The parable of Strive Masiyiwa

HARARE - Strive Masiyiwa’s journey has been draining at times, involving battles with pride and faith, but a humble and grateful Econet boss has emerged from the trials, giving all the credit to God.

His is an amazing tale of prosperity linked to the faith in God, Christian values and fantastic work ethic.

Masiyiwa, the founder of Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe’s largest company by market capitalisation, says his company came into existence through the sheer grace of God.

From a convoluted five-year legal battle that ended in 1998, Econet now boasts of over eight million cellphone subscribers, or 70 percent of Zimbabwe’s market share, controls banks, and insurance companies.

He is currently paying school fees for 30 000 orphans, sending blind girls to school and is involved in various social projects in Zimbabwe.

Masiyiwa has created a financial behemoth that has become the largest single taxpayer in Zimbabwe.

The entrepreneur retraces the road he travelled in a moving testimony delivered at a South African church service.

It turns out Masiyiwa built his business on Biblical principles and attributes his success to his faith in God.

“You probably heard about the long legal battle that Econet fought in Zimbabwe for the first licence. It came when I was a baby Christian.

“You must not be a baby Christian all your life. Sadly, some people remain baby Christians,” he said in a recorded testimony to a packed congregation in SA.

“I remember going to see a very senior advocate in Zimbabwe after the government turned down our application for a licence and somebody had drawn my attention to the provision in the Constitution under what is called ‘freedom of expression’.”

The clause says: “Every man has a right to receive and impart information without hindrance.”

It is a middle clause in the Constitution.

Said Masiyiwa: “I went to see the senior advocate. He read it and he said to me, ‘yes, I think you will win. But I think it will be easier for you to go and steal a tank and drive it into the centre of the city because the reaction of the government to what you are thinking of doing is the same reaction they will have if someone stole a tank and drove it into (Africa) Unity Square."

“I thanked him. I had been saved a couple of months earlier and encouraged by the lawyer I was consulting in the States who didn’t understand these things.”

Masiyiwa said the senior advocate was not confident he would win the legal challenge but he insisted that he prepares court papers for the application.

“We prepared our papers for the constitutional challenge to the right of government to be the only one to operate a telephone company,” Masiyiwa said.

“When the papers were ready, I sat on them for about six months until the year came to an end. And still the lawyers were waiting for an instruction from me to file them.”

The Econet boss says one Sunday morning he went to church.

“After the service, I stood outside and a friend of mine, his wife came up to me and said ‘what are you up to, my husband never slept last night, the Lord kept waking him up and saying ‘go tell Strive do it.’ So I filed the papers.

“To find out what happened, I think you should just have to visit our websites or all the newspapers. It ended up even in the Parliament of Denmark.”

Econet’s road has been arduous.

Though founded in 1993, Econet only started to operate as a cell phone operator in 1998 because the Zimbabwean government refused to grant the company a licence.

Masiyiwa dragged the government to court, and after a legal wrangle that lasted nearly five years, the company was eventually awarded a licence by the country’s highest court.

“It was a five-year legal battle,” Masiyiwa recalls in his testimony.

“It was intense and I became persona non grata. I couldn’t even be quoted. I once told Winnie Mandela you weren’t the only one who couldn’t be quoted.”

Trouble brewed for Masiyiwa when he came to the rescue of this newspaper you are reading, the Daily News.

Masiyiwa became the largest shareholder in Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of the Daily News, the country’s largest-selling newspaper.

Mugabe’s government banned the publication in 2003 but it has since been relaunched after the advent of the unity government, but Masiyiwa has since divested from ANZ.

“For five years, we went through this but every day I had to rely on the Lord’s grace, on his encouragement. There was an army of the Lord’s reign around me who prayed for me and throughout the world,” he said.

Masiyiwa said one morning, his mum called.

“She never calls me at work,” he said. “She said, ‘somebody just called me on the phone and they are looking for you. It’s a woman, in the villages. She says she has been looking for you for a long time and she has a word for you.’ I remember discussing it with some of my colleagues at the office and one of the brothers turned around and said ‘let’s go see her.’ I said, ‘I’m not going to the villages.’

He said, ‘I will drive.’ So we agreed and we went.”

Masiyiwa said they tracked the woman and asked her about where she fellow-shipped, what church she went to.

“And she said she was from the Apostolic Faith Mission,” he said.

“She was a well-educated young lady and her husband was a teacher at a mission school. We prayed together. There was a prayer group. She said ‘the Lord woke me up and you are the man I saw in a dream. And I didn’t know about you until someone mentioned Econet to me’.

She said ‘the Lord says you must fast for the next three days’. She says ‘we are supposed to join you, we are your partners.’ I say, ‘okay, that’s six to six right?, that’s okay.’ She says ‘no, no, no, fast for 36 hours.’

“I used to be a diabetic, I was healed some time ago. By that time, I struggled with it because I was not supposed to go for 36 hours without eating. But the Lord gave me strength.”

Masiyiwa said three days there was a miracle. His lawyers called saying government had granted a tender for a mobile phone operator to him.

“When I got there, the entire staff at the law firm were in the corridors, it was a Jewish law firm, and the senior Jewish partner met me in the corridor and said ‘Its a miracle.’

I said ‘you should know about those, hey?’ And it was a staggering miracle. There had been a tender over this licence. The courts had ordered over and over and over again and each time the government had said, no! So they had run a tender and they decided who the winner was. But they then handed us the document when they made the decision.”

Masiyiwa said after he had won the bid, he went to a “government newspaper” to alert the editor that he had won his battle.

“The editor said to me ‘you know, I’m not even supposed to talk to you.’ It was a government newspaper. So I gave him the papers, he looked at them and said ‘you know this will cost me my job if I so much as write about it.’ I said ‘yes, but I just wanted you to know.’

