Kwesé TV: It’s pointless for the poor to side with either Strive Masiyiwa or the Government
By Lenin Tinashe Chisaira
There may be a thousand and one neo-liberal reasons to sympathise with one of Zimbabwe’s richest men, Strive Masiyiwa over the furore around his Kwesé TV, talk of right to property, patriotism etc. But please, job creation, labour rights, free expression, media freedom and benefits to poor Zimbabweans are not among the reasons.
Let the elites (Masiyiwa and his fellow exploitative and rich government elites fight it out) fight it out among themselves and tear at each other’s guts. I had a chat with a female friend of mine who had to send her two kids to the farms after her contract, without consultation, was downgraded to ‘volunteer’ status without even the courtesy of consultation from Masiyiwa’s Steward Bank.
Strive Masiyiwa took over a staggering TN Bank in 2013. TN Bank had 24 branches throughout the country. The only innovative thing Masiyiwa did was to rename it Steward Bank and to retrench workers extensively, closing over 60% of the branches.
The Board Chair of the bank became Bernard Chidzero, the son of the late neo-liberal Finance Minister Bernard Chidzero. Masiyiwa and his cronies are currently presiding over the most exploited bank workers in the country. The Zimbabwe Bank and Allied Workers Union (ZIBAWU) and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) can testify from painful experiences.
Strive Masiyiwa’s key business Econet thrives on extortionate service charges on one of the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Much money comes from airtime vendors who remain the poorest informal sector workers and all they get are worn out low-quality bibs that advertise Econet.
At one time Econet ruthlessly admonished those Ecocash agents who were trying to raise their meagre income by also doing Telecash services.
Strive Masiyiwa and the government are not the part of the solution, but the problem. Much media means freedom of expression and of the media right. Masiyiwa and his colleagues do not share that view. In 2015 he sent his thugs to manhandle journalists at the offices of The Source newspaper in Harare, confiscating computers after they wrote an investigative article exposing the shenanigans at his businesses.
This was only once the preserve of government which had its POSA and AIPPA legislations. But now it was a private citizen, a philanthropist who was thuggishly forcing journalist to reveal their sources! Let him build offices in a fellow capitalist thug’s country, where the richest man in the country is President and whose workers are among the most exploited and ruthlessly managed in Africa.
It’s infantile (apologies to infants) to expect that Masiyiwa will suddenly be a benevolent capitalist just because he gets a licence for Kwesé TV and gets an opportunity to feed neo-liberal propaganda on our suffering people. It is only the naive who can close ranks with either capitalist Masiyiwa or the capitalist government in such a time. Let them butcher each other out while we watch.
We need a bold new alternative system for the protection of our media rights, labour rights and the sharing of profits amongst the majority of our peoples in Zimbabwe and Africa. Strive Masiyiwa and the government are not the part of the solution, but the problem.
(Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is an activist, socialist, writer and lawyer based in Harare. He blogs at www.cdetinashe.blogspot.com and www.africafightnow.org and tweets at @LeninChisaira)