Death of top banker in mysterious inferno sends shockwaves




The late Douglas Munatsi

PROMINENT Banker Mr Douglas Munatsi (51) died early yesterday in a mysterious fire that authorities say is now under investigation.

The death of Mr Munatsi, who was the chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA), triggered an outpouring of grief with President Mnangagwa describing his demise as a shocker.

It is said the businessman was alone in his penthouse at the upmarket Northfields apartments in Harare when an inferno engulfed his room.

In his condolence message to the Munatsi family, President Mnangagwa said the nation has been robbed of a “creative business leader and great patriot”.

“The death early this morning of our inaugural chief executive officer of ZIDA, in unclear circumstances came to me as a shock. A leading banker, visionary business leader, and outstanding farmer, Mr Douglas Munatsi had become our point man in operationalising our nation’s One-Stop Investment Project for improving the investment climate and ease of doing business for our country,” the President said.

The President added that the country had lost a great patriot who had represented the country well on the international arena, most recently, at the Dubai International Expo and the African Continental Free Trade Area that was held in Durban, South Africa.

“We have lost a creative business leader and great patriot, making our nation all the poorer for it,” said the President.

“On behalf of Government and my own behalf, I wish to console the Munatsi Family, especially Amai Munatsi and the children who now have to face the world without a husband and loving father respectively. As we await completion of police investigations into this fatal fire incident, may they continue to find comfort and solace in the visible footprints the late departed made in serving his country.”

Police said investigations are underway to ascertain the circumstances leading to the death of the renowned banker.

“The ZRP is investigating a fire incident, which occurred at C9 Northfield Flats, Cnr Fifth Street and J Tongogara Avenue, Harare, in which ZIDA CEO, Douglas Munatsi passed on. The incident is said to have occurred at 0300 hours (Monday) morning.”

In a statement, Northfields Owners Association chairperson Mr C Gardiner said a fire was detected at approximately 02.50AM on Monday morning in flat C9 where Mr Munatsi lived.

“There was no electricity at the time due to a cable fault. The occupant in C10 heard commotion and noise and went to his balcony to investigate further.

“There, he heard from the occupant of C9 that there was a fire and he asked to call the fire brigade. At 02.59, the fire brigade was called, and they arrived at 03.11. They fought the blaze for 2 hours, and despite their efforts, they were unable to save the occupant of C9, who is believed to be Mr Douglas Munatsi. The association has engaged the services of a forensic fire investigator to assess the cause of the fire,” said Mr Gardiner.

Stakeholders in the industry and finance sectors expressed sadness on the passing of the respected banker.

Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA) chairman Busisa Moyo said Mr Munatsi was a goal-oriented leader who was determined to attain methods that would enhance the country’s ease of doing business environment for both the investor community and the private sector.

“Mr Munatsi was a passionate and competent executive leader at ZIDA. He was the first chief executive of the newly formatted organisation. ZIDA was launched under his leadership. He worked tirelessly to assemble a team at ZIDA and was committed to developing responsive and relevant processes for the private sector and the investor community among many other initiatives. The ZIDA board is deeply saddened at the passing on of Mr Munatsi,” said Mr Moyo.

Mr Munatsi was the first chief executive officer of the newly configured ZIDA which was launched in 2020. 

A successful farmer, an associate of the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ), and once BancABC chief executive, Mr Munatsi had a finance and investment background, holding a Master of Business Administration (Finance) degree from the American University in Washington DC.

Mr Munatsi joined the banking sector in 1985 as a graduate trainee and 10 years later in 1995, he established one of the first indigenous-owned banks, Heritage Investment Bank.

He began his career at Barclays after leaving university and later joined the World Bank under the International Finance Corporation.

Mr Munatsi was to later acquire First Merchant Bank (FMB) through a consortium that outdid fellow rivals for the bank’s stake after Anglo-American disposal of First Merchant Bank (FMB), the country’s oldest merchant bank.

In 2000, Mr Munatsi merged FMB with a leasing firm and a discount house, to set up the African Banking Corporation, now BancABC, which he went on to list in Botswana.

In March 2020, new legislation merged investment promotion agencies, the Zimbabwe Investment Authority, the Joint Venture Unit, and the Zimbabwe Special Economic Zones Authority to form ZIDA.

In 2019 Mr Munatsi was appointed to the RBZ’s monetary policy committee, a position he later relinquished to concentrate on ZIDA after his appointment at the agency.

Mr Munatsi was invited to lead the new ZIDA by President Mnangagwa given his track record, market credibility and private sector experience.

He was co-founder and partner of BDF Capital Partners Limited.

MEMORANDUM

SUBJECT: SUDDEN DEATH BY FIRE OF DOUGLAS MUNATSI AT NUMBER C9 NORTHFIELDS FLATS, CORNER JOSIAH TONGOGARA AND FIFTH AVENUE, HARARE

This memorandum serves to put on record circumstances and initial Investigations on the above subject matter.

