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Oliver Chidawu: A man who reached for the stars

Oliver Chidawu: A man who reached for the stars

Oliver Chidawu

Self-made is now a controversial term as many argue that it is full of hubris to claim full credit for one’s success yet we all rely on other people, one way or another.

But Nick Hussle’s definition rings true, whatever one’s views may be: “Being self-made means never making an excuse as to why you can't take steps toward whatever your goal is.”

Oliver Chidawu, the late Minister of State for Harare Provincial Affairs and Devolution certainly took agency of his own life and made a success out of it.

Oliver Chidawu, died in the early hours of Tuesday 19 July after reportedly suffering a heart attack on Monday evening. He was 68. With an investment portfolio covering many interests, Chidawu was reportedly a multi-millionaire at the time of his death. One who was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

A reticent man who in spite of his many public roles, lived his private life away from the limelight. Perhaps a mark of his age group that was not raised in a culture of sharing every little thing on social media, a contemporary of Chidawu who knew him as a young adult declined to be identified but gave an insight into the man:  

Born in 1954, Chidawu emerged from the high density suburbs where all urban local blacks were segregated by the colonial government.

“What distinguished Oliver even back then was determination and vision. He was always someone who could picture possibilities then start working towards them.”

Oliver Chidawu became one of the first black engineers.

“You need to understand that at that time for many of us, it was enough to believe success was a white collar job as a teacher or something like that. But Oliver was always bound to break boundaries and none of us were surprised by his success,” shared the colleague.

Kuchi Construction, Chidawu’s company became a household name in post-Independence Zimbabwe as black technocrats started breaking away from being employees in white companies to establish themselves as big entrepreneurs.  

Prior to Independence, most black business people were in the retail and long distance passenger transport sectors. Blacks had no in into the real heart of the economy. Chidawu and others changed that by daring to bulldoze into terrain that had remained exclusively for whites, even if political power was now in the hands of the Black majority.

It also meant that today we have blacks like Chidawu and others who created living legacies by being integral in the development of national infrastructure and other areas after 1980.

At the age of 29, Chidawu became the mayor of Harare in 1984, setting a yet unbeaten record for the youngest mayor of the city. There is some significance in him dying as governor of the metropolitan province almost 4 decades later.

Chidawu had links to various large corporate institutions including Manders Group. Bitumen Construction Services, Heritage Insurance Company, Bindura Nickel, Star Africa, Pelhams, Zimplow and ABC Holdings.

Social media posts show that Chidawu was a man created with mentoring those that he recognised as having potential to do more. Others who worked closely with man say that he had a talent of grasping concepts that were complex and enjoyed discussions that stretched his mind.

“He was a man who would read up on any subject to become informed. This in turn made him a fountain of knowledge and gave him the capacity to be a thought leader in many fields. He gave himself freely to those who were lucky enough to know him and be receptive to his influence. He will definitely be missed,” another associate paid homage to Chidawu.

No announcement of funeral arrangements has been made yet but is expected that as a serving Government minister, Chidawu’s funeral will be a state event.  

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