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Dr Charles Kangai: What can be done to improve Zimbabwe

By Dr Charles Kangai

My name is Charles Kangai, Dr Charles Kangai. I have a Ph.D. in Theoretical and Computational Physics awarded by the University of Bristol, and an M.A. in Physics and Theoretical Physics from the University of Cambridge.

Dr Charles Kangai
Dr Charles Kangai

I have taught modern technology all over the world over the last twenty years, from Seattle in the west to Shanghai and Tokyo in the east, from Stockholm in the north to Johannesburg in the south.

I have taught technology at all types of institutions: investment banks, military, government, international organisations, research institutions, software companies, telecommunications, insurance, you name it. I have a wide experience of most sectors and audiences. I have worked for large tech giants like Microsoft, Vodafone and others.

My brother Reward is founder of NetOne. Our father, Thomas Kangai, is a well known retired headmaster in Buhera and is older brother to Kumbirai Kangai, the late minister and early member of Dare re Chimurenga, and to Tirivafi John Kangai the late ambassador.

My father’s school, Muzirikazi, near Muzokomba Business Centre was the first school in 1966 to win the prestigious Secretary Bell for educational excellence in Manicaland Province under his headmastership. I was born at Nharira, Mashonaland East, where my mother’s family comes from.

Our mother, Pinky Maridzo Mangwende, is daughter of Nathaniel Maridzo Mangwende, who was a teacher and preacher who contributed to the translation of the first Shona bible. Our family are descendants of the Chief Mutasa lineage.

For reasons of power struggles amongst brothers, my great-great grandfather ended up in Buhera, where he took shelter under Chief Nyashanu and was given his own kraal (bhuku) after serving the chief. My great grandfather Kangai walked the whole length and breadth of Buhera and divided it into parishes (madunhu), and those land divisions stand to this day.

My brother Reward travelled all over Zimbabwe and climbed most of the mountains in the country assessing suitable places to build base stations in order to provide Zimbabweans with mobile telecommunications. I consider myself a true blue-blood Zimbabwean. My family are well-known for the service they have given to Zimbabwe, both nationally and at local level.

I wish to make my views known about what has happened to our beautiful motherland over the last 38 years. I went to school in Zimbabwe at St Augustine’s during the time of Ian Smith and therefore can compare life then in Zimbabwe with life now. I was a school contemporary of such eminent public figures as Thomas Bvuma, Charles Kuwaza, Paddington Garwe, Chris Mutsvangwa, Eric Matinenga and many others. What has happened in Zimbabwe since independence is a tragic disaster.

If Zimbabwe had stayed on the same economic trajectory as it was before independence, it would now be as developed as any small western European country like Belgium or Netherlands. Instead, what I see whenever I visit Zimbabwe is the equivalent of a once beautiful orchard that has been overrun by a herd of bull elephants. The country is a wreckage compared to what it once was, and it looks like a place run by a bunch of buffoons. Do we Zimbabweans not have any pride?

A tiny country like Singapore which too was once colonised has progressed in leaps and bounds and now sells even cars to Europe. By contrast Zimbabwe is now a consumer society that sells its soil in the form of minerals to buy basics, even clothes (hembe chaidzo!).

Are Zimbabweans not embarrassed to see their president standing with other heads of state who are all wearing clothes made in their own countries, while everything the Zimbabwean president is wearing, from underpants to tie, is made in other countries? Where is the independence in that? Mahatma Gandhi preferred to wear loin cloth (mukofo) rather than wear imported clothes from other countries. Look where India is now, even though it was a colony for close to 300 years. Indian companies have now bought British iconic companies like Rover, Leyland.

The last 38 years was a dictatorship, and I welcome the “coup” that took place last November 2017. By any standards, the last leader was a dictator even though he liked to think of himself as a revolutionary. What kind of revolutionary lives in a blue roofed house where all the material is imported as if his own country is not good enough? What kind of revolutionary sends his daughter to a foreign country halfway across the world to give birth, and then again to have the baby weighed!?

And to add insult to injury, all these trips were paid for by state funds, while all over the country hospitals and clinics lack the funds to buy medicines to treat sick children and the old, and the country infrastructure is battered and broken! The dictionary definition of dictator is (I googled it): “a ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has obtained control by force”, or “a person who behaves in an autocratic way”. The last president was a dictator.

