Building Black Philanthropy

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(If Black people build their own foundations, we wouldn’t need to apply for Rhodes Scholarship, named after the colonial land thief Cecile Rhodes).

When Zimbabwe's renowned eye specialist and surgeon Dr. Solomon Guramatunhu said “Rhodes is still alive” at the inaugural dinner of the Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences, I got a little puzzled and wondered what the good doctor was up to.

As the MC at this special event, Dr. Guramatunhu wanted to drive one message across. That Cecil John Rhodes, even though the architect of Zimbabwe's colonization, his legacy is still there for us to see in the form of the Rhodes Scholarship fund. This scholarship has benefited and continues to benefit a number of Black students despite the legacy of the man it was named after.

I know that this inspiration came out of the need to see Blacks re-organizing themselves and demonstrating the power of philanthropy outside their conventional bounds of burial societies, the church, the Black extended family system and other ties that showed the traditions of philanthropy in the Black community. 

He wanted Blacks to build their own Black community philanthropic foundations that would provide free or low cost direct services to the needy, the weak and the less able who needed certain services but could not afford them.

It’s not that Blacks don't give. We have a good tradition of giving. We have been known to pool funds for family reunions, funerals, weddings, education for the less fortunate members of our extended families; to donate clothes, food and money through the church to the needy and less able members of our community.

The issue really is, does the new breed of billionaires in Zimbabwe that we see driving the latest state-of-the-art Humvees, Mercedes, BMWs and living in the lap of luxury in the leafy suburbs of Borrowdale, Borrowdale Brook, Matsheumhlope, Glen Lorne and the Grange know about their role in building Black philanthropic organization that can help the poor in their midst?

Times change and Blacks have to repackage their art of giving by building philanthropic foundations that determine the community needs and responds more appropriately to them. All along, the oldest foundations running various charitable programs were predominantly established by whites – the Rhodes Scholarship, Chavening scholarships, numerous memorial funds established in honor of prominent white heroes like Winston Churchill, Allan Wilson, Thomas Bains, Queen Elizabeth and the royal family and others named after historically significant personalities.

The Black community has a lesser known but just as long history of giving which had not scaled up significantly to build philanthropic foundations which carry the legacy of its own Black heroes who did more to help improve their lot.
Dr. Guramatunhu's thoughts illuminated again in my mind when the University of Zimbabwe last week launched the AR Matambo Scholarship Fund which will provide financial and material support to less fortunate students who may wish to pursue studies in educational psychology. The fund was established by the Matambo family to honor their father, Professor Alec Ray Matambo who died in July this year after battling cancer for a number of years.

"As his children we decided to create a lasting memory, a legacy if you will, that would ensure that his name and his ideals live on," said Dr. Josh Matambo, a specialist obstetrician and gynecologist and son of the late Prof. Matambo.
"Not only did he teach at this institution with the Educational Foundations Department, but he also taught us, his family to love to learn. Education was his lifelong goal. We therefore decided that the most fitting tribute would be to launch a scholarship fund that would enable less fortunate students to study without the concerns of financial difficulties," he said.

A total of R300, 000 had so far been raised by the family as a fund for the scholarship which will be awarded annually to two students studying for the MSc in educational psychology at the University Of Zimbabwe. This will cover tuition, books, living expenses and a study research trip to either South Africa or Europe if required. The Matambo family also donated their late father's academic books to the UZ education department library.

The scholarship would be administered by the Matambo family and trustees who include Prof. Fred Zindi and the head of the UZ Educational Foundations. "Dr. Alec Ray Matambo was a great friend and supporter of education in Zimbabwe. He was a dynamic leader in the advancement of educational psychology in this country," Prof Zindi said. Prof. Matambo passed away on July 24 this year in Durban in South Africa. He is survived by his wife, Margaret and seven children. The AR Matambo foundation is a major milestone in the history of Black philanthropy in Zimbabwe.

It points to a pressing need to build more Black philanthropic foundations given the growing number of a new generation of billionaires in Zimbabwe who are seizing real power in the world of business.

Tsiko is The Black Star News' Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare.

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