AMOS Maungwa was among thousands of Zimbabweans who made the great trek to South Africa after 2000 at the height of the country’s economic crisis which was characterised by runaway inflation.
Sports Panorama with Enock Muchinjo
Good men and women were forced to abandon their skills, God-given talents and professional qualifications in order to survive — eking out a living through odd jobs across the vastness of South Africa.
Maungwa headed further down to the coastal city of Durban in 2006 and found a job as a gardener for a white South African family. An income of R50 a day, bread and free accommodation provided an escape from the living hell that had become his homeland.
Everything else was safely tucked in his past: until one day when his employer, a kindly old gentleman, was surprised to discover his domestic worker’s knowledge of cricket. Unbeknown to him, the family’s “garden boy” had played cricket up to first-class level in Zimbabwe.
So Maungwa was escorted to the Kwazulu-Natal Cricket Union, who promptly engaged him as a coach at Durban High School, one of the province’s top schools, with added responsibility as a bus driver.
These days, Maungwa runs the Durban Cricket Academy, a thriving venture that has given employment opportunities to many development coaches in the area.
His story attracted the attention of journalist Fatima Asmal, who penned a feature in 2014 for the Mail & Guardian, chronicling Maungwa’s rough upbringing in his beloved country, and his cricket journey.
Born in rural Masvingo, Maungwa grew up the hard way in Chitungwiza.
I watched Maungwa at his peak in the late 1990s to early 2000s when Zimbabwean cricket was bursting with talent and competition for places was at its stiffest.
Short and wiry in stature, he was not anybody’s image of a fast bowler. But when he let rip, and goodness me this little dynamite did that with nonstop ferocity. He had the armory to trouble some of the country’s best batsmen. There were times when even some of the best in the business — Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Craig Wishart, Alistair Campbell, Trevor Gripper, Doug Marillier — cowered under siege from Maungwa and his fellow high-density speedsters of that time.
Maungwa had a springy action with which he generated bounce and pace, quite a unique ability for a man of his size.
He was a member of Highfield-based club Takashinga when the high-density outfit finally came of age around the early 2000s and dared to challenge the status quo with its assortment of red-hot black talent.
Some of the senior players in that plucky Takashinga side — at a transitional phase of cricket in Zimbabwe — included Maungwa, Shepherd Makunura, Walter Chawaguta, Patrick Gada, Rangarirai Manyande and Moses Chitare.
Then among the youth brigade were Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza, Tatenda Taibu, Kudzi Taibu, Prosper Utseya, Elton Chigumbura, Tinashe Panyangara, Tinashe Ruswa, Alester Maregwede, Keith Kulinga, Tafadzwa Chihota — most of whom would have the privilege of playing for their country — apart from the likes of the younger Taibu, Kulinga and Chihota.
But it is the senior guys of that team I feel sorry for to this day. Looking back, I realise how unlucky this generation was.
Perhaps they were not yet ready, as was said. But I am still convinced, again with the benefit of hindsight, that these guys were no less talented, if not better, that the crop that later broke into international cricket en masse following the player disturbances of 2004 and 2005.
It so happened that at that time, in the post-rebel saga, many had given up on international cricket, while others were past their peak. Tragically, a lot of these very good guys are lost to the game.
It is heartening to see people like Maungwa though still involved, albeit elsewhere. Such people would make a world of difference back home.
One of our proudest records as a nation is how we export very good technical brains to other countries. But we do not have the luxury of not tapping into our entire pool of player and technical resources. It becomes even harder, in those situations, to compete with the already established nations who are drawing from almost their entire populations.
It was scandalous that a few years ago we lost Brendan Taylor, the team’s kingpin, and Kyle Jarvis, the team’s pace spearhead.
It is a commendable effort on the part of everybody to have both back.
But it is not just these two. There are many dotted all over the place. It is hard to believe “Ras Amos” is 39 years already. His playing days are over. But one of his protégés from the Durban Cricket Academy will one day become a South Africa international.
I am sure a proud man like Maungwa, and many more others like him, will be only too eager to answer their own nation’s call.