The Telecel Zimbabwe case study is used in the report to describe Zimbabwean President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s way to build ties between business and politics.
«President Mugabe is proud of the fact that his wife is hard-working (at Gushungo Dairy) and, therefore, she should be entitled to the fruits of her sweat, yet in the case of others, his worldview is that shares must be shared.» IS CORPORATE literacy a sine qua non for progress and prosperity? What if corporate illiteracy is so pervasive in society; where would one start to cure it? The relationship between business and politics is a complex subject; suffice to say that political actors rightly or wrongly believe that they are the best protectors of the poor and the vulnerable. In developing countries, business actors are not known to be actors on the stage of thought leadership, leaving political actors to dominate the space and content of discourses. Regrettably, any business actors who choose to add their voice to the battle of ideas risks being misunderstood as so much is expected from the actions and choices of political actors in terms of changing the lives of the people. The need for a space where business experiences, insights and ideas can be shared cannot be understated, especially when it is glaringly obvious that even the leaders of the nation have no clue about the true nature of corporate citizenship, notwithstanding the fact that such citizenship is a product of laws that the leaders take an oath to uphold and protect. A company is a creature of statute and one should naturally expect this important instrument for delivering the promise of a better life to be correctly understood and appreciated. A company only exists in the world of humans precisely because only human beings have evolved from the limitations of the animal kingdom by devising eco-systems in which value can be exchanged for value between consenting parties in the pursuit of a better life. It is the case that some human beings convert time into value while, through the instrumentality of corporate persons, goods and services can be converted into cash value. Although political actors have a tendency to over exaggerate their commercial and societal relevance, it is the case that they are also merchants of time. They sell their time for cash to citizens but often they also pretend that they have a relationship with the future to allow them to make promises that they are incapable of honouring using their own initiatives. If Zimbabwe has to deliver its true promise, it cannot be an understatement that the starting point ought to negotiate some key and fundamental shared values around the true nature of the human spirit and its potential. The Telecel Zimbabwe case study is used in this analysis for illustrative purposes only. On September 17, 2013, President Mugabe felt compelled to weigh in on the TZ shareholding matter when he called on Econet to allow broad based participation similar to what TZ had done by roping in indigenous actors as shareholders. He made the point that TZ had included other local actors like war veterans, women groups and Affirmative Action Group among others to have stake, clearly exposing his ignorance about the toxic effect of assembling spectators in the cockpit where shares are held. There can be no doubt that President Mugabe would not even consider such an inclusive call to apply to Gushungo Dairy’s affairs as such a requirement would lead to a misalignment of rewards and risks. President Mugabe is proud of the fact that his wife is hard-working and, therefore, she should be entitled to the fruits of her sweat yet in the case of others, his worldview is that shares must be shared. His construction of ownership informs his perspective on indigenization and economic empowerment that white people, irrespective of whether they acquired their perceived economic advantage from the colonial experience or not, should share their holdings in companies. President Mugabe’s view on shareholding is a generally held one and, therefore, it is important that we seek to expose its fault lines not least because his disciples like Mr. Charamba, believe that the problem of Zimbabwe started with the signing of the Rudd concession. The fact that Charamba holds the same view as expressed by President Mugabe in relation to Makamba that he cunningly asked some of the minority shareholders to sell their equity, a development that allegedly saw him increasing his equity stake in TZ, with respect to the role played by Rhodes and his friend, Charless Rudd, in their interaction with Lobengula is not accidental. Charamba, who has no personal knowledge of the facts and circumstances of the negotiation and conclusion of the Rudd Concession, has sought to provide history lessons to all who care to read his input yet even a pedestrian scholar will acknowledge that at the material time, Lobengula had no defined relationship with the minerals concerned as he lacked the technology and capital to extract and beneficiate them. Lobengula was presented with a proposal that, on the face of it, presented no prejudice to him for he could not legitimately claim that the minerals that were hidden by the creator were his and, therefore, the stored value in them was his to claim on behalf of God. The Rudd Concession was a commercial transaction involving an exchange of value at the time between two contracting parties. A deal was concluded that then enabled Rhodes and his colleagues to proceed to share its contents with holders of money which was successfully done when the capitalization of the British South Africa Company (BSAC) and the security company, British South Africa Police (BSAP) was closed. Instead of drawing positive lessons from the Rudd Concession, it is the case that Charamba would wish that it never took place. However, without it, there can be no doubt that the history of Zimbabwe would be different and very few Europeans would have known about the area called Zimbabwe without the interventions of Rhodes, who incidentally never lived in the area that was given his name. What do we learn from the Rudd Concession? Indeed, the concession is pregnant with many lessons that ought to be shared. One of the lessons is that God’s gifts although pregnant with stored value, such value can only be realised with effort. In other words, the stored value is zero if mankind has no mechanism to add value. The idea of value addition to a supply value chain is a point that is often missed by Africa’s greatest thinkers including Charamba whose mastery of the English language, a value that could not have been conferred on him without the