He declared at the 2008 election that he would not let the pen [vote] rule over the gun, so he is lying when he says “we always prided ourselves in our democracy”. He did not tolerate a different opinion. If anyone disagreed with him he would say “Pasi newe!” (down with you!) and you were finished, because those around him would also say “Pasi newe!” out of fear.

His own deputy had to flee for his life in November 2017 because he simply voiced concern that proper rules were not being followed in preparing the next leader when it became clear that the dictator wanted to hand over the presidency to his own wife. He got my uncle Kumbirai Kangai arrested for corruption he did not commit, while he himself as president amassed untold wealth, grabbing money from the Reserve Bank every time he went on his many needless trips abroad, including a conference on oceans when Zimbabwe is a landlocked country.

I know my uncle did not steal any money because I questioned him closely and his answer was “If I had done it I would have told you that I was trying to help the family but got caught”. Myself and Susan Mazaiwana had to pay his bail as he had no money and yet was accused of stealing some 6 million dollars. The dictator just wanted him out of the way. It was political.

Many real thieves thrived under the dictator, and he did not get them arrested. My brother Reward stopped some other well-known corrupt minister from grabbing NetOne land. Maybe these corrupt ministers were not arrested because they were sharing the proceeds of their corruption with the dictator?

The ex-president behaved as if Zimbabwe was the property of himself and his family. He had no regard for the constitution or the law. Under such circumstances whereby anyone putting forward a motion of dissent in parliament would have been dealt with harshly and eliminated, the army did the right thing in taking over power. I hear rumours that even the top general of Zimbabwe Defence Forces was himself being targeted for assassination. There are YouTube videos showing the dictator’s sons pouring champagne over Rolex watches.

Professors can argue that what happened in November was unconstitutional, but there was no constitutional way to remove an unconstitutionally behaving president with absolute power, whose methods were intimidation and division. Each day he did nothing useful, except looking forward to his next trip overseas. The CIO sent him files of their findings in relation to the corrupt minister who was harassing my brother at NetOne and he merely shelved those files.

Zimbabwe had become his money pot that he milked to spend in other people’s countries. He had become like King Charles I of England who, as history children know, believed in the Divine Right of Kings, and had to be beheaded in 1649. The ex- president is lucky to have escaped the fate of Charles I, Colonel Gadaffi, Saddam Hussein or his friend Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania.

Now that the terrible dictator who wrecked our once beautiful country and brutalised and divided the good people of Zimbabwe is gone, I would like Zimbabweans to start thinking differently and unite. The law of the country should be supreme. No one should be above the law. My brother Reward was arrested after blowing the whistle on a minister who was and is still openly stealing public money.

I know my brother well and he will not take a cent that does not belong to him. Our parents and grandparents handled public money and we learned at an early age never to touch public money. Even if my brother was starving and you left him to hold your $10 he would not use it. I have myself had difficulty getting him to accept my offer of help to pay his legal bills.

The thieving minister has still not been arrested. These things should not happen if you don’t want our country to be called a banana republic. Stealing public money is a shameful thing. It’s like the rogue who drinks the baby’s milk. He may be wearing a tie and a suit but really he is lower than a cockroach.

In Britain and in other developed countries the lowest type of person is a paedophile. In prison such a person has to be kept apart from other prisoners as otherwise he would be attacked or even killed. In Africa we should learn to regard corrupt government officials in the same way. They are the lowest of the low. They are scumbags who should be spat at. They keep Africa backwards and are the reason why Africans are despised all over the world, because nothing good is ever contributed from Africa.

We should not be impressed by someone who lives in a palace or drives a flashy car. It’s most likely his wealth is a product of theft. The real great people in history, like Jesus or Mahatma Gandhi or Buddha did not have property. In fact they left property to live a higher principled life of service and self-sacrifice. If you look around you will see that typically excessively luxurious living and high thinking do not go together. If you go to Oxford or Cambridge, you will find that even professors with the finest minds who win Nobel Prizes and create the knowledge that has advanced the world, even they move around on bicycles, not Rolls Royces or Mercedes Benz cars. It’s a case of “simple living, high thinking”.

