Our Community Stories — Anna D’Souza
Many of you may know her as “Zapata’s wife,” I know her as my grandmother, Anna D’Souza.
This week on “Our Community Stories”, Tanzanite Toronto has the pleasure of introducing another individual that exhibits the perseverance and determination of the Goan-Tanzanian people: Anna D’Souza. In interviewing Anna D’Souza, I was fascinated to learn more about the hard-work and determination that her story reflects.
Anna Canute Lawrence was born in Mombasa, Kenya, in 1938. She was the second eldest of a family of seven children. She remembers her childhood fondly as “good times with her parents and siblings”. At the time, schooling was expensive and so Anna left Form 2 at the age of 13 in order to work and help support her family. Thus began an early start to a long, multi-faceted career.
At the age of 14, Anna showed promising talent of a skilled seamstress. Her craftsmanship was rare for young hands, but was an evident family trait considering her parents were also tailors. Anna took on more responsibilities to work when her father became ill, and she substantially supported her family when he passed away in 1957. She continued to be the primary caregiver for her family until 1959 when she married Xavier D’Souza — later known to many as Mr. Zapata.
One of my favourite stories from my grandmother is about her first date with my grandfather. At the time, Xavier was a young mechanic working long shifts at the railways in Moshi. On the evening of their first date, Xavier was running terribly late and did not have the time to change out of his oil-stained overalls. Anna was shocked to see Xavier arrive at her doorstep, in what she describes as “a worn-out pair of mechanic’s overalls” to escort her and her brother George to the movies. Nonetheless, she smiled and accepted the date. Years later, my grandfather would remark of the humble and nonjudgmental light she shone on their very first date. This story reflects the same kind-hearted spirit that has remained until this day.
Anna’s marriage to Xavier can best be described as a partnership. They were not only partners in marriage or as parents, but partners in business. Anna was Xavier’s greatest supporter and partner, and together they had an illustrious career.
From 1959 to 1969, Anna lived with Xavier in Moshi, Tanzania. During this decade she worked for the Tanganyika Coffee Board. (For our younger readers: in 1964, Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form the United Republic of Tanzania!) In 1969, Anna moved to Dar es Salaam where she and Xavier opened their own garage called Tanganyika Garage and Spray Painters.
In 1972, Anna and Xavier incorporated Zapata Spares and Services Limited. At this time, this was the largest auto parts shop in Tanzania! Anna worked as a cashier and secretary for the shop.
Anna’s entrepreneurial adventures didn’t stop there, as she dove into the fishing business in the mid 1970s, selling prawns across Tanzania. Anna’s brother Julian would drive to and from Kilwa to Dar es Salaam at 3:00 AM to fill large containers of prawns, after which Anna and the family would gather to sort them. A few hours later, Anna would drive herself to sell the prawns at local supermarkets. Then she would drive to Changombe to sell any remaining prawns. There was no doubt this woman could take on any task, large or small! And that is exactly what she did next.
In 1974, Anna and Xavier embarked into the field of tourism, launching Savannah Tours Ltd., the Tanzanite Hotel, and the Momella Lodge in Arusha. Her favourite memories of these times includes hearing buffalos roaming in the middle of the night outside her lodge room of the Momella Lodge. She says they could not leave the lodge room until early in the morning.
As her granddaughter, I am in awe of the perseverance and determination my grandmother exhibited throughout her career in Tanzania. Anna worked for 53 years in various positions at different business levels. This speaks not only to her perseverance and tenacity as a successful businesswoman, but to the open-mindedness she extends to everyone she meets and everything she does.
After the passing of her husband and business partner Xavier in 2005, Anna moved to Canada to be closer to her daughter, Ophelia, and her family. Since 2012 she has resided in Canada. Here, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her friends and family.
Anna would like to share with today’s youth the following piece of advice: “Always keep a positive attitude! Challenges will be thrown your way, but if you have faith and work hard you will achieve your goals.”