The year 2019 started with a lot of promise. The nation had hope, we all had dreams, who wouldn’t have hopes and dreams. We had had what one would call textbook elections in July 2018. We identified corruption as one of many problems we have to deal with as a country. We said Zimbabwe was open for business, a mantra which resonated with us all. We have had years of economic stagnation and negative growth, sad, for a country so richly endowed with natural resources and human resource talent like ours. Twelve months down the road we realise that we are in a more uncomfortable place than when we started the year. Fuel prices have gone up fifteen times, the general cost of living is up multiple times, spares for our buses and hearses are more expensive than when we started the year that is if they are available. 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. All of this is due to the shortage of foreign currency and the pricing of it. In short, the last twelve months have been a nightmare. Our staff, tools and equipment have been stretched to the limit due to the increase in the number of deaths.
In response to the general increase in costs, we increased our premiums twice during the year which is unprecedented. For the last ten years our premiums have been the same. There wasn’t any need of increasing them because we operated in a stable macro-economic environment. Our customers became accustomed to the Nyaradzo service standard which they 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. Our two premium increases during the year were below the threshold of what was recommended by the actuaries. We know that 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. We know that 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 hyper-inflationary period ending with dollarisation in 2009, we carried our customers through a very difficult patch again. As soon as we dollarised, we adjusted our premiums to match the cost of service provision resulting in the business recovering lost ground. It is our hope that this phase will come to pass and we go back to business as usual again sooner rather than later. Our country needs to work again.
We look to the year 2020 with the hope that it will bring good fortunes. In spite of the challenges we faced in 2019, as an organisation, we are happy with the massive support we got from our customers. We know the sacrifices our clients make to keep their policies alive so they can give their loved ones a decent send off in times of bereavement. By not implementing the full cost recovery premium as recommended by the actuaries, we made our own sacrifice as an organisation on the basis that organisations can recover losses made over time once the economic situation returns to normal. It is our wish that not one of our customers falls by the wayside because they cannot afford the premiums for we believe things can only get better in the coming years, for no bad day lasts forever. The economic fundamentals we are told are falling in place one day after another as new companies are opening.
The country has been receiving good early rains which is good for our agro-based economy and for the first time in years we have more farmers on the land. We need to work the land so we can be food secure as a nation. When we produce more, we can even export some. The government has commissioned more dams to support our agro-based economy. We hear production on the mines is going up. We recently launched the 12 billion dollar mining sector revenue by 2023 which is exciting. We look forward to more tourist arrivals as new tourist attractions are being explored.
Despite all the many challenges we faced, Nyaradzo remained 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 the new economy to manifest, which is why we took the decision to take a haircut on our premium increase.
At the beginning of 2019 we set out to have a one stop-shop workshop with enough parking for all our buses and light motor vehicles. We ended the year having acquired the former Stuttafords warehouse on Simon Mazorodze Road which we converted to 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 us purchasing a property also on Simon Mazorodze Road.
Having acquired this Premier site, we worked round the clock to have it reconfigured into a fully-fledged events management hub during the year, which we did successfully. 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 reveling customers as state of the art tools and equipment will be dispatched on time. After all, it is this one life we must celebrate, in death and in life.
After launching the very popular Sahwira International Plan (SIP) for those of our countrymen and women in the diaspora, we sought to create a seamless service from their country of residence to when they arrive at home. In that regard we applied for and got offices by the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport. Many thanks to the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe for allowing us use of this premier site. In typical Nyaradzo fashion, we went on to have the offices tastefully refurbished for the convenience of our customers. Before we had these premises, customers would mill around the airport terminal until clearance and release into their custody of the human remains of a loved one whose death happened in faraway lands, after weeks of waiting and mourning. With this office setup, we will be able to give decency to the deceased and respect and honour to the living who no longer have to be in the sun or rain as they receive for interment, the remains of a loved one. With SIP, a bereaved family now has access to two air tickets, a vehicle to use for seven days on arrival and a fully furnished apartment, also for seven days for their convenience.
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 that we have incorporated Nyaradzo Asset Management. In the next few months, we will come knocking at your door looking for investment funds so we can broaden your investment options and horizons. We will pursue the double edged sword of maximisation of return and security of investment by choosing to invest in robust assets.