We should be a country that has ethical standards. Having a chain of degrees is not a sign of education or culture. It merely means you are lettered. I read of professors in our country Zimbabwe who stole public money, or people with Ph.D. degrees (dubious Ph.D. degrees, granted) who ran gangs of elephant poaching. There was a president there who was reputed to have a chain of degrees, yet he wrecked the country and was a dictator, divided people and got people killed.

He did very little useful but used his English knowledge to bad mouth other people and to say nasty uncivil things. Some of these so-called educated people keep Oxford dictionaries to look up words with which to insult other people. An O level student would run the country better than these people. So much for so-called educated people.

Those people in power should forget about making themselves rich or driving expensive cars. What is the use of living in a blue roofed house that was bought with stolen money? You can say it was not stolen, I was given, but no country or company gives anything for nothing. They must have been given something more than the value of the house and therefore it was a bribe. It is stolen property only.

If it was really given then it should be passed on to the country that the government official is working for. If I make a technological advancement while working for a company, the intellectual property and the trade mark are not mine. They belong to the company that employs me.

So it should be with government officials who get given so-called gifts. At school we used to laugh at chiefs who were bought with sugar, bread and glass mirrors by the likes of Cecil Rhodes.  Unfortunately many of our leaders are still of that mindset. Only now they get purchased with offshore accounts and other gifts. The principle is still the same.

You go on expensive shopping trips to London or Paris and the shopkeepers say “Sir, Your Excellency” or “Madam” only to flatter you in order to get your money, but really they think you are a fool. When you have left the shop they laugh at you, your actions, and they mimic your slow and heavily accented way of speaking English and make fun of you.

I know because I have lived in western countries for over 40 years. It is better if you just stay kumusha at Zwimba or wherever and wear your loin cloth rather than go to other people’s countries to be laughed at. Even the Chinese secretly laugh at you, what an idiot and robber you are.

The people who bribe you themselves despise you for selling your soul for money like that. Notice that when they bribe you they are making a gain for their country, while you are taking away from your country. That is why they don’t respect you.

Do you think they respect a president whose country has a GDP less than that of a single British department store and has to go shopping to other people’s countries? You can deliver your speech at a heads of state conference but it doesn’t count anything to them. What you say is not even reported in their newspapers. They despise you but just keep quiet.

Nearly 30 years ago I was sent by my company to give a presentation to a board of directors at Lonrho Company headquarters in the city of London. The late Tiny Rowland was chairman at that time. When I arrived the man who received me said they could not have the meeting on that day as the boss, Tiny Rowland, was playing mind games with and manipulating an African president in his office.

So, that’s what they think of so-called “His Excellency” people. Tiny Roland himself is on record as saying “These Africans are incredibly corrupt. I can buy any of them”. You see! If you are a true Zimbabwean and have some self-respect, you should not be wanting the whole world to despise you like this. Avoid corruption!

Another thing that we Zimbabweans should be is self-reliant. Why get other countries to come and mine your gold and diamonds for you? It’s like asking someone to make love to your wife for you! Why ask for help to build our roads? Why can’t Zimbabweans themselves do it?

My father Thomas Kangai started schools in jungles in Buhera to educate remote children, and he would involve all the local people to build access roads to the school. His school got top grades from inspectors in those days. All the school inspectors, LDO’s (Land Development Officers) and other government officials and businessmen greatly respected him.

One school he built was Muzirikazi School in Buhera South. Lions, leopards and hyenas roamed the area when we were children there. Yet he utilised the manpower in the villages to build access roads, put up sign posts and build houses for teachers. Why can’t our presidents mobilise our people to build the country like my father did at local level? After all, the country’s best asset is its people.

Minerals would still have been there even if there were no people, so that’s no credit to Zimbabweans. In my travels to countries such as India, I have witnessed women and men working in the hot sun carrying baskets of gravel on their heads all day long. After a few months you find they have a cut a road through the mountains, without machinery! Why can’t Zimbabwe do the same?

We can surely all roll up our sleeves and everyone from the president down put their hand in building the country. An older boy at St Augustine’s was named Fungai Museta. I don’t know where he is now. He was my mentor and acted to me like my big brother. He always used to say to me “Charles, I always tell myself that what others can do, I can also do!”, and he inspired me. Zimbabweans should be saying “What other countries can do, we can also do!” and build their country in this spirit.

