When the new law stopped us from proceeding with the project, in February 1996, we had no option but to go back to the Constitutional Court; a process which would take almost another year.
Meanwhile my detractors turned their attention to forcing me out of business altogether. Their plan was to force me into bankruptcy. They knew that over 80%, of my projects were for government. I was given an ultimatum: “drop your interest in telecoms or we will shut down all your other businesses!”
I was facing bankruptcy. It also meant the loss of jobs of over 1000 people.
I had to act quickly:
I decided to sell all my businesses that relied on any type of government contracts. I sold my businesses within 2 weeks. This meant I was not paid the proper value of the businesses; I agreed to basically walk away, with almost nothing… It was more important to save the businesses, and the jobs, but it meant that 10 years of my work was all gone.
… I was not bitter.
Meanwhile the PTC announced that they would launch a cell phone network, now known as Net One. This would ultimately give them a 2 year head start.
… I was not discouraged.
The lawyers asked me to come and see them. It was the senior partners of the firm, Mervin Immerman, Harry Kantor, the Jewish- Zimbabwean, founders of the firm, Also present were Antony Eastwood, Canaan Dube, and Beatrice Mtetwa. We discussed the challenge of meeting the cost of ongoing litigation. They said they would continue to help me fight the case, even if I run out of money. A new group of young lawyers had joined the firm and these included TawandaNyambirai, Nic Rudnick and Jo McNally, and they were now the mainstay of the legal battles, under Antony Eastwood’s supervision. Dr Judith O’Neil also made similar arrangements with her law firm in America.
In the weeks and months to come many other creditors either forgave my debts or deferred them, until I was able to pay, at a future date. I visited each and every creditor, no matter what. This is when I realized the mantra, that “integrity is better than money”.
The police called me regularly for “interviews”, and I would always go with one of the lawyers. It was a ritual, which they did not enjoy and they were often very courteous, and I was never mistreated. We always had to avoid, Fridays, because it would mean weekend custody. On one such occasion, one of the policemen tipped me off, that I was to spend the weekend in custody; not knowing where to go, I called Pastor Langton Gatsi and his late wife. They came and collected me in a small van, and I slipped away, hidden under a blanket. I spent a weekend in their home and on Monday morning, I handed myself in, only to be released without charge.
The persecutions, instigated by the small group of powerful business people, who wanted to take over my project, intensified. The months ground on. My financial resources were almost gone. We still had almost two years to go.
And we continued hard in prayer “without ceasing”, now joined by almost the entire Christian community in our country. I could not walk down the street without someone shouting, “We are praying for you, hang in there!”
To be continued…
Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.View all posts by Strive Masiyiwa