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By Staff Reporter

ONE of Zimbabwe's richest businessmen, Manilal Naran, has died aged 70.

Naran, famous for his absolute control of the parallel foreign currency market in Bulawayo died at the Mater Dei Hospital in the early houers of Thursday morning.

He was cremated later on the same day after a brief funeral service attended by Speaker of Parliament John Nkomo, his family and hundreds of people -- mainly from the city's Indian community.

Relatives said he had been suffering from pneumonia, and had been admitted at the hospital on Tuesday last week. The state-run Chronicle newspaper said he also suffered a heart disease.

“We were together Wednesday. The whole family visited him in hospital and we talked, joked and laughed. We left the hospital at 8pm and he was in a good mood, but within 30 minutes we were called back," said his son Dinesh.

“It just took 30 minutes and that was it. When we got back he was on a breathing machine and we thought he would fight, but he didn’t. We stayed with him for a long time and my elder brother was with him until he died at 4:30am. It’s a sad loss.

“My dad was most honourable. He was the most loving father that anybody could have in this world. He was held in high esteem by many people and the family is proud of the contribution he made during the war of liberation and in building the nation.

Speaker of Parliament John Nkomo told the mourners: “I have known him for 50 years and it was with a heavy heart and great sadness that I learnt of his death. He was a man of the people, he loved people and he did not choose whom he associated with on ethnic lines.

“We were close friends, his mother and my mother had become friends and more like sisters. I saw his children grow and I treat them as my own children.

“To the Naran family and Indian community, your loss is our loss. And to Manilal, I say so long my brother.”

Naran was closely connected with the country's top politicians, notably the late Vice President Dr Joshua Nkomo. He was respected for supporting the country's struggle for independence.

However, his business empire was dogged by allegations of money laundering. He was reputed to be the heart beat of the thriving parallel market in Bulawayo, mainly the foreign currency exchange.

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