A few weeks ago I visited a place called Ironbridge in Shropshire, England. The British built the first iron bridge there in 1781. The bridge is still standing. Nearly 250 years later we in Zimbabwe can’t even make a toothbrush. Someone recently told me that the Zimbabwean government’s ZISCO steel works company is not there anymore, destroyed by incompetence and dictatorship.

The British operated the first railway in 1825, designed by R. L. Stevenson. In Zimbabwe we are still asking other countries for aid to build our roads. A place I like to drive to and contemplate is Runnymede, near Windsor Castle. There the British in 1215 established the rule of law, enshrined in a document called the Magna Carta. More than 800 years later we in Zimbabwe still have strongmen and leaders who are above the law and don’t even understand the purpose of the law.

That is why our country won’t progress. The rule of law is incredibly important, otherwise the genius within the country is suppressed. No one should be above the law. Countries that are dictatorships are actually weak countries. The power is concentrated in one person or a handful of people.

An enemy only has to assassinate those few people at the top in order to take power. So you see, for the security of the country and its leaders it is better if all the power is in the constitution, law and the institutions than in individuals. Then everyone is safe.

In most European countries there is no one you can assassinate in order to take power. The power is in the institutions and the law of that country, not in individuals. I was in Stockholm recently and someone pointed out to me the prime minister’s apartment. He/she commutes to work like everyone else and does not live in a palace! I was very impressed.

The power struggles that have been happening in Zimbabwe are childish and totally of no use. Winning against another Zimbabwean is not a real win. The real winning is when Zimbabwe starts winning in trade against other countries, when more money comes into Zimbabwe than leaves Zimbabwe, so there cannot be any liquidity crises. Let someone else win the election if that’s what the people want. You too may win another day if the people like what you stand for. Do not rig elections. It’s a shameful and base practice like cheating in a game of cards.

We should not choose presidents whose parentage is not known as they may not be true Zimbabweans. The last president always talked about his mother. Who was his father? Where did he come from? I think that in future when someone shows potential of being president, his background and roots should be properly investigated.

A commission of elders should be sent to his area of origin to find out who he/she really is, and what the history of that family is. His/her background should be public knowledge. I don’t believe that any real Zimbabwean would have been as cruel as the last president.

He was totally and utterly cruel and would do anything just to keep himself and his family in power. I personally pity him for the load that must be on his soul. Having been given the rare opportunity to serve his country, he instead wrecked it and cost the country a lot of lives, and created millions of refugees of his countrymen who fled to other countries.

We should not name our national icons like airports after despots, because they are not good inspirational role models for our youths. Please return Harare Airport to simply being Harare International Airport, or at least name it after a respectable person who is no longer alive, like Chief Rekayi Tangwena who showed that a real leader suffers with his own people.

A real leader does not build palaces for himself or feather his nest while his people are suffering. Please remove names that glorify thugs and dictators. Real leaders take themselves to be servants of the people not masters of the people. These are my wishes for our beloved motherland.

And please, the country is greater than any party. The country was there before any party and will be there after all parties, so why make any party supreme? Party militias have no basis in the law and should be declared illegal.

Zimbabwe does not belong to any individual or group of individuals. Zimbabwe belongs to all Zimbabweans. Claiming anything else is dictatorship. Many European, American and Asian soldiers have fought for their countries in several wars to gain or defend their freedom, but they do not claim that they are now the owners of their countries. Why should people who fought for Zimbabwe now claim the country is theirs? How can you unify the country and have everyone work together if some people think and act more special than others? How can you own a country?

There will be no progress in Zimbabwe until the things I have outlined above are taken seriously. You can forget about foreign investment. People only invest where there is success. A lot of people are rushing to invest in companies like Amazon, Apple or Google because those companies are being successful. People don’t invest in companies or countries that are not successful.

We have to work to build our country ourselves and when people see progress being made in leaps and bounds that’s when they say “There is a success story; I want to be part of it!” and they invest. Investors invest out of self-interest only.

Dr. Charles Kangai, United Kingdom