In addition, we applied for and got licensed to operate a Bureau de Change. By the end of the year we had opened Bureau de Changes at some of our service centres which are at, Head Office on 20 Park Street, Robert Gabriel Mugabe Airport offices, Jason Moyo Branch in Bulawayo, Beit Bridge and Victoria Falls service centres. We will continue to look at additional possible sites within our countrywide branch network and keep you posted on developments.
We will continue to work round the clock to have a global presence. In that regard renovations to our service centre in England are progressing well. The facility should be ready to provide services by mid-year 2020, helping deliver a seamless repatriation service to our clients who may pass on in the United Kingdom.
We will continue to explore ways of expanding our regional presence after our maiden regional operations opened in South Africa two years ago. We have set sights on Namibia and Malawi using different entry strategies. In time we shall be able to give you more details about our prospects in those two markets.
Eureka Insurance Brokers increased their market share during the year with a robust performance. They will continue to provide 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 only manufacturing outfit to a fully-fledged all wood products manufacturer was made easier. The quality of furniture they produce continues to improve significantly.
In 2020, Sahwira Events will push camping as a special family activity. Technology has taken our children away from activities that promote cohesion such as group discussions, non-electronic games and physical activities. While computer games are good for the mind and its growth, there are many more options to enhance mind development including group discussions and interactive games. 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. We established tree seedling nurseries and started planting trees. We invited many corporates to be part of an environmental movement which we called Friends of the Environment. We set a target of 500 million trees to be planted by 2026. We are pleased to advise that we have made a lot of progress and we believe our 500 million trees target is achievable. A lot of our compatriots are energised and are alive to the need for all of us to plant more trees.
The region was taken by surprise when cyclone Idai arrived causing massive damage and unmitigated loss of life. Zimbabwe was not spared from the deadly effects of it. Scientists tell us it is as a result of climate change and global warming both of which can be delayed, even reversed by planting more trees .We will broaden the scope and deepen our partnership with all corporates and (like minded) people of good will so as to plant more trees and meet our target.
It was gratifying to see so many of us play our part in helping our compatriots brutalised by the effects of cyclone Idai. Corporates, government, non-governmental organisations, individuals, foreigners, we all came together to stand by those affected, to give them food, clothes, shelter, most of all to give them warmth and an embrace of love that said the pain suffered by one is pain suffered by all. Econet, was there, Old Mutual was there so were Women with dreams and Shelter Zimbabwe, Nyaradzo was there also, so were many individuals.
Together with Old Mutual, we set up two transit camps at Skyline and Ngangu to provide shelter for the displaced survivors of the cyclone as well as for other first responders such as the security services, health services and non-governmental organisations. The camps had sleeper beds, mega tents, lighting towers as well as portable toilets. Cyclone Idai exposed our preparedness in times of national disasters, it also showed that we do care for each other.
The Nyaradzo family congratulates Cephas Svosve on making it onto the Rhodes Scholars list for the 2019/2020 academic year. Cephas spent a year as an intern in our research and business development department. We found him to be both brilliant and engaging and it came as no surprise to us when selection results were announced and he was among the recipients. We wish Cephas well together with other 2019/2020 Rhodes Scholars.
We continue to promote fitness and health as a core human value. In that regard, we will continue sponsorship of our Nyaradzo/HAC memorial run. The 2020 edition will be held on the 19th of January from Old Georgians. A healthy body is a healthy mind.
The festive season is upon us once again. Historically, it is a time when traffic volumes on our roads increase as families travel from far and wide just so they can get together at this momentous time to reflect and share in the blessings and good fortunes bestowed on them by their creator as well as to confide in close members of the family their hopes, dreams and aspirations for the coming year. Journey mercies to all those who shall be travelling and please do travel by day. “Fambai kwakachena / Hambani kusakhanya”.
In conclusion, may I take this opportunity to thank you all for your support in the years gone by. 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 nineteen years. Your trusted partner Nyaradzo Group will always be by your side, we are your Sahwira Mukuru / Umngane Omkhulu.
I wish you all, a Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.
Chief Executive Officer