Kuda Bhejana: Strive Masiyiwa, the economic despot from Zimbabwe
By Kuda Bhejana
Strive Masiyiwa is an inspiration to a lot of Zimbabweans, young Zimbabweans especially. He used to be my inspiration too, until I grew up and started thinking for myself. That’s when I concluded he’s an unhinged capitalist enriching himself by preying on suffering Zimbabweans, just like our false prophets.
Before my awakening, whenever I thought what it would take to “change” things in Zimbabwe, Strive Masiyiwa would be one of those men I would imagine one-day announcing that he has been observing the suffering of Zimbabweans and has decided to deploy resources to bring change, to come home and run for President of Zimbabwe. Far from it! I fantasized too much!
Strive Masiyiwa will never run for office in Zimbabwe. In fact, he will never “come back.” If he will, it will be after all of us have died liberating Zimbabwe from Zanu-PF’s tyranny, and he will come to open another big company. Or to fight in court, when we deny him an operating license.
Imagine Masiyiwa in Jesus’s parable of the good Samaritan. Which of those men would he be?
Actually, I think of Strive as the prodigal son. I know this is an uneven analogy. Only so because Masiyiwa is a prodigal son who never returns.
Strive took all the wealth Zimbabwe could give to a smart entrepreneur like him and went away. In fact, he is still taking wealth from Zimbabwe. And he is being merry with the Obamas and the Richard Bransons in America and the UK there, whilst Zimbabweans suffocate under the Econet telecoms monopoly.
Quite a behemoth is Econet, and deservedly the biggest tax payer to Mugabe’s Zanu-PF government! Congratulations, Mr. Masiyiwa.
Oh, Dr. Masiyiwa I should say! He got an honorary degree from Morehouse College in the United States of America, for his “service” to Zimbabwe!
I know that Dr. Masiyiwa sends a lot of Zimbabwean children to school through the Higher Life Foundation managed by his wife, and other initiatives such as the Capernaum Trust. All that is noble work, but I firmly believe that to whom much is given, much is also expected.
Dr. Masiyiwa has reached a level of corporate achievement that makes giving scholarships to a few kids not enough; especially considering that much of his wealth comes from profits from his Zimbabwean businesses. The best he can offer his country is statesmanship.
Charging Zimbabweans exorbitantly for services that can be rendered cheaper, staying in self-imposed exile and never saying a word about the deteriorating economic and political situation in Zimbabwe portrays Masiyiwa as a man concerned with money-making only, regardless of where the money comes from – even the poorest of his countrymen whose problems he has resources to solve.
One wouldn’t really comment Strive Masiyiwa for starting Econet Wireless in Zimbabwe. I say this because I have observed how he speaks glowingly of the establishment of his company in Zimbabwe bringing mobile telecoms service to “more than 75% Africans who at that time had never heard a cellphone ring.”
Econet Wireless or not, the Zimbabwean telecommunications market was going to be established.
Exorbitant Data Costs Stifling Employment Creation and Entrepreneurism in Zimbabwe
Business is not a mere charity and Econet is a profit making corporation, anyways!
But the point is that Econet has been making too much profit. For an example, the data and calling charges are exorbitant! In well-established markets such as Europe and America, people pay much less to call and access the internet. For $35 dollars/ month you buy unlimited calling airtime and 2GB of data in the United States.
Internet access has become so indispensable in the 21st century information age. The development of nations has become inextricably tied to access to information.
By charging very high for data, Econet is making it impossible for our young people to be exposed to the information they need to learn and access opportunities.
Internet entrepreneurship is impossible in Zimbabwe because airtime and data are very expensive. E-commerce, e-learning, digital marketing, social media, Internet-of-Things (IoT), entertainment; all these are new industries that have not yet emerged in Zimbabwe because of high data charges.
We cannot access information or create new internet-oriented ventures because data is expensive. The Zimbabwean economy cannot diversify to become an internet powered economy because of money-hungry entrepreneurs like Strive Masiyiwa.
Econet Wireless’ monopoly of the telecommunications industry in Zimbabwe is stifling economic expansion.
Passivity to Oppression of Zimbabweans
In the aftermath of the 2008 presidential elections, Zimbabwe experienced gross human rights violations. People were butchered, and killed for voting for the opposition. But when Masiyiwa speaks about 2008 in Zimbabwe he only focuses on the economic challenges – how Econet navigated the hyperinflation era, and still managed to make profits.
He completely gives a blind eye to the suffering of Zimbabweans. He ignores the deep fractures in the soul of his nation of birth, whilst caring a lot about the viability of his businesses here. In fact, Strive keeps forming more and more companies in Zimbabwe because he has the capital to do so.
Then he talks about his zero-tolerance for corruption in Econet Wireless. What irony! What contradictions! So he cares about corruption at Econet, and not in Zimbabwe as a whole?
Does he disdain for corruption in principle or only as it doesn’t affect the reputation of his businesses? But Econet is the biggest taxpayer to the corrupt Zanu-PF government. So, is Masiyiwa not overtly participating in sponsoring corruption?
And if he really wanted to leave Zimbabwe, and never come back, why didn’t he leave with his businesses? If Zimbabwe is a bad place for Masiyiwa, why is it still a good place for his businesses?
A patriotic Zimbabwean would have voiced against the evil Zanu-PF regime and lost his business in Zimbabwe whilst still actively financing the project for change from outside sources. Then the exile would be legitimate and truly justified, wouldn’t it?
If Masiyiwa doesn’t want to enter the political fray, why doesn’t he graduate as an entrepreneur and become an investor in Zimbabwe?
He knows the Zimbabwean market in and out. He could use that knowledge to mentor and finance young Zimbabwean entrepreneurs to start industry-creating ventures in Zimbabwe. And he wouldn’t do this for charity – he would still have stock in the ventures that he invests in.
Not Masiyiwa. In fact, whenever he can, he has been taking those opportunities for himself. But he is not inventing anything new. Because he has the capital he can afford to bring globalization to Zimbabwe in bits and pieces for his own profit, without scouting for young Zimbabweans who many have industry-creating ideas.
Strive Masiyiwa doesn’t want to be political. He doesn’t want to invest. He doesn’t want to come home. All he wants is to continue creating very expensive products, which Zimbabweans have no option but to consume anyways. And he enjoys and invests the profits elsewhere.
Mr. Masiyiwa, your Facebook Page is not inspiration enough. It’s like rubbing margarine on a hungry kid’s chapped lips. Jesus said where your treasure is, there your heart is also. Since your treasure is not in Zimbabwe, and you are not in Zimbabwe too – I am assuming you don’t care about Zimbabwe. All you care about is your company which is fleecing ordinary Zimbabweans to give you the comfort you have.
Zimbabwe is ruled by two men: Strive Masiyiwa and Robert Mugabe. God free us from both.