PROMINENT Banker Mr Douglas Munatsi (51) died early yesterday in a mysterious fire that authorities say is now under investigation.
The death of Mr Munatsi, who was the chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA), triggered an outpouring of grief with President Mnangagwa describing his demise as a shocker.
It is said the businessman was alone in his penthouse at the upmarket Northfields apartments in Harare when an inferno engulfed his room.
In his condolence message to the Munatsi family, President Mnangagwa said the nation has been robbed of a "creative business leader and great patriot".
"The death early this morning of our inaugural chief executive officer of ZIDA, in unclear circumstances came to me as a shock. A leading banker, visionary business leader, and outstanding farmer, Mr Douglas Munatsi had become our point man in operationalising our nation's One-Stop Investment Project for improving the investment climate and ease of doing business for our country," the President said.
The President added that the country had lost a great patriot who had represented the country well on the international arena, most recently, at the Dubai International Expo and the African Continental Free Trade Area that was held in Durban, South Africa.
"We have lost a creative business leader and great patriot, making our nation all the poorer for it," said the President.
"On behalf of Government and my own behalf, I wish to console the Munatsi Family, especially Amai Munatsi and the children who now have to face the world without a husband and loving father respectively. As we await completion of police investigations into this fatal fire incident, may they continue to find comfort and solace in the visible footprints the late departed made in serving his country."
Police said investigations are underway to ascertain the circumstances leading to the death of the renowned banker.
"The ZRP is investigating a fire incident, which occurred at C9 Northfield Flats, Cnr Fifth Street and J Tongogara Avenue, Harare, in which ZIDA CEO, Douglas Munatsi passed on. The incident is said to have occurred at 0300 hours (Monday) morning."
In a statement, Northfields Owners Association chairperson Mr C Gardiner said a fire was detected at approximately 02.50AM on Monday morning in flat C9 where Mr Munatsi lived.
"There was no electricity at the time due to a cable fault. The occupant in C10 heard commotion and noise and went to his balcony to investigate further.
"There, he heard from the occupant of C9 that there was a fire and he asked to call the fire brigade. At 02.59, the fire brigade was called, and they arrived at 03.11. They fought the blaze for 2 hours, and despite their efforts, they were unable to save the occupant of C9, who is believed to be Mr Douglas Munatsi. The association has engaged the services of a forensic fire investigator to assess the cause of the fire," said Mr Gardiner.
Stakeholders in the industry and finance sectors expressed sadness on the passing of the respected banker.
Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA) chairman Busisa Moyo said Mr Munatsi was a goal-oriented leader who was determined to attain methods that would enhance the country's ease of doing business environment for both the investor community and the private sector.
"Mr Munatsi was a passionate and competent executive leader at ZIDA. He was the first chief executive of the newly formatted organisation. ZIDA was launched under his leadership. He worked tirelessly to assemble a team at ZIDA and was committed to developing responsive and relevant processes for the private sector and the investor community among many other initiatives. The ZIDA board is deeply saddened at the passing on of Mr Munatsi," said Mr Moyo.
Mr Munatsi was the first chief executive officer of the newly configured ZIDA which was launched in 2020.
A successful farmer, an associate of the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ), and once BancABC chief executive, Mr Munatsi had a finance and investment background, holding a Master of Business Administration (Finance) degree from the American University in Washington DC.
Mr Munatsi joined the banking sector in 1985 as a graduate trainee and 10 years later in 1995, he established one of the first indigenous-owned banks, Heritage Investment Bank.
He began his career at Barclays after leaving university and later joined the World Bank under the International Finance Corporation.
Mr Munatsi was to later acquire First Merchant Bank (FMB) through a consortium that outdid fellow rivals for the bank's stake after Anglo-American disposal of First Merchant Bank (FMB), the country's oldest merchant bank.
In 2000, Mr Munatsi merged FMB with a leasing firm and a discount house, to set up the African Banking Corporation, now BancABC, which he went on to list in Botswana.
In March 2020, new legislation merged investment promotion agencies, the Zimbabwe Investment Authority, the Joint Venture Unit, and the Zimbabwe Special Economic Zones Authority to form ZIDA.
In 2019 Mr Munatsi was appointed to the RBZ's monetary policy committee, a position he later relinquished to concentrate on ZIDA after his appointment at the agency.
Mr Munatsi was invited to lead the new ZIDA by President Mnangagwa given his track record, market credibility and private sector experience.
He was co-founder and partner of BDF Capital Partners Limited.