By UK Bureau
ECONET group founder and executive chairman Strive Masiyiwa has found himself at the centre of a social media storm after appearing to back President Emmerson Mnangagwa and calling for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe.
Masiyiwa recently told continental broadcaster CNBC Africa that Western sanctions against Harare, now in place for some 20 years, should be lifted, noting that the country could not move forward with its hands shackled behind its back.
Further, he suggested that, President Mnangagwa was sincere in his much-touted efforts to open up the democratic space Zimbabwe and turn around the country’s stricken economy.
Mnangagwa assumed leadership of the country after a military coup last November and strengthened his hold on power in bitterly disputed circumstances in the July 30 elections.
After the vote the military moved into central Harare to beat back opposition protestors and six people lost their lives in the resultant clashes.
Masiyiwa’s apparent backing for Mnangagwa was therefore certain to anger the opposition, and it did.
Commenting on Twitter, MDC politician and former education minister David Colart challenged the self-exiled tycoon to return home if he was so confident about Mnangagwa’s regime.
Masiyiwa has not returned to Zimbabwe in close to 20 years after being hounded out by the former Robert Mugabe regime.
Former high education minister Jonathan Moyo – also a political exile – was also unimpressed, telling Masiyiwa to “must shut up if he does not want people to disagree with him!”
Masiyiwa took to his preferred Facebook platform to hit back, saying the sanctions had adversely impacted his companies’ ability to raise funding through international loans.
He added; “Intimidation and threats have never affected me.
“I stood up to Mugabe when most of those issuing threats by Twitter were either in diapers, or hiding, or even simply minding their own business.”
Below is Masiyiwa’s response in full;
“I BELONG TO EVERYBODY, AND I BELONG TO NOBODY”
As an entrepreneur, on many occasions I have had initiatives for my country Zimbabwe, which could have created tens of thousands of new jobs. When I have discussed them with either investors or banks, they have turned me away, saying:
“We don’t want to violate the sanctions in your country.”
I have documents and emails from bankers and investors. I tried so hard to persuade some of them, often suggesting that they are not interpreting the sanctions correctly.
In my case I was forced to go to China to secure loans to support our Zimbabwean businesses. But this was not always ideal. I have spoken about it publicly on many occasions even in the US and China itself.
It is not right that we as business should have to work under such conditions, when all we want is to create jobs and livelihoods for ordinary people.
Now, if Zimbabwe had been a person who committed a crime, for which they went to prison, would you not say 20 years is enough? Zimbabwe has served its prison time. It’s time for the country to be given a chance to get back on its feet.
I fled my country when assassins were sent to kill me. I had been tipped off by someone in the Mugabe government who was related to me. Even when I left the country, there were other attempts to kidnap me in SA. It has been 18 and a half years. Only I have the right to decide when to come home.
My executives [in Zimbabwe] were arrested and held in leg irons for 16 days. I endured all the persecutions, including the bombing and shutting down of my newspaper business. No one stood in our corner, or expressed indignation, perhaps because there was no Twitter?
Now will the end of Western sanctions end all our problems? Absolutely not!
As I have said, no one should be under any illusion that this is not going to be very, very tough, as many of the issues to be tackled are due to bad policies going back decades including corruption.
Let’s not allow the sanctions to be a crutch and stumbling block to some of the issues that need resolution.
“My name is Strive Masiyiwa, and I’m with the suffering ordinary Zimbabweans who need to see jobs, livelihoods, and investment in our country.
“I call for an end to sanctions now. And I reiterate my call for people to work together in the national interest.”
Intimidation and threats have never affected me. I stood up to Mugabe when most of those issuing threats by Twitter were either in diapers, or hiding, or even simply minding their own business.
Whatever! I did not rail at them, and never will or demand that they say only what I approve.
“I BELONG TO EVERYBODY, AND I BELONG TO NOBODY” [Charles De Gaulle]