The Sunday Mail
The Sunday Mail dedicates this space to deserving members of society who contribute meaningfully to their communities, change people’s lives for the better, restore dignity to those that feel unworthy while inspiring and giving hope to the disaffected. A Society Hero can be from the sporting fraternity, politics, business, community development, etcetera – it does not matter where they come from, their religious affiliation or political leanings – as long as they are a true champion of the people, they are our Society Hero.
Our Society Hero for this week is Ricardo Hwasheni, a Zimbabwean businessman and philanthropist based in China. A recent visit by The Sunday Mail Society team to Banket – a town where he grew up – unearthed incredible levels of investment, dedication, love and loyalty to his people, his community and country. Read on…
Ricardo Hwasheni has adopted 57 disadvantaged primary school kids and secondary students, and intends to pay their fees until they finish whatever level of education they get to.
Banket United, which is currently doing well on the log standings in the Northern Region Division One, has benefited financially as well as through kit sponsorship.
He has given cash injections to churches like the local Salvation Army to help with their projects.
Right now, he is sitting on a consignment of hospital gloves, thermometers and other needs for Banket Hospital. The consignment awaits a letter from the hospital to enable smooth movement into the country.
When he arrives in Zimbabwe this Friday from his base in China, Hwasheni will bring with him complete soccer kits for five Banket schools.
During his 10-day stay in the country, he intends to help solve the water woes in his community by sinking boreholes.
But why does this extraordinary gentleman care so much about his community?
Zimbabwe has plenty of millionaires, some whose wealth is ill-gotten, who live large while people in their communities wallow in poverty.
“My mother did not raise me alone, I was raised by the community. If someone from the community was to die because there were no drugs at the local hospital when I could have done something about it, I would feel awful. I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself,” said Hwasheni, who is mostly known for his love of soccer but has gone on to completely transform his community with the help of other sons and daughters of Banket.
“There is nothing special about me. I’m just one of a good number of community members such as Blessing “BJ” Timoti, Wilfred Dandajena, John Murove and Pascal Chiramba, among many others, that sponsor Banket United with transportation, food and money.
“Our community is united. We take care of the needy among us. A neighbour’s problem is my problem, and that is how it has always been. We know that if one of ours rises out of poverty, we have all risen out of poverty,” said Hwasheni.
While doing all he can to reduce the suffering in his community using personal resources, Hwasheni dreams of creating soccer stars out of his football academy – Red Yellow Blue.
“Growing up as a soccer fanatic, I saw the talent that Banket produced. These include the likes of Piouson Matare, Labu Malvin Nyakabangwe, Roy Muchuchu, Vincent Nzombe, to name but a few. Some of them went all the way to play in our Premier League, national team and even abroad.
“I realised how much talent our community has. Things are difficult back home and only a few people are willing to nurture such raw talent and those few who are willing target the cities, not places like Banket. Thus we have talent dying without exposure. This is why I started Red Yellow Blue,” said Hwasheni.
Hwasheni played football during his school days. While most of his teammates played for big teams, he chose a different path.
“When I came home a few years ago, I saw some of the people I knew had exceptional talent wasting away because of drugs and alcohol. This is the main reason behind the Red Yellow Blue academy. I wanted to give the youths something to do every week, something that gives them hope and a purpose to stay fit and clean from drugs and alcohol.”
His love for soccer goes way back.
“Growing up in Banket made it easy for me to be a soccer lover, supporting Banket United as it is our community’s pride. It is what Banket is all about.
“Back then, there were many teams like GMB Silos, which was in Division One, Chambadzi and Nico Stars, both in Division Two. But Banket United has always been a community team,” said Hwasheni.
He also comes from a family of soccer lovers.
“My dad loved soccer and my brother Kelly Musabayana was a fantastic soccer player. My uncles Simba Nzombe, the current Banket United chairman, and his brother the late Shepherd Nzombe, would take me to matches home and away since I was five years old. That is how I fell in love with the team.
“All of them were Caps United supporters, including my dad. So I also fell in love with Caps United as well as Manchester United. That love has survived the test of time and still exists up to now.”