By Brian Chitemba
Genius “Ginimbi” Kadungure (36) breathed his last in the wee hours of Sunday.
His death created a buzz on social media platforms and spawned wild conspiracy theories of how he lived, made his fortune and died.
Kadungure’s palatial mansion in Nyamande Village in Domboshava — some 30 kilometres from the capital — could easily be mistaken for a luxury home in Malibu, California, where celebrity homes can fetch way up to US$30 million.
Realtors say although the Domboshava house is located in a peri-urban rural set-up, the property can fetch well over US$1 million.
The young entrepreneur’s dressing sense was expensive.
He donned all the top-end brands from his favourite Versace to Dolce and Gabbana, among many others.
However, this luxury and ostentatious lifestyle made Zimbabweans home and abroad speculate about his source of wealth.
Some claim he was an occultist who minted his money overnight.
His friends have a different tale to tell.
The Sunday Mail last week tracked Kadungure’s close business associates who met him as a young and ambitious 17-year-old who then didn’t even know how to pop a champagne bottle.
One of these people is Brian Nyanyiwa, who met the late businessman around 2000.
A shareholder in one of the Kadungure-linked companies, Nyanyiwa opened up about the makings of the socialite.
Without much of formal education, the Domboshava-born Kadungure was more of a self-taught businessman who ventured into vegetable vending in his Nyamande Village at a young age.
His friends say even at an early age, so big was his hunger for success that he became one of the first “car dealers” since he fashioned out toy cars from wire mesh and sold them to his peers.
“Genius was always business-minded as he was inspired by his late mother — Mai Kadungure — who would spend several days on a bus travelling to South Africa as a cross-border trader. He always said if his mother could soldier on in a bus for days on end to fend for the family, he was capable of working hard and make it big in life,” said Nyanyiwa.
Curiosity and gas
He reminisced about how Genius would visit the Nyanyiwa’s premises in Ardbennie in the early 2000s to ask questions about business.
At that time, he was sharing one room in Sunningdale 1 with his uncle Benon “Boka” Mubaiwa.
Because of the proximity between Sunningdale and Ardbennie, he reportedly would walk to the Nyanyiwa’s offices.
Genius’ maternal relatives — the Mutsvairo’s — were into business and rented from the Nyanyiwas. This is how the friendship between “Ginimbi” and Brian Nyanyiwa began to blossom.
“Back then Ginimbi didn’t have money but he was energetic and talkative. He was about 17 years old then and would come and borrow my BMW 7 Series whenever he wanted to charm his teenage girlfriends in Sunningdale.”
While Genius was still scouting for what sort of business to venture into, Nyanyiwa said, he stumbled on information that white former commercial farmers were leaving their farms in a huff and abandoning their loaded gas cylinders.
This was during the land redistribution exercise in the early 2000s.
It is believed that some of the farmers, especially chicken farmers, used a lot of gas for their projects.
The two teamed up and started visiting several farms where they would help themselves to the gas cylinders, load them in a pick-up truck for resale in Harare.
“This meant that we got 100 percent profit from the gas sales to individuals and restaurants since we got the gas from the farms for free.”
During that time, three major multinational oil and gas companies stopped importing LP (liquid petroleum) gas largely because their clients — the white farmers — were moving out of the chicken farming business.
This created an acute shortage of gas in Zimbabwe.
Smelling an opportunity to fill in the gap, Genius reportedly travelled to Francistown, Botswana, to source the product. Armed only with an idea and knowledge of where to source the gas but without the necessary capital, the budding entrepreneur approached his Mutsvairo uncles for a loan to kick-start the business of importing gas from Botswana for resale in Harare. This reportedly marked the birth of Pioneer Gas.
It is believed that there were quick returns since there was huge demand for the product. From the earnings, Ginimbi then bought a single-cab Isuzu truck, which he used to transport gas cylinders.
Nyanyiwa said: “The car would always break down and since I was familiar with cars, I would fix it whenever we were doing deliveries. We needed a single-cab truck to take the product to our customers easily.
“Apart from business, we would drive to attend Ginimbi’s favourite musical shows — Alick Macheso — where my friend enjoyed his Lion Lager. Ginimbi was quite good at dancing to sungura music doing the ‘Borrowdale dance’.”
As the gas business was booming, the young businessman moved from Sunningdale to Greendale.
The duo approached Lad Oil for gas storage facilities and quickly doubled their imports to 42 tonnes per week.
“This means that we were making about US$50 000 per week from gas sales; so life began to change for the better. Ginimbi then attended a local car auction where he out-bid big businessmen to buy a two-door red BMW 3 Series. This drew a lot of attention from many people,” he said.
To boost the gas business, Ginimbi approached an equally flashy businessman, Mr Phillip Chiyangwa, who then organised a bank loan for him from a top financial institution.
Pioneer Gas then moved from 42 tonnes per week to 60 tonnes and the company bought three storage tanks from a South African businessman — Mr Jeff Vincent.
At the time, the gas company had a staff compliment of 30 employees and rented a three-storey building in Graniteside.
Between 2007 and 2008, Ginimbi and four of his friends, including Brian Nyanyiwa, then began a side hustle of importing SIM cards from South Africa for R100 for resale at US$100. They would rotate to catch daily flights to bring in 1 000 SIM cards daily.
And the money continued rolling in. At that time, around 2009, Ginimbi moved from Greendale to Greystone Park and bought a Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
The following year an opportunity arose in Botswana where Pula Energy had began to struggle.
Again, sensing another opportunity, Ginimbi partnered with two prominent businesswomen, who poured in US$250 000 while the youthful businessmen weighed in with US$50 000.
Pula Energy was subsequently bought for US$1 million or 10 million pula and christened Quick Gases.
Genius then headed Pula Energy, while Nyanyiwa was in charge of Pioneer Gas in Zimbabwe.
It is believed that Farai Zinyengere — popularly known as “Sophisticated Hustler” — was in charge of sourcing gas from South Africa under Piko Trading.
Revelling in new-found success, the cash-flush Ginimbi then splurged on a palatial home in Phakalani Golf Estate in Gaborone.
It is at that time that “Sophisticated Hustler” then introduced Ginimbi to fine whiskey, champagne, nice clothes and women.
The gas business reportedly grew in leaps and bounds in four countries — Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia and South Africa.
In 2015, Ginimbi then got another opportunity to supply diesel to big mining companies in Botswana and South Africa.
Nyanyiwa said the flamboyant businessman moved his focus from gas to diesel and shifted base from Botswana to South Africa, where he built a fleet of 27, 40 000-litre fuel tankers.
“He imported the fuel from Mozambique for sale in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana. This was a huge lucrative deal and things never remained the same for Ginimbi. He then started buying brand new cars — any nice new car you can think of,” he said.
From gas to petroleum, Ginimbi then ventured into showbiz through G-Entertainment, which ran Sankayi, now known as Dreams Nightclub. While he was a hardworker, Ginimbi partied hard and it affected his business since he would party all night and then sleep in the afternoon — during working hours.
Some of his workers got frustrated and resigned to start other flourishing gas companies.
Apart from amassing wealth flaunted through flashy cars, his friends say he invested in real estate in a multi-million dollar holiday mansion in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai and in the plush Phakalani Golf Estate in Gaborone.
“This is the Genius who toiled for 20 years to make it to the top. He was innovative and ambitious. Africans should desist from thinking that anyone who makes it big is an occultist. Let’s change the negative mindset and work hard to live the life we desire,” claimed Nyanyiwa. – Sunday Mail.