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The Curse of Entrepreneurship in Africa: If You Can’t Be Politically Tamed, You Must Be Prepared To Walk On Thorns

Brian Kazungu



Brian Kazungu, 03/04/2021

In a continent that desperately needs investment for it to outdo is its poor governance induced perennial ‘curse’ of poverty, you would assume that anyone who stands on the feet of his brains in the pursuit of entrepreneurship is welcome but it proves otherwise in this ‘cradle of mankind’.

Africans have for a long time been wreathing in serious but avoidable economic pain because of the chocking, toxic and primitive manner in which its politics have been similarly administered by different ethnicities who run the affairs of mankind in the world largest continent.

While divinely endowed with vast expanses of precious minerals and arable land that can make it the global financial habitat for entrepreneurs, Africa’s economic reality is pathetic, deplorable and quite often heart-breaking even to some die-hard hopefuls.

The majority of its forward thinking citizens would rather risk lives to go and settle abroad in the midst of life darkening xenophobia, racism and human trafficking rather than to try and become the candles of light in their own motherland because of unproductive political heavy-handedness.

Corruption, cronyism and poor governance seems to have become established as the operating system that runs the ‘software’ of Africa’s political machinery which tramples on not only the basic human rights of its people but even on their hopes, dreams and abilities.

One such tragic story is that of Zimbabwean businessman, Fred Mutanda who is part of one of the continent’s notable pharmaceutical businesses, Caps Pharmaceuticals.

In one of the discussions that I have had with him, I came to know that over the years, Fred has endured and survived attempted hostile business take-overs, incarceration, defamation and blackmail which demands a strong heart for one to wish to live and face another day.

Recently, his company had to file an urgent court application seeking to nullify the appointment of the newly government chosen directors from taking any action on behalf of or from being involved in the running of Caps Pvt Ltd.

While commenting on that development, Fred, the majority shareholder in Caps Pharmaceutical Trust said that “the government doesn’t think the constitution applies to it since it just takes it as a piece of paper and considers itself to be above the law”.

His run-ins with the government when it comes to managing his business empire has been very protracted with the government losing several legal battles usually at the expenses of politically naïve and vulnerable tax payers who lack a say in how their own government is managed.

Recently, I sought his comment on an issue in which he was accused of externalising intellectual property in relation to a formula for a pharmaceutical product under the Caps brand.

My curiosity was centred on the circumstances under which intellectual property can be traded and monetized since I am part of the Connections2Communities (C2C) Corporate Literacy initiative.

More-so, I wanted to understand the circumstances under which such property can be under the direct supervision and intervention by the government to such an extent where he could be arrested for what I considered to be private commercial property.

Mutanda refuted any element of wrong doing regarding the intellectual property issue and revealed that even though it is subject to various Acts of the Law, he did not in any way violate the related legal provisions.

“Yes, Government has oversight through the legislation. Industrial Designs Act [Chapter 26:02] Patent Acts [Chapter 26:03] Trade Marks Act [Chapter 26:04] Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act [Chapter 26:05] Intellectual Property Tribunal Act [Chapter 26:08] and the Medicines and Allied Substances Control Act [Chapter 15:03] but I didn’t not violate any of those statutes.

He also further revealed that the charge for externalisation of intellectual property was unfortunately levelled against him as an attempt to replace the theft and fraud charge which he was initially accused of but which could not be substantiated in the court of law.

With the government basing on ‘proof’ that was surprisingly not even submitted to the courts, Mutanda said that he was accused of withdrawing considerable amounts of money from CBZ and Stanbic banks, yet he was not even a signatory of the bank accounts in question.

“It wasn’t my account. It was a company account, of which I was not even a signatory.” Mutanda narrated.

He greatly expressed dismay on the fact that he was initially wrongly charged for theft and fraud only for the charge to be changed to another wrongful accusation of externalisation even though the circumstances of the alleged crime were still the same.

 The soft spoken business tycoon said that he was left with no option but to refer the matter to the Constitutional Court in order to safeguard his rights even in the face of political persecution.

While using the Williams and Anor versus Msipha N.O and Ors SC 22/10 judgement, the judge said “in my view, after hearing submissions by the parties, the learned magistrate should have determined whether the facts alleged by the State constituted an offence or not.

