HARARE – My first encounter with Clement Masendeke – popularly known in Zimbabwe Cricket circles as Manager – was back in 2007 in his hometown of Kwekwe.
That cheerful, opinionated and witty little man who touched so many people’s lives during his 24 years on this earth would become more prominent in the game in later years until the heart disease he had been fighting since birth confined him to a hospital bed for two weeks before claiming his life on Saturday.
Instead of just supporting his provincial team, the Centrals, as he was avidly doing on that day in 2007, Clement would become a permanent feature at Harare Sports Club and Queens Sports Club, cheering on the Zimbabwe national cricket side from the first ball to the last.
He was 18 when I first saw him at Kwekwe Sports Club during a Logan Cup game, but the heart disease had affected his physical growth since childhood, and at that time I made him to be about eight or nine.
But what struck you when you met Clement was the blunt, uncensored talk and forceful opinion which told you that this boy was not just an ordinary boy. Slightly on the eccentric side, Manager was a special young man, an intellectual of sorts hindered by circumstances in his desire to contribute positively to the game he so loved.
Clement was a Zobha-like character, an outspoken critic of cricket’s failings, allowed to fire those broadsides and get away with it. Being the target of his reproach was not always a pleasant experience, as many would testify.
He had once told a top administrator straight to his face that “you have killed cricket,” and one journalist was taken aback when Clement arrived at a gathering discussing cricket only to shake everyone’s hand but the scribe’s, before looking deeply in his eyes and bellowed: “You write nonsense!”
But deep down, he was a very respectable young man who was very passionate about the game of cricket, remembered for a warm and easy smile, whether sharing a friendly word on life’s more pressing matters or simply talking cricket.
After his move to Harare in the last three to four years, I would bump into Manager in social circles – and depressingly, falling health and low spirits would be evident.
But for someone who fought a 24-year-old brave battle, his condition would not keep silence Clement a bit.
The subject would shift from his beloved Midwest Rhinos to his favourite player Vusi Sibanda, from the administration of the game to the performance of the national team.
If there was sports in heaven, St Peter would welcome Clem at the Pearly Gates on a cricketing note.
“The covers are off, Clem, take your seat in the VIP enclosure!”
Rest In Peace, Manager. We will miss you.