HARARE – When Munyaradzi “Hakeem” Mandaza entered the country’s bodybuilding for beginners contest, the Mr Novice, the young man from Chitungwiza never imagined that a year later, he would be in the running for Big Brother’s $300 000 windfall.
The 22-year-old hunk won the Mr Novice Fitness Physique in March and walked away with no cash and only food supplements, a certificate and a shield for his trouble.
Last August, Hakeem was crowned Mr Harare in the fitness category during the Mr Harare Bodybuilding Contest held at the Reps Theatre.
This time around he received $100 in cash prize, a trophy, modelling contract and a training ticket voucher with the Pro Fitness Gym in the capital.
In his first year as a serious bodybuilding and fitness athlete, he has negotiated his way into the reality television series, Big Brother Africa, where he is representing Zimbabwe alongside Harare trendsetter and businesswoman Pokello Nare.
Hakeem says he was encouraged to take bodybuilding seriously by the Harare Bodybuilding and Fitness Association (Habbfa) chairman Keith Chirimanzi.
Chirimanzi was full of praise for his protégée’s potential and wished him well in his quest to bring home the coveted $300 000 top prize.
“It’s quite an honour and very encouraging to us Habbfa that we are on the right track. It’s really humbling to have someone appreciate and acknowledge the work we are doing and can only motivate us to work even harder as administrators,” Chirimanzi tells the Daily News.
“At the Mr Harare contest, I encouraged him to try out the bodybuilding category after he came fifth in the light heavyweight, which wasn’t bad for a first-timer.
Hakeem was groomed at an early age by veteran bodybuilding trainer Zindy Maisiri. His trainer’s dream was to create an environment where young athletes compete in fitness shows, but there were no such activities back then.
“We are all for the development of our sport and opening opportunities for our athletes,” Chirimanzi added.
“Munya has so much potential and we wish him success in the house and in any of his future endeavours. We always tell the athletes that the money is not in the shows because we struggle to raise the requisite sponsorship, but it lies in the numerous opportunities that arise from competing while discipline and foresight also play a pivotal role in one’s career.”