IN SOUTH Africa, we have a term to describe those who were restricted by the previous Apartheid laws before 1994. We call them “previously disadvantaged”.
I fully recognise the impact of being “previously disadvantaged” through promulgated laws, but I do have a problem with people perpetually embracing a disadvantaged reality and then blaming that reality for lack of progress.
A couple of years ago, I read the cheeky book, "Capitalist Nigger: The Road to Success, a Spider-Web Doctrine" byDr Chika Onyeani which I was later to discover most of my African-American colleagues do not really like. In it, he raised some pertinent questions on how the black community has the least amount of circulation of money in their communities compared to other communities like Korean, Chinese, Indian, Greeks or Jews.
Onyeani’s point was that as soon as we make a bit of money, or even borrow it in some instances, we then go out and spend it in other communities. In some cases we are almost proud as Africans to be the first to arrive at the Greek, Thai or Chinese restaurants.
I have an acquaintance of Jewish ancestry who I have known for years. Each time we meet at some forum and an expert is solicited, he always has a name. When I started looking back years later, I noticed that nearly all the people he profiled also happened to have a Jewish ancestry. When I raised it with him, his defence was that the experts in his community were the ones he could vouch for. It was an awakening lesson for me, so now I recommend people from my community without apology.
I was sharing the Word at a Zimbabwean men’s church group and many were complaining how difficult it was for them to get business. I casually asked them one by one what each one of them did. There was a cross-section of skills and though many of them had worshipped together for years, they did not know what each other’s vocation was.
We then did an exercise to ask what skills each one of them required and I was amazed at the degree of intersection of requisite skills. They worship and bound demons together compartmentalising the Christian life yet from Monday to Friday they all toiled separately in the same market place without making any effort to synergistically share leads and get more business.
I am a beneficiary of people profiling and opening doors for me so I have made it my lifelong purpose to try and open a door for someone else.
Let me start with my South African plumber, Solomon Shiburi. When we first met more than seven years ago, his English was not so good so we struggled to communicate. I suggested to him to formally register a company and now he is starting to sub-contract major projects. I have introduced him to many people who require plumping services.
The gardener at my former complex John Dumba, originally from Malawi, manicured our gardens with such finesse. I mentored him on formalising his operation and now he can deploy as many as 10 people with a small truck and equipment to provide landscaping services. A similar process ensued for Vincent from Nkayi who now does the garden for my current estate. I have introduced my builders from Harare – Chisale and Ncube – to some opportunities in South Africa.
For nine years, Favour Ndlovu from Tsholotsho has provided service to everyone I know in this part of the world who requires servicing of refrigeration equipment. When I first met him, he was working for a major company now he can provide this service 24 hours a day on his own. I also have Nyasha, our own brother from Mutare, who has serviced our Mercedes with aplomb for the last four years. Now he also does similar cars for my contacts including one of our pastors.
In Midrand we have our own equivalent of what the people in the UK have in Mwanaka Farm. This family grows most of their crops right here and have also opened their own fruit and veggies shop so as to have control of the value chain. They are trying to stock most of the veggies we were accustomed to back home so money has started circulating to them as well. We can add Owen from Bulawayo whose driving school is training many of our children to drive.
In the first complex I stayed in, my next door neighbour Andrew Mavurayi of Karanga extraction, was one of the most qualified and experienced hydro geologists who has mapped may underground aquifers in Southern Africa. I occasionally forward his details to any department which requires quantification of underground water resources. If it is a full geological study required, I can hint them towards Mtetwa in Harare, Mushayabasa in Francistown or even Nhiwatiwa in Gaborone, Botswana.
For carpentry service, I have passed on a couple of times the name of Pamhene originally given to me by a friend now based in Botswana, Cosmas Mamhunze. I have on my contact list six Zimbabwean engineers, who worked on a major project like the high speed Gautrain of which my old friend, Hamilton Sithole, is one such very experienced structural and consulting engineer. For electrical and related household services, I have Matiashe and Mushonga on speed dial.
We can extend this to professionals like highly-respected gynaecologist Dr Majachani or even a young veterinary doctor like our very own Tasho Makunike. One thing I always do if I recommend a person I ask for feedback from both the service provider and the customer. If anyone I recommend provides a service below par, I delete them immediately. That way I also safeguard my reputation.
A trend I have noticed from some of my community members is excess haggling with our own contractors. It is almost as if to say since you are from home, you deserve to be paid less yet only yesterday they were prepared to pay a complete stranger more money.
The question I always ask any of my fellow community members complaining of being marginalised at the market place is, have you opened a door for someone from your own community to get onto the food chain? If yes, then you earn the right to speak. Let 2013 be the year you open a door for someone in your community.
Tafirenyika L. Makunike is the chairman and founder of Nepachem cc (www.nepachem.co.za), an enterprise development and consulting company. He writes in his personal capacity