THE year 2019 started with a lot of promise. The nation had hope and all had dreams. We had elections in July 2018 and identified corruption as one of the many problems we should deal with as a country.

We have had years of economic stagnation and negative growth, sad, for a country so richly endowed with both natural and human resources.

Twelve months down the road we realised that we were in a more uncomfortable place than we had anticipated as fuel prices shot up 15 times, the general cost of living went up multiple times while spares for our buses and hearses become more expensive.

We have not been able to replace our buses and hearses as fast as we would have wanted, resulting in us running an older fleet of buses and hearses. We have not been able to grow the size of our fleet to match the growth of our customer base due to shortage of foreign currency and its pricing. In short, the last 12 months have been a nightmare as our staff, tools and equipment were stretched to the limit due to increasing deaths.

In response to the increase in costs, Nyaradzo increased its premiums twice during the year. This is unprecedented as for the past 10 years our premiums remained unchanged as we operated in a stable macro-economic environment. Our customers became accustomed to the Nyaradzo service standard now christened the Sahwira Mukuru service standard.

The ever increasing costs of service provision left us with no option, but to share part of that burden with our customers though the premium increases were below the threshold recommended by the actuaries.

By not passing the full bill of premium increases to our customers we will eat into our reserves. It is a balancing act we cannot ignore since our customers are hurting and bleeding as much as we are.

This is not the first time we have shared the burden of rising costs with them. During the hyperinflationary period ending with dollarisation in 2009, we carried our customers through a very difficult patch again. It is our hope that this phase will come to pass.

Our country needs to work again and we look to 2020 with optimism. In spite of the challenges we faced in 2019, Nyaradzo is happy with the massive support from its customers. We appreciate the sacrifices our clients make to keep their policies updated to accord their loved ones a decent send off in times of bereavement.

The economic fundamentals we are told are falling in place daily. The country has been receiving good rains, which is good for our agro-based economy. We need to work on the land to be food secure. If we produce more we can export surplus. Government has commissioned more dams to support our agro-based economy and we hear production is going up in the mining sector.

We recently launched the US$12 billion mining sector revenue by 2023 which is exciting. We look forward to more tourist arrivals as new attractions are being explored.

Despite all the challenges, Nyaradzo remains focused on the journey ahead. We owe it to staff and management for their hard work and diligence. We believe the building blocks to a new economy are taking root and will need time for its manifestation. This is why we took the deliberate decision to slash our premium increase.

At the beginning of 2019 we set out to have a one-stop-shop workshop for all our buses and light vehicles. We acquired the former Stuttafords warehouse on Simon Mazorodze Road and converted it into a fully-fledged workshop.

A few years ago we made a bold strategic decision defining funerals as one of many events that require management. With that in mind we set out to establish an events management hub culminating in the purchase of another property also on Simon Mazorodze Road.

Having acquired this premier site, we worked round the clock to reconfigure it into a fully-fledged events management hub.

As we bid farewell to 2019 and welcome 2020, we would like to inform our customers that we are ready to deliver memorable moments and events to both our grieving and revelling customers with state-of-the-art tools and equipment being dispatched on time.

After launching the very popular Sahwira International Plan (SIP) for those in the Diaspora, we sought to create a seamless service from their country of residence till they arrive home. In this vein we applied for and got offices at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, which we tastefully refurbished for the convenience of our customers. Before we had these premises, our customers would mill around the airport terminal until clearance and release into their custody of the corpse of a loved one. The office set-up now offers decency to the deceased and respect and honour to those receiving the body for interment. With SIP, the bereaved family now has access to two air tickets, a vehicle and a fully furnished apartment to use for seven days.

Nyaradzo seeks to become an integrated financial services group providing comprehensive financial services products over and above the products and services we currently provide. In that regard, we are pleased to announce the incorporation of Nyaradzo Asset Management and in the next few months we will be knocking at your doors for investment funds to broaden your options and horizons. We will pursue the double-edged sword of maximisation of return and security of investment by investing in robust assets.

In addition, we applied for and got licensed to operate a bureau de change. As the year ended, we had opened bureaux de change at our Head Office (20 Park Street), Robert Gabriel Mugabe Airport offices, Jason Moyo Branch in Bulawayo, Beitbridge and Victoria Falls service centres.

As we work round the clock to have a global presence, renovations at our service centre in England are progressing well and should be ready by mid-year 2020. We will continue to explore ways of expanding our regional presence after maiden regional operations in South Africa two years ago. We have set sights on Namibia and Malawi.

Eureka Insurance Brokers increased its market share during the year with a robust performance and will continue providing personalised risk management services to the insuring public.

Calundike Exports benefited immensely from recapitalisation and retooling during the dollarised environment. With the new machinery they have, transformation from a coffin and casket manufacturing outfit to a fully-fledged all-wood products manufacturer was made easier. The quality of furniture products continues to improve.

In 2020, Sahwira Events will push camping as a special family activity. Sahwira Events will encourage families to embrace camping as a driver for family cohesion, bonding and lasting memories.

Ten years ago we started walking for the environment, planting trees and establishing tree seedling nurseries. We invited many corporates to be part of the movement called Friends of the Environment (FOTE) with a target to plant 500 million trees by 2026. We are pleased to advise that a lot of progress has been made and the 500 million trees target is achievable. A lot of our compatriots are energised and alive to the need for all of us to plant more trees.

The southern Africa region was left in tatters as Cyclone Idai ripped it apart, causing massive infrastructural and environmental damage and unmitigated loss of life. Zimbabwe was not spared of its fury.

Scientists tell us it is as a result of climate change and global warming, both of which can be delayed or reversed by planting more trees. It was gratifying to see so many of us playing our part in helping those brutalised by the furious Cyclone Idai.

Corporates, Government, NGOs, individuals and foreigners, all came together to assist the victims, giving them food, clothes, medication, counselling and shelter.

Together with Old Mutual, Nyaradzo set up two transit camps at Skyline and Ngangu to provide shelter for the displaced survivors and first responders.

The camps had sleeper beds, mega tents, lighting towers and portable toilets. Cyclone Idai exposed our preparedness in times of national disasters and how we care for each other.

The Nyaradzo family congratulates Cephas Svosve for making it onto the Rhodes Scholars list for the 2019-20 academic year. Cephas spent a year as an intern at our research and business development department. We found him to be both brilliant and engaging and it came as no surprise when he was announced among other recipients.

We continue to promote fitness and health as a core human value. In that regard, we will continue sponsorship of the Nyaradzo/HAC memorial run. The 2020 edition will be held on January 19 from Old Georgians. A healthy body is a healthy mind.

In conclusion, may I take this opportunity to thank you all for your support over the years. Our brand remains strong and we remain focused on delivering on our promises. I would like to assure you that we will continue to provide world class service standards as we have done for the past 19 years. Your trusted partner Nyaradzo Group will always be by your side, we are your Sahwira Mukuru/Umngane Omkhulu.

Source: African News Agency