“And the following day it was a front page. He got fired,” Masiyiwa said.  “The Lord blessed him and he is now in Switzerland.”

Masiyiwa said when the government decided it was time to give him a licence,” the minister called me and said ‘look, we decided to give you the licence.’ I said thanks but no thanks. And he said ‘but you can have the licence,’ and I said ‘if I take the licence from you, you will say you licensed me. I want the court to rule.’ So we waited for the next six months.”

Masiyiwa said one day while his High Court challenge to the right of government to hold a monopoly over cellphone networks was still pending, he went to Austria, and while he was there he says he had a dream and the judge was handing down a ruling.

“He was reading the ruling. I woke up and called one of my colleagues in Harare and said ‘has the judgment been issued?’, he said ‘No.’

“Now, there is an eight to nine hours time difference, you should check with our lawyers. He rushed to our lawyers. The lawyers say judges don’t rule today, its a weekend.

“After about two hours, my colleague called (back) and said to me, ‘the judge has just been promoted; he wants to rule today, because tomorrow he is a judge of the Supreme Court. And so Econet was established in Zimbabwe.”

Masiyiwa said Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile telecom firm was “a Christian company.”

“The Lord says I will lay a table for you in the midst of your enemies,” Masiyiwa says in his testimony.
 
“We have a very good relationship with the government today. We don’t have any problems.”

The Econet boss said a few months down the line, “a brother came to see me one morning and he said to me that ‘the Lord has spoken to me concerning Econet in Botswana. He wants you to go there.’ I said ‘I have never been to Botswana’. He said ‘well, you have to go and find out.’ I made the mistake of telling my wife, she said ‘you better go.’ She is so insistent.”

Masiyiwa said when he arrived in Gaborone for the first time, he went over to the regulator’s office and walked into the wrong office.

“And there was a man sitting there and he says, ‘you are the little man from Zimbabwe who caused Mugabe all those troubles.’ I said ‘yes’.

“He said ‘you are too late if you are here for the Botswana licence. It closes in two weeks’ time.’ He says ‘anyway since you have come all this way, I will give you a set of documents.’ That was a big mistake.

“I went back to the hotel. I put the documents on the floor and I lay on them and I prayed and I said ‘Lord, do something, you brought me here.’

“The rest of the story, we are the second-largest cellphone company in Botswana today. If you have ever been to Botswana you have probably heard of MasCom Wireless. It’s the only company that recognises me in any small way. MasCom actually stands for Masiyiwa Communications. We beat Vodacom in that auction, with that line, we beat MTN.”

From there, Econet has expanded rapidly and Masiyiwa says every venture was unveiled to him by God.

Econet now operates cellphone networks in Zimbabwe, Burundi, Botswana, Lesotho, Kenya, Nigeria and also a satellite company in New Zealand.

It is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.

Last month it reported that it had recorded a 14 percent rise in after-tax profit in the six months to February, raking in $140 million in profit.Econet has invested $1 billion in network capacity, and its latest product EcoCash — a mobile money service product — has scaled over 2,1 million registered users.

Sharing the Gospel, Masiyiwa says, is the driving force behind his quest for success in the marketplace. In fact, that’s how he wants to be remembered. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

Comments (13)

May God bless you for believing in Him, i was introduced to your story by a friend and am thankful to God that i know that there are still followers of God in the business world.

Samuel Aidoo - 24 January 2014

I am greatly inspired, you are an example of an 'Apostle in the Market place, Weldone and more Grace to Strive Masiyiwa and I look forward to meeting you.

Moyosola Akinlolu - 21 February 2014

Ask anything in my name and i will do it. Am greatly inspired, thank you Strive for sharing your story.

Blessing Mhaka - 9 April 2014

I am grateful for this priceless testimony man of God. I have so far learnt so much from following your inspiring history and for gaining the understanding that God is the way in everything.

Happymore Chibvura - 14 April 2014

Thank for posting such an inspiring and encouraging history like this,am encouraged to continue with my vision also.l thank God for your testimony surely am lifted up.

Tendai - 16 June 2014

motivated

Marshal chiza - 20 October 2014

This is one beautiful and highly inspirational testimony and i bless God for your life and your testimony. I am currently in the start up phase of a would-be mutil-national company and i am always in deep thought on how to scale my business in an industry filled with vultures and people with evil orientation. Your testimony has reinstated a higher level of faith in God into me, that i can scale through only through Him. Thank you once again.

DJones - 24 November 2014

It was a long journey and God interfered. A good example for entrepreneurs to follow. I have learnt never to give up

MUTERO TANAKA T.T - 26 February 2015

Strive Masiyiwa I am pleased to greet you in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. My battle to get in contac with the people of the Africa Green revolution to give a presentasion of my registered patent to empower the small farmers of Africa and the world over is not over by a long shot. Fact is the battle is only starting.This patent will help with the supply of basic needs like running water in every home,irregation of crops,solar heating of water,medical help to combat sickness and job creation. God will lift me up every time that a door is slamed and He will open more doors for me but in His time not mine.All i have to do is pray and trust Him to leed me on this parth. God Bless you Kind Regards M Snyman

Mauritz Snyman - 15 December 2015

HE IS A GREAT MAN THIS ONE ! GOD BLESS YOU

King Mudhe - 5 February 2016

Greetings This serves to request a copy of "The Parable of Strive Masiyiwa". Blessed Regards Ms. P. Ramugumo

pFUNZO RAMUGUMO - 24 August 2016

Strive Masiyiwa you are a living testimony, Your great battle in Botswana is a testimony for me

Blessed - 24 January 2018

good work Mr Masiyiwa,today im proud to be a history maker ,and through your enterprising ,im one of your team of employees

frank - 17 April 2018

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