Zimbabwe government has finally reached out to billionaire Strive Masiyiwa - a man who was seen by former president Robert Mugabe as an enemy. Picture: Xinhua/Gabriel Dusabe

Harare - The times they are a changing. The Zimbabwe government has finally reached out to its richest and most generous citizen, Strive Masiyiwa, who lives in London, in exile, and is named as a billionaire by Forbes magazine but was seen by former president Robert Mugabe as an enemy. 

Masiyiwa previously financed the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), started an opposition newspaper, created a massive mobile phone network, Econet, and lately provides most of Zimbabwe’s cash transactions and a television network company which is challenging Multi Choice. 

Masiyiwa’s massive business conglomerate was ignored by Mugabe’s administration since it began more then 30 years ago. Masiyiwa was seen almost as an enemy of the State. 

But times they really are a changing: Vice president Constantino Chiwenga, a retired general, visited the Econet display stand at the International Trade Fair last week. 

Masiyiwa responded warmly, tenderly, on his Facebook site…”You cannot imagine how appreciative we were of the gesture as even though we are the largest employer of our fellow citizens, it is the first time we have been publicly accepted by our own government.”

Few know the massive contribution Masiyiwa has made to the disadvantaged in Zimbabwe and he has educated thousands of Zimbabweans since he fought battles in court to establish his Econet mobile network 30 years ago. Among the political leaders at that time, only opposition leader the late Joshua Nkomo backed him. 

Zanu-PF supporters believed they should not subscribe to Econet and supported the state’s mobile net work, Tel ONe. But Econet is by far the most sophisticated, if the more expensive operator. 

Via Econet, Masiyiwa and his associates launched Kwese, a network like Multi Choice, which is attracting many customers from the South African provider. Econet officials handed Chiwenga a Kwese decoder when he visited the company site at the fair in second city Bulawayo. 

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, which has now cancelled indigenisation legislation except for platinun and diamonds and that would be open to negotiation, says Zimbabwe is “open for business.” But the country faces massive cash shortages inside the country and has a chronic shortage of foreign currency for importation of goods. 

Independent Foreign Service