The post-colonial African experience has brought with it its own opportunities and challenges.
It is often easy to take for granted the distance travelled for it is common cause that yesterday’s pain cannot cure today’s injury. The pain and suffering imposed by a colonial constitutional order on the majority of Africans cannot be erased simply by state action but by a fundamental change in attitudes.
Although most of us think of the struggle for independence in terms of life and death in the battle field, most of the people who get or claim credit actually never served in the trenches.
The trenches are the front lines, the most risky and dangerous places. In the battle for economic liberation, it is important to pose the question about the battle formation and who should occupy what position and under whose leadership.
The post-colonial political landscape was shaped and defined by the struggle for independence yet with respect to the shape and character of the economy, very little, if any, attention was paid on the kind of morality, leadership, values and principles required to reduce the frontiers of poverty.
The trenches are commonly the domain of the infantry. When you find a general in the trench then you must know that the battle is lost as successful battles are fought by generals before committing the infantry to expose their lives in battle.
What then has been the experience in post-colonial Africa on the question of eradicating poverty? The people who are most vocal about the unacceptable condition that the majority of the Africans live in are political actors and yet regrettably they are less equipped to prosecute the war against poverty.
The state has its own role but what must be accepted is that the answers to the economic questions of our time lie less in the minds and dreams of state actors but in the dreams and actions of ordinary citizens.
Citizenship imposes its own obligations on human beings and less on other members of the animal kingdom. Human beings have the voice and their ultimate wisdom can be found in how organised they are in confronting the challenges imposed by life.
Behind trenches lie supply lines, training establishments, stores, workshops, headquarters and all the elements that can be collectively described as a system of war. Generally, you expect to find mortars and machine-guns in the trenches. Generals carry pistols and white handkerchiefs for in defeat, they know what to do.
The idea of digging trenches into the ground was to give some protection from enemy fire. Trench warfare began formally in September 1914 during the First World War. Before and after this war, battles were fought on the principle of movement. The war of entrenchment has its own rules. It means that you have to hold the ground and the alternative means defeat.
It follows that in the construction of post-colonial economic struggles it is important that the inherited ground be maintained.
What then are the lessons from the post-colonial experience? The colonial legacy bequeathed a system of government and an economic system that only served the needs of a minority. The agents of the colonial system were in the trenches fighting to maintain what they believed to be a superior civilization.
After more than five decades of independence, Africa finds itself sinking deeper in the trench where yesterday’s battles were fought. The generals that fought as infantry the war of independence chose to remain in the trenches instead of giving room to others.
Is it not ironic that in post-colonial Africa, generals and ordinary soldiers find themselves in the trenches complaining about the injury caused by past actions instead of fighting new battles with new instruments?
Each battle produces its own decorated soldiers. The battle for civil rights can be analogously compared to a path finder. Once the path is identified or the door is opened, the new battle commences. The war against poverty is a complex one. It requires less rhetoric and no physical arms are required. It is and must be premised on service and not on propaganda.
Before committing troops to battle, generals must know what victory means. Victory must produce prosperity and freedom. The colonial order was informed by an idea that human beings can climb the opportunity mountain if they shared a common ideology.
It is in the battle for ideas that we have failed as Africans. In addressing the question of what kind of Africa we want to see, we often allow history to dominate our thinking instead of listening to the whispers of tomorrow.
Who then should be in the trenches? The war against poverty requires that we all pull our weight for no man has the obligation to carry someone else’s wagon. We all have a responsibility to ourselves and yet all too often we surrender our fate and future to generals who have never been in the trench.
The working people who struggle daily to bring food to the table will not be comforted if others are rewarded for no effort. Equally, no businessperson would look forward to an order where people can pick without paying for the choices made.
The kind of civilization that we have opted for as Africans moves us from subsistence living to an order in which trade takes precedence. In any trading transaction, value must be exchanged.
One can convert paper (money) into physical goods or services and for such exchange to take place sustainably and predictably, violence whether physical or invisible is not called for.
Without the rule of law and respect of property and human rights, there can be no progress. Poverty can and must be eradicated in Africa.
What then is required for poverty to be reduced? In our daily conversations, we are compelled to respond to this question. We can seek to blame others for our condition but the sooner we know that the battle has to be fought in Africa by all who choose to be African, the better.
We have to dig new trenches and more importantly organise ourselves if we are to successfully bring economic freedom in our time.
If China, India, Brazil, UAE, Qatar, and many others can change, we surely can begin by asking the right questions and being angry not at enemies of yesterday but our own inability to confront poverty with instruments that have worked for others.
Author: Mutumwa Mawere
About Mr. Mawere
He was educated in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, United Kingdom and United States. He holds B.Sc (Economics), M.Sc (Management), MBA (Finance & Investments) degrees as well as other professional qualifications.
He began his professional career as an Acturial Student in 1984. He then joined the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe in late 1984 as a Research Economist amd rose through the ranks to become a Senior Research Economist in 1987 before joining the Merchant Bank of Central Africa in the same year as a Corporate Finance Executive.
