The Herald (Harare)

24 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Funeral Assurers Prefer Live Clients!

Contrary to the widely held view that those in the undertaking business are thriving because of the high number of deaths being recorded nowadays, there is actually a concern that more people should live so that they can continue paying funeral insurance premiums to enhance the performance of the firms.

This is the perspective of the group chief executive of Moonlight Provident Associates Mr Chomi Makina who maintains that their foremost business was not undertaking but this was in fact a by-product of their funeral assurance business.

"First and foremost, we are insurers; undertaking is actually a by-product of this. To us death is a by-product of life, so our focus is primarily on life. We are least happy when our members die because it's a loss of business and in such instance we have to pay out a claim. If you die we consider that as a breach of contract," he said.

In an interview, the recently crowned 2013 Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce Businessman of the Year took time to demystify the myth surrounding the funeral business saying that there was nothing sacred about death as it was inevitable that we all die at one stage in our lives.

A former teacher who spent a number of years working in the insurance industry, Mr Makina teamed up with five other entrepreneurs in 1995 and vowed to break the then white dominance in the funeral business. That gamble seems to have paid off as Moonlight now ranks among the leading funeral assurance companies in the country and is now looking beyond the borders.

Despite the setbacks of the hyperinflation era, Mr Makina remained steadfast defying all the obstacles that nearly brought down the firm with more than 30 branches countrywide.

"I am a dreamer and when I dream I do so in colour and not black and white. Basically, what I am saying is I aim for the very best in life because when God gave his son to die for us on the cross he was the very best and as God's creations we should also aim for the best," he said.

Moonlight is now operating in a highly competitive environment that has seen the emergence of various other players offering almost similar products and Mr Makina said that this has driven his organisation to differentiate their products and offer something unique.

"We are now offering an all-in-one package that some of the other products on the market are not providing to the extent that we provide an ambulance service for our members (living) who can be ferried to seek medical help. A stabilisation fund is also available to the surviving spouse for a year and we provide a tombstone a year after the burial service."

Mr Makina is a staunch Christian and his success and perseverance has not gone unnoticed if the accolades he has amassed over the years are anything to go by. His high rise office in the centre of Harare looks like a gallery embellished with awards, photographs, trophies and an array of citations from various organisations and establishments. Among some of the awards are the Megafest Most Innovative Organisation 2013, Career and Leadership Builder Award, several service excellence awards and the Philanthropy Award.

Mr Makina has also held various leadership positions and among them as past president of the Zimbabwe Association of Funeral Assurers, president of the Insurance Institute of Zimbabwe, president of the Philanthropy Institute of Zimbabwe. He is a board member of the International Federation of Thanatologist Associations, a non-profit world organisation of funeral operatives and sits on the International Council of Direction for Africa, an affiliate of the same body. His presence on social media is characterised by occasional philosophical tidbits that attract a sizeable following.

The 52-year-old executive said one of the major tasks he faced as a parent was to make sure that his two sons and a daughter managed to get university education, a feat he is well in the process of achieving.

Interestingly, Mr Makina's daughter is studying bio-medical engineering, a branch of medicine which may eventually see her becoming a pathologist, a field that is closely linked to his father's business. His two sons majored in law and business.

Widowed nearly seven years ago, Makina shied away from questions on moving on but there are indications that wedding bells might be sounding very soon.

In terms of personality, Mr Makina appears as a down to earth man who is courteous to his peers and staff while mindful of his obligations. He is a keen golfer and also enjoys interaction with others in various fields.

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