From rags to riches.
The adage perfectly sums up Itai Gombakomba (46)’s life.
He has been a punter for four years with very little luck, but in a sudden turn of fate, he became an instant millionaire after winning the Africa Lotto jackpot prize of $1 million.
His was the biggest lottery winner from Mutare since 2010. And he could not hide his joy as he received the huge cheque on Thursday.
That cheque is his ticket to a better life for him, his wife and their four children.
Life as they know it is about to change.
A security guard working at a local company in Nyakamete industrial area in Mutare, Gombakomba says he has always had the hope that one day he would win. But never in his imagination did he dare to dream of winning a million dollars.
“It has been four years since I started playing Africa Lotto, but I only got my first win of $1 120 in July. I realised that I could win again if I kept on playing. On September 26 I bought a ticket at Meikles Park which had 5 correct numbers. When I went to Spar Mutare with my ticket, they told me that I had won more than I thought but I didn’t believe them,” he said.
He could not believe that he had really won, so he went home and kept the news to himself. He did not tell even his wife that he had bought a winning ticket.
Only after he had received a message from Africa Lotto on his winnings and the date he would be receiving the cheque, did he finally tell his wife.
That was two days ago.
Gombakomba’s wife, Nyarai Nyamaropa said: “I used to see him playing this game and I would reprimand him that he was wasting money when nothing good would come from his betting. He ended up doing it secretly so that I wouldn’t see it. I was shocked to hear him tell me that he had won $1 million. I now see that I should not have questioned him, but supported him, it has paid off big for us.
For the two of them, the number one priority is buying a stand and building a home for their small family.
They want to move from their humble lodgings as soon as they possibly can.
Once that is done, Gombakomba hopes to revive some income generating projects that he had to let go because he could not afford to finance them.
“Investment is the way to go. I have projects that I had abandoned because of lack of funds like the chicken rearing project which I had to stop sometime back. My father-in-law also gave me a small plot in Nyanga to grow potatoes, but I did not have the capacity to start that project. So that is the first project I will embark on,” he said.
This season, he says, he will definitely be growing potatoes, which he hopes will give him more income.
Africa Lotto general manager Nozipho Dube said more than 100 people had won jackpot promotions run by the organisation since 2010.
“This year, we started the ‘Jackpot must go’ promotion where we are saying someone should win $1 million. For the month of September we said if there was no ticket with six correct numbers, then the prize money would go to the next lower level and this is how Gombakomba won with five correct numbers. We have had a number of winners over the years but this is the first big one in Mutare and we hope it debunks the perception that no one ever wins the lottery. This is proof that the ordinary people can win this,” she said.
While winning such a huge amount can change people’s lifestyles, Gombakomba says he has no plans to start being extravagant.
He has firmly set values when it comes to family. He believes family will always come first and he will not be turning his back on them just because he now has a bit of money.
“I have friends, but I will not start splashing my money on them. If you start doing that before looking after the family, you would have lost the plot. God does not give you riches so that you can please friends. You take care of your family. Friends will be there for a while but family will always be here. Life should not change because you now have money. Your life and the way you interact with people should be constant regardless of how rich or poor you are. Once you start distancing yourself, you are lost. When the money finishes, who will you look to? You will only have your family,” he said.
Gombakomba will also not be leaving his job as a security guard because his fortunes have turned.
He said one has to be firmly set up in business before leaving employment.
“I will not be leaving work because people make the mistake of thinking the jackpot money will always be there. Instead you need to set something up for your family and when that is running and bringing in more money, only then can you can you consider it,” he said.
So for now, he remains a security guard worth a million dollars.