In 1988, he joined the World Bank as a Young Professional. After completing the program in 1989, he was appointed as an Investment Officer for the International Finance Corporation, the private sector lending arm of the World Bank. He rose through the ranks to become a Senior Investment Officer in 1994. In 1995, he resigned from the World Bank and immigrated to South Africa where he has been based since.
In 1995, he founded Africa Resources Limited (ARL), an investment holding company incorporated under the laws of the British Virgin Island, before moving to South Africa. In August 1995, he approached T & N Plc the UK domiciled parent company of Shabanie & Mashaba Mines Private Limited (SMM) with a proposal to acquire the company’s Zimbabwean subsidiaries i.e. the asbestos mines, two Zimbabwean industrial companies and a Zambian manufacturing company. Negotiations began in September 1995.
In November 1995, he formed a partnership with Investec Bank Limited, a South African investment bank, to structure and mobilize financing for a mining private equity fund.
While working on the private equity fund, he continued his negotiations with T & N that culminated in an agreement in March 1996 pursuant to which ARL, a company in which he is the sole shareholder, acquired the remaining mining and industrial assets of T & N in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Since the acquisition of T & N’s two UK based companies that were the sole beneficial owners of the Zimbabwean and Zambian companies, the ARL group of companies grew organically and through acquisitions to become one of the largest and diversified black controlled conglomerates with operations in South Africa, UK, Zambia, Namibia, and Malawi employing about 20,000 people and generating a turnover of about US$400 million.
In 1997, the group established a warehousing and forwarding business, Shipping Consolidated Holdings (“SCH”) with operations in Zimbabwe (container depot) and Durban, South Africa (warehouse). Acquired a 100% stake in a cellular service provider, CST Cellular Private Limited, later renamed Firstel Cellular Zimbabwe.
Was the promoter, sponsor and investor in a greenfield commercial bank, FBC Bank (“FBC”). FBC was registered as a commercial bank in February 1997 in accordance with the Zimbabwe Banking Act. FBC is one of the first three commercial banks to be provided with an operating license by the Registrar of Banks and Financial Institutions since 1981. Since opening its first branch in August 1997, FBC has established 14 branch locations countrywide.
As part of the acquisition from T & N, ARL acquired:
(1) Tube and Pipe Industries (TPI) (www.tubepipe.co.zw), a wholly owned Zimbabwean company, established in 1968 as Morewear Tubes (Pvt) Ltd. It commenced operations in 1972 at the current premises in Harare’s Willowvale industrial site. The company changed its name to Tube and Pipe Industries in 1978 after being acquired by Turner and Newall (Manchester – UK).
(2) Turnall Fibre Cement (TFC) (www.turnall.co.zw), a division of SMM that is involved in the production of building material including fibre cement roofing products, piping and accessories. TFC manufactures conduit steel conduit pipes and couplings, water pipes, tubes, steel places and borehole casings.
a. In November1997, ARL listed through a reverse takeover of the Acacia Group, SMM’s industrial assets being Tube & Pipe Industries and Turnall Fiber Cement and changed the name to TH Zimbabwe Limited. This was one of the most successful listings in Zimbabwe that created a platform for a broad-based ownership of the company including workers and management. The operations of the Acacia group and SMM’s industrial divisions were successfully merged to create one of the strongest black-owned and controlled groups of manufacturing companies. SMM became the controlling company of THZ and strategically offloaded about 30% of its stake in the company to institutional shareholders i.e. pension funds as a broad-based empowerment initiative.
b. To create more focus and give more value to shareholders, in 2002, ARL unbundling the TH Zimbabwe group into three separate listed companies as follows: Steelnet (Zimbabwe) Limited comprising three divisions:- TPI, BMA FASTENERS, a company that was part of the Acacia Group, engaged in the manufacture of a range of bolts and nuts, wire nails, roofing products, rock support systems and specialized forgings. It also offers complementary services like hot dip galvanizing, electro plating heat treatment, wire drawing and general engineering, and Hastt Zimbabwe – http://www.hastt.co.zw also acquired from the Acacia Group whose activities included the manufacture of a range of engineered equipment and spares for the agricultural, transport and manufacturing industries, General Beltings Limited, also part of the Acacia stable whose activities included the manufacture of Rubber, Plastics Hoses and Belting.
He was the pioneer of an initiative to mobilise investment funds from Zimbabweans in the diaspora through a special purpose vehicle, Africa Resources Invesments Limited (ARIL) that was established in 1996. The fund was launched in 1997 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Through this initiative, a special purpose vehicle was established in Zimbabwe in 1998 to deploy the funds mobilised from the diaspora into investments. The vehicle, Ukubambana-Kubatana Investments Private Limited (UKI), was incorporated as an investment holding company through which investments were made in the financial services industry including taking a significant shareholding in FBC.