TAFADZWA Madondo, who passed away on Monday in Bali, Indonesia, aged only 27, was a genius who shunned low standards in his shortened lifetime.
Madondo, who was based in New Zealand, tragically died on Monday while on holiday in the populous Southeast Asian country. He was involved in a motorbike accident and died on the spot.
Being recognised as a property tycoon in a country like New Zealand, as he did, was no mean achievement for a young black Zimbabwean.
But Madondo was not an ordinary young man. To us he was a legend, an inspiration and a role model who excelled at both cricket and rugby at the peak of schools sports in this country.
Madondoâ€™s older brother, Test cricketer Trevor, also died young at the age of 24. He succumbed to a bout of Malaria in Harare in 2001. The talented Trevor was the first black cricketer to be selected for Zimbabwe as a batsman.
Taf â€” as we knew his young brother â€”was no less talented.
Tafadzwa Bernard Madondo was born in Bindura on February 17, 1981. His family roots are in Mutare and he grew up there and partly in Harare.
I saw Madondo for the first time when, as a six-year old, my uncle took me to my first rugby match at Mutare Sports Club to watch a Mashonaland Country Districts match. During the break, my uncle, a staunch rugby fan, challenged me and other kids to a game of touch rugby on the main pitch. It turned out to be a rugby coaching clinic for most of us. I fell in love with the game instantly and I have to say, Tafadzwa, just a year or so older than me, was the biggest inspiration. He already knew the game well as his talent showed in the deft touches and amazing handling skill for a little boy.
The Madondo boys came from a well-off family background and were sent to good schools outside the city. They started off at Lilfordia Junior School in Harare, a sports academy in its own right. With the headmaster of the school being Iain Campbell, the father of former Zimbabwe cricket captain Alistair Campbell,
Tafadzwa prospered at cricket under his guidance.
He also took part in rugby and athletics.
For high school, he went to Falcon College in Matabeleland where he continued to flourish. He played first team at both rugby and cricket. To go with his sporting talents were a very sociable and affable personality, which endeared him to those who knew him and they were many. We met twice at two Schools Rugby Festivals at Prince Edward in 1998 and 1999 when I was in school in Harare.
With his apparent pace, strength and skill, he was a menace at fullback or outside centre.
But during those days a lot of good rugby players were being lost to cricket because the latter was much more organised and the monetary benefits were better. Madondo was in the mould of such men as Heath Streak, Henry Olonga, Guy Whittall, Dougie Hondo, Dion Ebrahim among other Zimbabwe Test cricket players who many actually considered to be better rugby players than cricketers.
So Madondo pursued cricket on leaving Falcon. At club level for Mutare Sports Club he was regarded as an all-rounder. But he made his single first-class appearance for Manicaland against Matabeleland in the Logan Cup during the 2001/02 season as a right-arm spinner who could bat a bit. He teamed up for the Manicaland side with established players like Alistair Campbell, Guy and Andy Whittall, Richard Sims, Neil Ferreira, and his older brother Trevor. He was also an occasional wicketkeeper.
He moved to New Zealand in 2003, but sports took a back seat as he ventured into real estate and modeling. He rose to become one of the best-known male models in the country.
I last communicated with him in 2006 when he told me of his rise in the property market.
The biggest tragedy of Madondoâ€™s death is that it happened thousands of miles way from home, away from those he grew up with, played sports and socialised with. All those who received the news of his death this week with great shock and sadness will definitely grace his burial at Yevoil Cemetery in Mutare when his body is repatriated.
By Enock Muchinjo