Masvingo and the whole country at large yesterday was united in mourning the late businessman Tanda “Mhunga” Tavaruva — the only man who brought premiership football to the country’s oldest city amidst calls for him to be declared a provincial hero.
Tavaruva breathed his last on Monday at his Masvingo home following a long battle with diabetes and hypertension.
He was 84 and survived by wife Pelagia and six children, five boys and one daughter.
As sole proprietor of the now-defunct Masvingo United, Mhunga bankrolled and moulded Yuna Yuna into a competitive unit that made Mucheke Stadium their fortress and gave the platform for success for some of the country’s celebrated stars like Tembo Chuma, Lloyd Hlahla, Norman “Wezhira” Togara, Ovidy Karuru, Godfrey “Mai Mahofa” Dondo, Costa Nhamoinesu, Johnson Zimbabe among many others.
Yuna Yuna fought tooth and nail with the traditional giants of local football from their time of promotion in 2000, winning the Zifa Unity Cup in 2002 and came agonisingly close to lift the title in 2005 only to be pipped by CAPS United on the very last day of the season.
Former Masvingo United coach Luke Masomere paid tribute to Tavaruva for his undying love and support for the team.
“Under the sponsorship of Tavaruva, I joined Masvingo United in 2002 mid-season and the very same year we managed to win the Zifa Unity Cup,” Masomere said.
“I left the team in January 2003 and came back in 2005 where we won the OK Hoza Bhora. We also won the Zifa Unity Cup and we were runners-up in the premier league championship.
“In 2006, we won the Independence Cup, we also finished third in the championship race and all this is attributed to the good management and sound sponsorship from Tavaruva.
“Mhunga was a motivator; he was everything for Masvingo United Football Club. All the positive results from the game came through his firm foundation and support as for the negatives they were solely ours because there was sound sponsorship and also good management style from him. He did everything for his team, for his community and for football at large we will miss him.”
Another former Masvingo United coach Taurai Mangwiro said the late football administrator was a selfless leader.
“My prayers are with the Tavaruva family, friends and the football fraternity at large in this sorrowful time. Tavaruva’s development to the game in this province and the nation at large was immense and undoubted,” Mangwiro said.
“He was a true leader who sacrificed a lot for a number of people myself included. Personally, he helped me with fees during my time at Bondolfi Teachers College. It was very expensive I must say but he was there for me whilst I was also playing for his beloved Masvingo United team.
“Once I stopped (playing) he gave me an opportunity to coach Masvingo United which was sending a lot of shock waves in the domestic premiership.
“Then I was only but a novice but he entrusted me with the coaching of such a prestigious team and I will forever feel indebted to him for everything that he has done for me and may his dear soul rest in peace.”
His second eldest son and family spokesperson Nyararai echoed Mangwiro’s sentiments saying that at times as kids they felt jealousy towards his father’s love for everyone.
“Even though we knew he was sick we still cannot come to terms with his departure. Dad was a loving and caring man whose love transcended boundaries. At times we felt jealousy towards the way he treated others with love and kindness just like his own kids,” Nyararai told the Daily News.
The Zimbabwe Football Association in a statement said Tavaruva was a man who embodied football in Zimbabwe.
“He lived for the game, loved the game and most importantly ensured it contributed to the welfare of thousands of workers and families in and around Masvingo through his transport and farming business and football investments,” Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said.
“We cannot mention the Premier Soccer League, and indeed Zimbabwean football, without mentioning Mhunga and Masvingo United. Many players and coaches are Masvingo United FC products. …Mucheke Stadium and ensured fun filled and competitive match days, from the efforts of the great Tanda, a man of the people.”