outside world, he was Ginimbi, the man who had made it. But within his organisation his employees knew he was a small timer, who paid employees and drivers in cash.
Even their attempt to defend him after his death was not based on information and facts, but threadbare claims, which could not be substantiated by evidence.
On many occasions, his employees expressed concern over whether the business would continue as a going concern if anything happened to the owner.
For instance, he never created a proper payroll system back then. On various visits in those days, the disconnect between the man and the image that was out there was always a bit of an oxymoron of sorts and paradoxical irony at best.
Then around for years ago, he got into the bulk fuel business in South Africa. And some of his staff moved to South Africa to offer services to the new company ostensibly Piko Trading Group. He was more of a commodity trader than a businessman; a dealer. Because of his business model, he didn’t have many employees. It was more of a Ginimbi show throughout – a one-man band.
His biggest contribution to the fiscus was in the form of duty for the fleet of the ultra-luxury cars he imported. Even then, he did not always pay duty.
Court cases followed him over that. His smuggling activities were common tales among those who knew him very well.
Hence at the main Harare office, he must have employed no more than 20 employees. His business model was wheeling and dealing, then conspicuous consumption and flamboyant lifestyle; not wealth creation.
Thus his car collection boasted of three Bentleys, Range Rovers, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce Ghost and Rolls-Royce Wraith, reduced to ashes in the fateful accident all worth an estimated US$5 million.
In 2014, he had more than three Range Rover SUVs. At the time, he confessed to being a Ranger Rover fan.
In a video on YouTube wherein he parades his house and his car collection, he came through as a man, who lived for the moment.
Asked if he had favourate songs from yesteryear, he said he had none. “I am not like that. I don’t live in the past. Ask me about my favourate songs now. I am more of a now person,” he said in the video.
The way he contemptuously brushed away the question it was as if he had a past he did not want to confront, a ghost that he had never fully exorcised.
He had left home as a 17-year-old in search of a better life in the city and he had found it. His half-sister said he smuggled cigarettes at the beginning.
By many accounts, his meteoric rise started as soon as he had arrived in the big city, Harare.
One of his partners, Brian Nyanyiwa, told the Sunday Mail, a local weekly, a combination of luck and the desire to succeed made him. A year after arriving in Harare, he was running a gas company after some cigarette smuggling activities.
Almost as soon as he had arrived, he was importing gas in the region. From there, Kadungure’s rise commenced.
The rest as they say is history.
Although many of his friends paint a picture of an accomplished businessman, those closest to him knew he was never a formal businessman.
As a child, he was the “sort of child neighbours didn’t want close to their children”, he told an interviewer in 2014.
His father, Anderson, corroborated Ginimbi’s own account of his childhood, saying of his four kids, Genius was the naughtiest.
Anderson credits that streak for his son’s success.
The inclination to break the rules did not end in childhood it would seem. Armed with utter disregard for rules in a country thriving in corruption and where the corrupt do so with impunity, it was a fertile playground for individuals like Genius.
At Indeni, he discovered lax systems and a workforce willing to earn an extra buck. Instead of loading, say, 10 000kg of LPG, the staff would load 20 000kg and certify that 10 000kg of LPG had been loaded.
This was one of the deals that gave him sure and easy money in the early days. Even drivers also got in on this deal. It was easy money.
On the fuel side, the same or an improvised scheme of defrauding the government was hatched. Fuel trucks supposedly destined for the region would arrive in Zimbabwe and offload cargo and be loaded with water and either turn back with fake papers on the border or simply proceed to destination.
As a result, he had so much cash, he did not know what to do with.
Another scheme he was involved in was of taking deposits for investments in the US. Those interested had to choose how much money they wanted to invest from US$1 000 to $10 000. Others were invited to Zoom meetings for cypto-currency trading.
But after his success, Ginimbi was at his core nothing of a role model.
While his friends and ordinary people were star-struck by his money and lifestyle, he was not a role model in society.
Wheeling and dealing – including smuggling – cannot be an example of business innovation and ingenuity, even in a banana republic.
For instance, in January, Ginimbi was ordered to pay US$58 655 duty on top of another US$81 469 for his Bentley Continental GT model.
One of his companies, Piko Trading, was in July fined US$36 000 and ordered to pay US$2,5 million that it owes tax collector Zimra for VAT from February 2009 to May 2016.
The company was also fined US$9 000 and ordered to pay US$355 559 in outstanding taxes after it recorded sales amounting to US$24,3 million over those seven years.
On sales of US$24 million, he would not have accumulated the car collection on those earnings.
In the US dollar era, mid-caps on the ZSE raked in sales of US$24 million in any financial year.
