By Fredrick Bwanali
Hi reader, my name is Fredrick Bwanali.
Well, I won’t share my age lest you start noticing how an old man I’ve grown to be. I am the youngest boy in a family with 4 boys. All my brothers passed on at very young ages but well that’s life. Left as the only surviving boy in the family, it forced me to step up and be responsible at a very young age. I have since then mastered the art of building a lot of brotherly relationships to cover that gap. I come from a poor but stable family. I displayed characteristics of a bright young boy which made my relatives volunteer to take care of my educational expenses. With relatives also having their families to look after I almost missed sitting for my high school examinations as things were not so rosy all the time. Well, I miraculously managed to write the exams when another relative chipped in.I grew up in Amaveni, one of the oldest suburbs in Kwekwe and Zimbabwe. I envied a better life for myself and family so I left for Harare to stay with my aunt who was a maid in Borrowdale. I got my first job as a casual at TM Groombridge. In that job I was able to start paying my own college fees and helping my parents back home. I got a place in the TM Junior Management Development Program which equipped me with skills that made me an all-rounder and helped me quickly rise up the ladder at a young age. I became an Assistant Branch Manager at the age of 25.
In 2003 I switched my allegiance to SPAR. I became a Specialist at SPAR Head Office and had 16 indigenous shops under my portfolio. It was then that I fell in love with the SPAR brand. I had found my career soulmate😍. After some time working in that field, I thought I was ripe enough and opened my own supermarket. I was supported by SPAR DC under the contract store arrangement. The dream to own a fully-fledged SPAR store never came to life and the shop never got to be branded as a SPAR. Hyperinflation hit us hard and the project went under which made me to seek employment again. What I thought were just rain showers and would eventually pass became a thunderstorm as the store closed and I became the most handsome unemployed man. I then got into the Ecocash business as an agent. The family had to be fed right, but little did I know that the Ecocash agent space had become flooded and unlucrative. It was hard to be unable to provide for my family. I remember days when a child would get sick and there was no money to seek medical attention. That’s how broke I was. In our African culture a man must provide for his family but it wasn’t like that in my case. One would have thought seeing the circumstances my wife would leave but she didn’t and being a hard-worker, she took up the role, stepped up and supported me and the family. To you Barbara my wife, I will always be grateful for that. A good lesson to all the young people out there that love conquers all. When Yellowcob took over the Innscor owned SPARs, I got a job as a buyer at Braeside. I took over from a man whose shoes seemed too big to fill. Onward forgive me but I will mention your name. As I was coming out of unemployment vacation, I won’t lie it was hard. I struggled to a point where my competence was questioned but I humbled myself, put in the hours and learnt as much as I could. I improved, found my feet and the results started to show. I was soon appointed to the position of GM for Montagu SPAR. At that time the impression for the store was that of a store that was difficult to manage as it had long serving employees who were perceived to have become resistant to change. Well, as they say, the rest is history, together as a team we won the STORE OF THE YEAR award in 2019. When an opportunity to open a new shop in Bulawayo arose, I was given the chance to relocate and be the store manager there. With the family in tow, we left all the Harare comforts and moved to settle in Bulawayo. It was a hard decision for them to take but they understood that purpose over rules comfort. My family also understands my veins flow SPAR blood. I have been at SPAR JN for slightly above a year and it hasn’t been a walk in the park but with an enthusiastic and ever learning team we have managed to keep going and raise the SPAR brand higher in this part of the country. I am honoured to have been recently considered and appointed to the position of Retail Operations Manager. I didn’t achieve this alone as I have the support from my family, a good team behind me and great leadership from the Executive guiding me. My lesson to you is that our backgrounds don’t influence our future and you just have to learn from your failures. One needs to remain focused despite the circumstances. All is possible under the sun. This is my story.