OTHER than being known as a Christian and a successful telecommunication business person nationally and globally, Strive Masiyiwa continues to be an enigma of our generation. The government fought his Econet idea, before the same government gave him an operating licence which enabled him to transform his idea into one of the biggest and resilient telecommunication companies in the country. He has spread his wings across the globe and proven that he is a business person of note.
Even that did not make him the darling of the government. His previous investment in one of the local independent daily newspapers made him an enemy of the State with accusations that he harboured political ambitions. In Zimbabwe, having political ambitions is seen by the establishment as a punishable crime, not a right. At the time, he was seen as siding with the opposition, even though he had not uttered a word in that regard. With the demise of the late former President Robert Mugabe, Masiyiwa is once again accused of switching sides aligning himself with the current establishment. Such accusations are now coming from the opposition and again it is within his right.
On his part, two years into his presidency, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has proven that he is politically rigid and not cut for such high-level leadership position. He is either politically captured by the various stakeholders who authored his ascendency or he is simply incapable. He has proven his inability to take bold decisions against his political elites who are bleeding the country of its resources. It could be that he has lost such power to the security sector and to a few of his Zanu PF stalwarts. In such a captured situation, the only comfortable thing to do is nothing, which does not work because he inherited a persistent, if not declining, economic crisis.
The economy needs someone to inspire confidence by bringing in drastic political reforms that will allow for security of capital and investment and this will bring new opportunities to trigger economic recovery. Where he is supposed to bring political reforms and unity among various players, he chose political arrogance. This is characterised by his unwillingness to engage and reluctance to reform, while arming the security sector to harshly deal with hungry protesting citizens, who include doctors. The political power preservation agenda is apparent.
That emptiness has created a huge void. And today again, Masiyiwa is hogging the limelight. At a crucial time when the health sector is in shambles and both senior and junior doctors are engaging in industrial action asking for modest salaries to help them get by as they save lives, when medicines are in short supply and when the government has responded by firing, instead of addressing the issues, in comes Masiyiwa — the saviour.
Through his and his wife’s Higher Life Foundation, they have set up a $100 million fund to pay $5 000 to each of the 2 000 government junior and senior doctors in addition to what they are earning from their employer. Through the Higher Life Foundation, he also promised smartphones, diagnostic equipment and transport to the doctors.
While latest reports indicate that the doctors’ associations are yet to accept the offer, however, if it materialises, it would have come as a major reprieve to those whose lives are on the verge of demise due to preventable causes and government negligence. It will save many lives, save jobs and livelihoods and keep the nation going. Of course, such an act of generosity must be encouraged and Masiyiwa must be applauded for demonstrating leadership when those responsible for national issues are preoccupied with siphoning national resources at the expense of people’s lives.
There could be a lot more people willing to step up and emulate Masiyiwa – in fact that is what Zimbabwe needs right now. But what is the political currency of this gesture made by Masiyiwa? Are we in that season when Zanu PF’s stupidity is defying political logic?
The party has been in power for nearly four decades and its policies are responsible for the suffering of the masses. Corruption is siphoning resources out of State institutions such as hospitals. Everyone knows that we do not have a shortage of money, but we have a greedy leadership, which is why it is now easy to die of treatable causes. Now a Masiyiwa, who has not stolen national resources, is volunteering to use his own resources generated from his own business ventures to give a second chance to people whose imminent demise is a result of Zanu PF policies, mismanagement and neglect. S/he who saves one’s life is a small god and there is no better way of earning political soft power and credibility than stepping in at a crucial moment when people are facing death.
There is no doubt that the beneficiaries of the life-saving treatment through the Higher Life Foundation support are going to be profoundly indebted to Masiyiwa and that will open questions among the citizens on why they should vote for non-productive politicians who have made it a hobby to loot instead of addressing national challenges.
They can either co-opt Masiyiwa or steal from him this political capital.
Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.