Masiyiwa and the national interest

By Bevan Musoko

Telecommunications giant and Econet Wireless Group founder and Executive Chairman, Strive Masiyiwa, recently came out in full and solid support of the country’s political and economic interests through condemning the ruinous sanctions imposed on the country by the powerful Western political and economic forces under the guidance of the United States Government. Speaking during a discussion with the pan-African CNBC television news channel, Masiyiwa said “I have invested in Zimbabwe in the last 10 years, $1.5 billion, okay, and I am committed to investing in Zimbabwe as I have always been, come rain come shine. But concerning the change that has taken place, I believe it is real. I believe President Mnangagwa is sincere in the things he wants to do.”

Masiyiwa added that “I think that Zimbabwe needs to be given a chance. We got to stop the politicking and focus on rebuilding this country and I am right up there……I think the sanctions should be removed; there is no justification for them anymore. I have been on record to say the sanctions are not justified and now we are almost 20 years into the sanctions and you can’t have one country operating with its hands tied behind the back.”

Masiyiwa rightly observed that, while the sanctions were targeted at Zimbabwe, they were having a regional impact. The sanctions have resulted in the displacement of thousands of Zimbabweans into regional neighbours and into the Diaspora, a development that has at times strained relations between Zimbabwe and its neighbours. Reports of xenophobic treatment of Zimbabweans in South Africa and Botswana are a matter of public record. Trade patterns have been distorted as neighbours have sought to exploit the sanctions-induced difficulties in Zimbabwe to flood their products into the country, at the expense of local industries, jobs and livelihoods.

Back here in Zimbabwe, political protagonists have sought to exploit the sanctions for political mileage. The main opposition party, the MDC Alliance has garnered political mileage through accusing ZANU PF of authoring the economic challenges resultant from the sanctions. This accusation has found a willing audience in urban areas where ZANU PF has struggled to mobilise support since 2000.

On its part, ZANU PF has attributed the economic challenges to the Western sanctions. In all these accusations and counter-accusations, the ordinary citizen has been ravaged by the ruinous sanctions.

What Masiyiwa has done is to stake his painstakingly built reputation and business interests on the block to speak out against the evil nature of the sanctions. Readers may remember that Masiyiwa has spread his business empire to Australia, New Zealand, Botswana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Asia, North America, South America and Europe. He has operating units in some of the countries that maintain sanctions in one way or the other against Zimbabwe. Masiyiwa sits on several boards of philanthropic and development organisations, including the American Council on Foreign Relations. It is therefore clear that the bold stance he has taken to denounce and call for the removal of sanctions is at a significant risk to his personal business interests in the countries he is operating in. Herein, lies the boldness, patriotic and humane gesture from his call: subjecting your personal interests to the national interest.

Masiyiwa could stay and enjoy his wealth from any of the first class cities of this world. He has made it in life. He has, however, identified himself with the predicament of his fellow countrymen and threw in his lot for their welfare. Back here in Zimbabwe, opposition politicians actually make political mileage from the suffering of the public, as epitomized by the current MDC mantra that “hayivhiyiwe” and “zvadirwa jecha”, in open reference to fact that economic challenges would remain until they get into power. This is actually a celebration of the public’s suffering upon which they intend to ride on to win State power. Such a naked celebration of public suffering has been identified as one of the primary causes of the disconnection between the MDC Alliance and the generality of voters, which explains that party’s failure to win national elections since its formation in 1999. Zimbabwe voters are wise enough to identify the sources of their predicament.

Masiyiwa should be commended for lending his significant weight and personal social capital from his business standing/reputation to highlight the plight of Zimbabweans on the international stage. Hopefully, other Zimbabweans will take a leaf from this noble gesture to speak with a common voice on the issue.

The unconditional removal of sanctions should remain on the country’s agenda for the realisation of a middle-income economy by 2030 as articulated by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The President’s recent visit to Guinea was also partly to mobilise international support on need for removal of the ruinous sanctions.