Big caps or companies constituting the ZSE Top 10 index made net earnings in excess of US$100 million in a single financial year.
Although he was eventually acquitted, in 2018 was accused of defrauding Zanu PF MP Dexter Nduna and a Kadoma gold dealer of R1 581 890 in a botched mining equipment deal.
Ginimbi had no investment portfolio to speak about contrary to the impression he created.
He never ventured on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange or acquired a significant chunk of shareholding in any of the counters in the last decade and a half. He also did not make a play for any of the commercial real estate in the country.
In a way, the choice of asset classes he invested in betrayed his background to an extent.
Where Shingi Mutasa had excess cash, he swooped on TA Holdings, the conglomerate, when it was trading at a discount to its book value back in the day and the conditions were right.
Or how Lishon Chipango, the former Old Mutual Asset Management boss snapped up Interfresh a decade and a half ago.
Ginimbi invested in ultra-luxury vehicles. Cars only tend to accumulate value if they are limited and old. That way, they tend to appreciate value, but generally they are not an investment.
For Ginimbi, the cars were for social adventures. His friend, Brian Nyanyiwa, says Ginimbi used to come and borrow his 7 series BMW to “charm his girlfriends” back in the day.
Ordinarily, ultra-rich people like Van Hoogstraten, a British tycoon with interests in Zimbabwe, have little to interest in cars either as a store of value or investment.
Van Hoogstraten told a story of how three years ago, his children bought him an Cadillac Escalade so he could attend a parents’ consultation day at their school.
“They didnt want me to show up in an old thing, Ford Mustang,” he said.
Another investor who founded a mining group with interest in Zimbabwe, South Africa and the rest of Africa, never obsessed with cars. Instead he spent most of his free time on flights checking out new planes and jets in aviation magazines.
As for Ginimbi, he remained a socialite and not a businessman at heart.
To his credit, he built a mansion in Domboshava, a rural area. Under Zimbabwean law, communal land has no title.
He often got a lot of flak from US-based ‘Prophet’ Passion Java.
Ginimbi’s neighbours lived in round huts or four-roomed houses roofed with asbestos sheets and drank water from wells.
This often begged the question of whether the mansion was valuable or not.
Ideally, when valuing properties, valuers use an approach used by financial analysts called relative valuation of considering market values of other like assets in same sectors.
Relative valuation looks at price to earnings ratios (P/E) of companies operating in the same sector.
If the P/E is lower than peers, it presents buying potential if the business is well managed and has the same variables as the others.
In the case of properties, valuers look at the market value of properties in the location and determine a market value of a property.
In Genius’ case, the mansion was a rare, standalone property or asset surrounded by not-so-valuable properties in Domboshava.
Any cash-rich investor would actually spend millions for a property in Borrowdale or Glen Lorne, for instance, before looking at a mansion in Domboshava.
According to his friend Pokello Nare, he owned properties in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana where he had interest in the petroleum industry.
He had 26 trucks that moved fuel in the region, according to his manager Shaleen Manhire-Nullen. No evidence of that was ever shown.
He owned Dreams Nite Club, formerly Sankayi (like the Sankayi in Johannesburg that he frequented) where he held a lavish party for Moana on 8 November.
At the peak of his game, he had 600 000 followers on Instagram.
To end Covid-19 lockdown-induced boredom, he introduced a twerking competition on Instagram where women competed with what their mothers gave them for prize money.
After watching to his heart’s content, he decided the winner and called it a night. He says he never got with the girls afterwards.
His fame shot up almost unbelievably. And he led the life of a celebrity.
“In the streets people have been singing my name. It’s not just in Zimbabwe. I have travelled to the US and UK and I was surprised when someone recognised me in a supermarket in London. I am popular,” Kadungure told an interviewer last month.
“I have a Rolls-Royce. Actually I don’t have one Rolls my brother. The price of the car is not really necessary, but all of you guys know I didn’t buy this in an auction. I bought them straight from Rolls-Royce. I can say I am the youngest Rolls-Royce owner in Africa. If you go to the Rolls-Royce dealership in South Africa I am the youngest client.”
On the night of the ill-fated party, which police had tried to shut down, he had told his followers about the party at Dreams, the club he owned and how it was going to be happening.
He partied hard that night like he never did before.
Instead of hitting the road around 2am as he was normally accustomed to, he left at 5am drunk as a sailor and crashed his Rolls-Royce and died almost immediately from internal bleeding.
As news of his death circulated, an outpouring of grief followed and he was in the news for more than a week.
In the end, Ginimbi was just a flamboyant dealer and not an entrepreneur – that can not make him a role model. – This article was first published here by the Zimbabwe News Hawks