Failure to make that determination could possibly lead to a violation of the constitutional right of the applicant to protection of the law.

In the mentioned case of Williams and Anor versus Msipha N.O and Ors, the court held that putting an accused on trial on facts which even proved do not constitute an offence is a violation of the right to protection of the law guaranteed by the Constitution.

As provided for under Section 175 (4) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, regarding the violation of among other rights, Mutanda sought to be protected from the right not to be convicted of an act or omission that was not an offence when it took place – Section 70 (1) (k).

In an eye opening but harrowing narrative below, we see how a political hand can strangle the spirit and passion for entrepreneurship in Africa especially if young people can hear and see the terror that their role models grapple with under the oversight of their own kith and kin.

….The matter was reported to Mugabe who instructed Chihuri for police investigation. After investigations, Police wrote a report to Mugabe telling him that there was no fraud, theft or externalizations at CAPS. I don’t know at what point RBZ decided to use the ACC (Anti-Corruption Commission).

I was abducted by the Ant Corruption Commission. After a failed forced disappearance, that’s when they raised the false fraud, theft and externalizations charges. I was taken to the NPA but the DPP refused to charge me.

That’s when I approached the police to report my abduction, false charges and the seizure of my properties.

The police told me that it was a political issue and cannot be involved. That’s when they confirmed that sometime in 2011, Mugabe instructed Chihuri to investigate the case but found no criminal conduct. I remained on remand for 4 years until I approached the Constitutional Court. It’s a long story.

Please also note that the facts were not as per my application but as per the Prosecutor General’s response. How do you alter a charge of fraud claiming that I walked in CBZ and withdrew money to externalization of Intellectual Property?

It just shows you the judiciary is captured. By the way, that judgment was done a few days before the late CJ left office. Then he passed away.”

One commentator who felt aggrieved by Mutanda’s horrific journey in entrepreneurship likened the whole scenario to an animal farm with human actors.

“This is an animal farm yet humans feature prominently in it. This is very sad. It brings to the fore, an abuse of public power that is unprecedented. To be denied freedom on the basis of one charge and only for the charges to be altered after the fact. This is bizarre to say the least.” He expressed himself.

Many entrepreneurs across the African continent have had to endure the terrible political interference that which makes it difficult especially for people of African descent to start and run businesses in their own motherland without being victimized by those with political power.

However, unfortunately, even though it is given less priority as shown by the way how business people are treated, the value of entrepreneurship in Africa cannot be overemphasized and the need for business role models that an African child can look up to and relate with is of critical importance.

It is always disturbing to note that the reality on the ground always seems to prove that entrepreneurship can prove be the corridors of fire which threatens the prospect of better standards of living for the African child if the political machinery falls in wrong hands.

Indeed, it is possible for African governments to ride on the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which declares the Ending Poverty in all its forms as one if its priorities.

This can be done through creating a good environment that inspires the African child to venture into entrepreneurship with a guarantee for the respect of the rule of law and good governance which prohibits political actors to freely borrow political power to settle personal scores.

For example , the World Bank https://bit.ly/351qMyY” estimates that by 2030 up to two-thirds of the global extreme poor may be living in fragile and conflict-affected economies, making it evident that without intensified action, the global poverty goals will not be met.

When you read such reports and then compare with how business people who are prepared to play a part in solving these problems are recklessly treated, you get the impression that Africa still has a long way to go even in just making the lives of its own citizens a little more tolerable.

In a book titled Primitive Politics and The Poverty Machinery, the government is described a set of structures and grouping of people who are mandated with the administration of societal affairs in a given nation or community.

Unfortunately, if you look at Africa at the moment and even through the lenses of history, you would wonder if there are any people who are administering the societal affairs of this continent or they are only political clubs in the champions’ league of destroying the cradle of mankind.

Brian Kazungu is an Author, Poet, Journalist, and Technology Enthusiast. Websites: https://www.briankazungu.com https://muckrack.com/brian-kazungu https://www.amazon.com/author/briankazungu https://www.modernghana.com/author/BrianKazungu Email: [email protected] Social Media - Twitter (X) - @BKazungu - Linkedin - www.linkedin.com/in/briankazungu

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