Informant         Charles Gardner Aged 32 years

NR:   22-086170 A 00

Res:  Number C10, Northfields Flats, Harare

Bus:  Number 1, Barry Close off Lomagundi Rd, Harare

Deceased          Douglas Munatsi Aged 59 years

NR:   63-361205 E 83.

Res:  C9 Northfields Flats, Harare.

Bus: Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA CEO)

CIRCUMSTANCES

The informant occupies the same flat as deceased, residing at the apartment on the 10th floor, while the deceased occupied the apartment on the 9th floor. On 29 November 2021 at around 0250hours, the informant heard some explosion-like noise and he woke up and went to the balcony to check where the noise was coming from. The informant saw smoke coming from the now deceased’s flat which is directly below his flat and a voice that was shouting ‘Fire please help’. Informant then phoned fire brigade at the same time running down stairs to the ground floor. A report was made at ZRP Harare Central.

Scene was attended by CID Homicide, CID Studios, CID Scenes of Crime, CID Forensic and ZRP Harare Central who made the following observations.

  • Scene is a ninth floor 7 roomed flat comprising of three bedrooms, dining room, Lounge, kitchen and Gym situated at corner Josiah Tongogara and Fifth Street, Harare
  • The main bedroom was extensively damaged by fire to the extent that all windows and doors were broken, all the furniture in the bedroom were extensively burnt that only steel frames for the bed and built in cupboards were observed.
  • The remains of the deceased was found in a sitting position just beside the tub in the main bedroom with some burns on the hands and legs, he was putting on a red T shirt and a black pair of shorts which were not burnt to suggest that the deceased could have been burnt by the heat of the fire and not direct flames.
  • Interviewed was the informant who indicated that he heard sound as if something had exploded at about 0250 hours and woke up to check and discovered that there was smoke coming from the now deceased’s flat, He also mentioned that he heard the now deceased calling for help. Same mentioned that he phoned Fire Brigade at about 0253 hours at the same time telling the now deceased to come out. The informant stated that he then ran down stairs on foot since there was no electricity on the flat since about 1445 hours on Saturday 27 November 2021. He further narrated that Fire Brigade arrived at the scene at about 0311 hours but had some challenges in accessing the flat since it was on the 9th The informant mentioned that Fire brigade only finished extinguishing the fire at about 0530 hours.
  • Also interviewed was Shupai Zifunge aged 47 years NR 04-070519 B 04 of Block 7, C10 Shawasha Flats, Mbare, Harare who is employed by Securico Security Company as a security guard based at Northfields Flats. Same indicated that he last saw the now deceased on 28 November 2021 at about 1820 hours when he (deceased) told him that he was expecting a guest at the flat and he asked the informant to escort the guest to his flat when she arrived. The guard further mentioned that the said guest who was recorded on the security check point book as Coleta NFPK arrived at about 1905 and he escorted her to the now deceased’s flat. The said guest left the flat at about 2118 hours on foot. Shupai Zifunge further stated that on 29 November 2021 around 0300 hours he heard some explosion and he went out of the guardroom and saw the informant running downstairs telling him that there was a fire in flat number C9.
  • Martin Chitura aged 41 years, Nr 48-093840 M 48 of number 858, Helvesia Road, Borrowdale, Harare who is employed by the now deceased as a personal driver , he indicated that he last saw the now deceased on Sunday 28 November 2021 at about 1800 hours when they were both him and the now deceased were doing some covid tests. He mentioned that he left the now deceased in his motor vehicle parked at the flat proceeding to his home.
  • Further interviewed was Saurosi Marichambo aged 53 years Nr 24-075307 L 24 of number 14132 Hatcliffe, Harare, a male aged 36 years who is local and he stated that he was employed by the now deceased as a chef since 2020. He also mentioned that he last saw the now deceased on Saturday 27 November 2021 at about 1500 hours when he knocked off duty, he mentioned that he left the now deceased alone at home. He went on to say he only came to know of the incident on 29 November 2021 at about 0630 hours when he arrived for work and saw the fire brigade vehicle at the flat.
  • Deceased’s young brother Cardmelon Munatsi aged 47 years NR 63-940546 S 83 residing at Kunatsa Estates, Matepatepa area, same indicated that he was with the now deceased the previous day. He further stated that the now deceased sent a whatsApp sms on the family group at 0159 hours of 29 November 2021 which SMS was over a topic they were discussing as a family.

The remains of deceased’s body were taken to Parirenyatwa Hospital mortuary awaiting post mortem.

Investigations are under way under ZRP Harare Central IR 112047 refers.

Fire death … Exclusive pictures from inside Doug Munatsi’s charred bedroom show the fire was so intense it melted sections of an aluminium door

Outstanding  

  • Ascertain the cause of death through postmortem.
  • To establish the cause of fire through reports from Fire brigade and Forensic.
  • To interview the said guest who was recorded as the last person to visit the now deceased at the place of occurrence one only recorded as Colleta NFPK.

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS DEPARTMENT

29 November 2021

HOM 1002/21