CONVERSATIONS WITH MAWERE
"Invest in the change you want to see"
- Mutumwa Mawere -
Africa 2012 – When minds meet – Supporting University of Zimbabwe (“UZ”)
Posted on May 08th 2012
The guest of honour at the fund raising dinner held on 28 April, 2012, former President Mbeki, made a profound remark that we cannot and should not as Africans be charitable to ourselves.
This remark was made in response to the call by the organisers of the initiative led by the Deputy Prime Minister ("DPM"), Professor Mutambara, in part to assist in negotiating a change of focus from philanthropy to responsibility.
The fact that the UZ needs financial support like other institutions and individuals in Africa is not news.
At the said dinner, a fund raising handbook in which a proposed investment program was set out was handed out to guests.
The total cost of the program was estimated at US$76.4 million of which US$1.6 million was budgeted for the expansion of the chapel from the current sitting capacity of 120 people to accommodate up to 1,200 patrons.
Contrary to reports that the donation by a consortium led by Mr. Chiyangwa was misdirected and disingenuous, the chapel was indeed an integral part of the investment program for which funding was sought by the UZ.
The need to depoliticize the funding of the University is self evident.
In as much as there may be an attempt to question the motives of the messenger i.e. the DPM, the message from the UZ is clear that without capital injection, the institution's ability to discharge its mandate is severely compromised.
Nearly 600 guests attended the dinner and with a target of US$10 million, the expectation was that each guest would contribute an average of US$1666.67 per person.
This called for the organisers to carefully select the targeted donors and also the guest of honour whose participation would add value to the process of raising funds.
The outcome is now known to allow us to explore possible ways of advancing the cause of the UZ.
It was reported that a total of US$460,000 in cash was pledged plus the donations by Chiyangwa's consortium and Mbada Diamonds in the form of facilities.
The principal cash benefactors were the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe ("CBZ") with a contribution of US$200,000 of 0.02% of the targeted amount; TN Bank pledged US$150,000; ZMDC - US$100,000; and First Bank Corporation ("FBC"), a bank that I started.
With a cash pledge success rate of 0.046%, it is self evident that new initiatives have to be worked out to broaden the space for participation.
What is significant is that the presence and active participation of the DPM with the support of former President Mbeki did not attract support outside black and state controlled institutions.
What we do know is that the intellectual custodians of the UZ have over the years been reduced to poor citizens incapable of generating the required savings to support themselves let alone their families.
The country's character has changed with the majority of blacks being condemned to trading activities while the majority of the citizens have either been externalised or eking a living on the fringes of the economy.
After 32 years of independence, there can be no better basis for self introspection than a review of the fund raising initiative and its failure to raise the required funds.
One can only assume that either the target amount was either unrealistic or that the potential donors boycotted the event. The planners of the event must have known the objective conditions obtaining in the country.
If there was any doubt that the financial climate in Zimbabwe has few discretionary windows for philanthropy, the outcome of the dinner provided evidence that most state actors have a distorted picture of the financial capacity and competency of the citizens to act as donors.
The generation that laid the foundations of a new Zimbabwe have been reduced to economic paupers and that should have been the start of the conversation that we all must engage in to locate the causes of the failure and decay.
Yes sanctions always provide a persuasive answer to people who do not want to take responsibility for the predicament that the country faces.
Some would respond cynically by saying that Chiyangwa should not have taken the approach that he did while others will say that former students of the UZ do not care about the institution that armed them with the power to negotiate in the market of opportunities.
Even President Mbeki would acutely be aware that his reign failed to produce economic graduates who can play their part on national matters.
Although Chiyangwa's commitment to indigenization may not be seen in the light it should but we all got into business on the back of the idea that it is only when the majority of the citizens are in the bus to prosperity that we can safely conclude that the future is secure.
Securing a brighter, inclusive and cohesive society carries with it its own obligations.
This requires state actors to see further than the ordinary person even when planning simple events like fund raising.
Political actors need to appreciate that their success is consequential and is premised on the actions and choices of the governed.
Following my article of last week, I got interesting and varied responses from the diaspora community who feel that they ought to respond to the call by the UZ for support.
By all counts, Chiyangwa with a donation of the equivalent of US$1.6 million or 16% of the targeted amount exposed the fact that ultimately the future of Zimbabwe is not in the hands of the intellectuals.
More importantly, the products of the UZ who must know the condition of the institution have not been able to use the acquired knowledge to organise better so that the country can deliver the promise of a better life and self sustaining institutions.
The output of the university in terms of building human capacity is more evident in South Africa than it is in Zimbabwe. The products of the UZ shine in the country while the institutions that armed them with the power to be relevant are crumbling.
The importance of the relationship between South Africa and Zimbabwe requires no explanation.
Zimbabwe has strategic interests in South Africa so has the UZ. However, no attempt was made to locate the true nature of the interests and how best the relationship can be structured to mutual advantage.
In 1997, we hosted a dinner attended by both Presidents Mandela and Mugabe in the hope that a new conversation would begin regarding the contribution of the people of Zimbabwean descent to the South African economy.
We were clear then as we are still that Zimbabwean born and educated people do make significant voluntary and involuntary contributions to the nation and state of South Africa to suggest that some of the funds contributed in form of pensions and taxes ought to be directed towards supporting institutions like the UZ.
Although the African National Congress of which President Mbeki was a leader was founded on the idea that Africa belongs to all who live in it and more importantly black Africans should feel at home in any African state, the reality is somewhat different in the post-colonial era.
We had the opportunity to meet again with President Mbeki before his departure the next day and one of his advisers suggested to Mr. Chiyangwa that he should consider putting his donation into another project.
Even President Mbeki had serious questions about the nature of the donation and the implications of choosing a chapel as a worthwhile project notwithstanding the fact that Chiyangwa played no part in preparing the UZ investment program.
In response to President Mbeki's call, I proposed on behalf of Africa Heritage Society ("AHS") that we use South Africa to open a new conversation informed by President Mbeki's remarks that Africans should not be charitable to themselves.
We know for instance that South African pension funds hold Zimbabwean related assets and such assets should be used to make a difference to the communities that help create such funds.
Why should the Public Investment Commissioner ("PIC"), a South African manager of government employees pension funds, not invest in the UZ program especially when it is common cause that the UZ is the factory of the spears that are needed to defend and promote the African cause?
It would be beneficial for Chiyangwa to be encouraged to commence a new discussion on the need of South African based former UZ graduates to contribute and through President Mbeki start a campaign to get South African institutions that directly and indirectly benefit from the output of Zimbabwean institutions to play their part in defending their own strategic interest.