concession, is impressive. There is no disability imposed on President Mugabe to conclude a new concession with anyone yet the rights granted since independence in respect of mining have not been used in a transformative manner but remain at best transactional that benefit the holders and not the generality of the public. Charamba can be excused for missing the point for it would be unlikely that he would find any fault in the many decisions that have been made since independence by his principal, who, according to him, is infallible unlike Lobengula. Under the watch of Zimbabwe’s enlightened leadership, the asbestos mines are now closed, Marange Resources is technically insolvent, corruption is a reliable friend of parastatals, and no single state-controlled entity has produced the intended harvest. By wading into the TZ ownership debate, President Mugabe could not have been delusionary, but his relevance in the debate exposes the general illiteracy that informs many of our actions. Instead of debating Rhodes, Rudd and Lobengula, it is important for Charamba to fast forward to this year of the Lord, 2015, and speak to the issues and challenges of the day. We cannot comment about the things that we were never part of suffice to say that the Rudd Concession is a reality. It is also the case that the parties allotted shares in TZ when the license was granted are no longer in the bus. The reasons why they left the bus are varied but ought to be a private matter that should not deserve the interventions of third parties like President Mugabe. The President knew and ought to have known that he had no locus standi to comment about the shareholding of TZ. To the extent that the parties that lost their former shares did so involuntarily, such parties should have been directed to the correct law enforcement agencies to assert their perceived rights; the failure to do so in instructive. Even Charamba would acutely be aware that the Rudd Concession bears Lobengula’s signature, however it may have been obtained, confirming his consent and that should have consequences in any civilised world where the rule of law is supreme. In the same vein, President Mugabe would have known and ought to have been briefed that for shares that were not in Makamba’s possession to end up in his possession, the holders of such shares must have given their consent for that to happen. President Mugabe, as the custodian of the rule of law, misdirected himself in a manner contemptuous of the very constitution that he took an oath to protect by wading into an irrelevant dispute. For, how can a seller seek to reverse a transaction outside the four corners in which the transaction took place? It is self-evident that when the shares allegedly passed hands between the parties, President Mugabe was not a witness and his involvement was not legally called for. It is also the case that none of the parties so involved would seek to involve third parties to restore their lost positions. The underlying concept of PICK N PAY may easily be lost to some of Zimbabwe’s intellectual giants as it cannot be the case that when one picks one should not pay and when one doesn’t pick, one should pay. It is also the case that what is on the shelves of retail stores are products of effort and, as such, they represent stored value. The only way of rewarding effort and value is to pay with an equivalent, whether in cash or kind. In the Makamba case, it is not clear whether the allegation by the President that Makamba was cunning is supported by facts. If Makamba was cunning, what was the President saying about his contracting parties? It means that, like Lobengula, they were fools who must suffer the natural consequences of their foolishness for, if there was a better price for the shares at the time, there is no doubt what would have happened. The propensity to live in the past poses a bigger danger to society than the people who were exposed to the experiences that seem to excite the uninformed. Even Charamba would know that Lobengula thought he was doing a good deal in as much as is the case when anyone engages in a market transaction. At the point of sale one is entitled to believe that the price sought is the best price when it may not be. However, a complete transaction even underpinned by imperfect information, is a closed one, not subject to review at a later time. The test ought to be the voluntary nature of the transaction. Obviously if the shareholders of TZ and Lobengula were forced to relinquish their shares or rights, then the police, and certainly not a President, ought to intervene. By suggesting that Makamba had «cunningly outmanoeuvred» certain co-shareholders to boost his stake, President Mugabe was wrong and ought to have been corrected by people paid to be close to him, like Charamba. It is significant that the audience of the President when he made the utterances were newly elected legislators who, to date, have failed to politely tell him that the doctrine of the rule of law compels him to zip his mouth on matters that fall outside his mandate. In relation to the affairs of the Empowerment Corporation, President Mugabe had this to say: «… we also said we had to establish another system for our communities and that’s how Telecel was established apart from what NetOne was going to do. And Telecel was to take our war veterans, it was to take our other groups.» The EC is a company limited by shares and, as such, is governed in terms of the Companies Act, yet in this unusual matter, President Mugabe would appear to suggest that the law is irrelevant. Surely, the use of the term «WE» by President Mugabe is inappropriate because the shares were allotted outside the corridors of the state. The relevant actors know and ought to know what they concluded in relation to exit mechanisms. President Mugabe would know that the trading of shares or securities has no effect on the company concerned and, therefore, it was within the rights of the holders to sell their property to Makamba, or anyone for that matter, for an equivalent value and this happened. In terms of the constitution of Zimbabwe, a person’s property is his to dispose or negotiate, yet in this matter it would appear that President Mugabe, at the top of the state’s chain, believes otherwise. Precisely what the role of government is in relation to shares held in private companies is not clear but is symptomatic of the real problem that stands in the way towards delivering the promise of independence. The President must focus on strategic matters that are critical in moving the agenda of progress forward rather than worrying about who is holding what shares in a company at any given time.