RICHARD Munjoma, who has died aged 65, cut a distinctive figure in the southwestern townships of Harare in the 1980s with his neat white attire and “black-horse” bicycle, riding between different places to spread a profound passion of his.
Around the mid-1980s, the then Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU), realising the need for racial integration at a much quicker pace, trained a group of high-density primary school teachers, equipping the recruits with coaching skills to then drive the ambitious project by identifying and persuading black youngsters in the townships to take up this new sport.
Quite a number of enthusiastic teachers got hooked onto the game, which had made serious inroads into the capital city’s poorer neighbourhoods, areas where football hitherto held total sway.
Cricket was a new phenomenon to the mostly young teachers, something they thoroughly enjoyed away from classroom duties, and they embraced it wholeheartedly.
None, though, more so than Shiriyedenga Primary School’s Munjoma, who passed away on Tuesday at a hospital in his beloved Glen Norah suburb, following a brave fight with diabetes.
While coaching was his gift, Munjoma played a few fourth league games around 1986 for township outfit Glen Stragglers, a breakaway club formed by a young Stephen Mangongo, who had attended Prince Edward School as the first black recipient of a ZCU scholarship.
Also hailing from Glen Norah, Mangongo — a prominent figure in Zimbabwean cricket and former national team coach — expressed sadness this week at the death of the township cricket stalwart.
“I’m deeply shocked,” Mangongo said. “Richard was truly an unsung black cricket development pioneer. He was a selfless man who served township cricket and when we formed Glen Stragglers Cricket Club, he was with us. The club then transformed to Old Winstonians and our base moved to Churchill School. He was a dedicated schoolmaster and good cricket coach for Shiriyedenga Primary School in Glen Norah. He started coaching under ZCU’s New Winners Programme.”
In view of Munjoma’s highly-praised work in the high-densities, it was perhaps a most befitting development at the turn of the millennium when pace bowler David Mutendera, his pupil and cricket protégé at Shiriyedenga, became the first township-raised cricketer to play for Zimbabwe.
Mutendera, now Zimbabwe’s national convener of selectors, yesterday mourned the passing of his mentor. “I’m very saddened,” Mutendera, who is on tour in Bangladesh with the national team, said.
“He was one of the best coaches to ever work in the high-density area of Glen Norah. He taught me how to play cricket at the age of 10.