Chanakira and Moxon must not play into ZANU PF hands

OPINION – The unfortunate ongoing corporate boardroom battle threatening to tear apart the Kingdom Meikles Africa Limited( KMAL) pitting the widely respected crusading black banker, Nigel Chanakira and John Moxon of Thomas Meikles has brought to the fore the deep rooted Zimbabwean politics visa viz black economic empowerment and good corporate governance.

Whilst it is inevitable when 4 companies come together to form a conglomerate that the KMAL behemoths is for differences to emerge as a result of different organizational cultures, the way the KMAL boardroom squabbles have played are clearly fatal to the organization especially given the charged political temperature Zimbabwe finds itself in particularly in line with political posturing over indigenization. It is in this vein that Chanakira and Moxon may unwittingly play into ZANU PF hands if the recent events as unfolding in the government media are anything to go by.

The formation of KMAL surprised many economic commentators. This is not shocking given that the global trend in the 21st century is to unbundle organizations so that they can specialize in areas that they have a clear competitive advantage so as to maximize efficiency and ultimately shareholder value. This is why organizations such as Delta Holdings, Zimsun and many others went on the unbundling route .Naturally, creating a conglomerate as KMAL at this time seemed to flow against conventional business wisdom of our time. Many people speculated that Thomas Meikles was taking a strategic move to forestall share grab under the proposed 51% black empowerment under the misguided ZANU PF government inspired indigenization crusade. However, others gave the move a benefit of doubt given Chanakira’s well articulated vision of taking KMAL to Wall Street.

The recent unfolding drama where Moxon is trying to fire Chanakira and other 2 black board members and replacing them with his sister and white directors dominiciled in South Africa has clearly shown that the marriage has failed to work. This ‘tsunamic’ move clearly shows that the problems in KMAL are so structural and deep rooted to go beyond principle but to also espouse personalities.

Such a move was clearly unfortunate especially given the volatile political situation in Zimbabwe. With hindsight, Moxon must have taken a more cautious approach rather than such a radical move especially in light of the fact that Chanakira is one of the most respected indigenous businessmen to come out of independent Zimbabwe.

Be that as it may, what has made the whole issue worse is the dimension this fight has now taken. Recent newspaper reports has shown that the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) fronted by discredited guys like Philip Chiyangwa and the new leadership under Supa Mandiwanzira have tried to involve themselves in this battle.Whilst nothing at face value is bad with such a move to defend a fellow indigenous businessman, the way the narrative is unfolding is now bordering on crass racism and political opportunism on the part of the AAG. There is much danger that the KMAL saga is going to be politicized and racialised in the context of a volatile national political crisis.

It is unthinkable that Moxon could have taken the drastic steps without having some political support from some quarters in Zimbabwe. On the other hand, the words of the AAG and RBZ governor Gideon Gono over the weekend in the Sunday Mail where the issue of externalization of forex by Moxon was raised shows that some people with political agendas are getting into this fight. That is a serious danger both to Chanakira and Moxon.When people like Gono enters the fray however justified as monetary authorities, you are quite sure that others who are anti Gono in the establishment will also enter the fray as part of the unfolding drama in the fight for the political soul of Zimbabwe.

In this scenario, the KMAL saga will become a battleground for deep rooted fights which may not in any way be linked with the fundamental issues at the heart of the problems in KMAL.If the current situation persists like this, then both Chanakira and Moxon may wake up to find out that they are in a fight that is beyond them. For there is nothing that will stop those with more political power than Gono and the AAG to come to the side of Moxon however detestable it may be in the current Zimbabwean indigenization discourse. The stage which Zimbabwe is at politically means that politicians are mostly likely to throw conscience away for a dime or for political point scoring.

The fact that Gono declared during the weekend that they are investigating Moxon for externalization with Chanakira allegedly providing the evidence has taken the titanic fight to a new level. It is common cause that over the reign of Gono at RBZ, a lot of businessmen have been hounded out of office and arrested on charges of externalization from Mutumwa Mawere, Gilbert Muponda, Nyasha Watyoka, Julius Makoni, James Makamba, James Mushore and Christopher Kuruneri just to mention but a few but all these cases have fallen flat in the courts of law despite the untold persecution of the individuals. I don’t think that given Moxon’s net worth, he can fold his arms under such an assault but I believe he will flex his financial muscle to the poor politicians making the whole saga a political landmine. For the situation in Zimbabwe clearly shows that there are no permanent friends but permanent interests.

In addition, the political situation and the archaic monetary policies of the RBZ have made it virtually impossible to operate business above board in Zimbabwe. Any business that follows the RBZ inspired rules is sure to collapse. There is every reason to fear that in the course of making KMAL survive under the current turbulent Zimbabwean environment, the management under Chanakira, just like any other corporate in Zimbabwe, may have cut corners somewhere. If Moxon has any knowledge of this, this may end up being a tit for tat affair where the KMAL dirty linen may be washed in public with serious repercussions for the brand especially in the context of the organization’s stated vision of listing on Wall Street.

Thus Chanakira and Moxon must urgently act to bring their differences, however bitter and fundamental under their control because the way it is playing in the rugged ZANU PF politics where it is now positioned may be a serious threat to the existence of KMAL and the future of indigenization in Zimbabwe.

Garikai Agenda Chimuka is a Board member for Education in the Wageningen University Students Organization (WSO), the Netherlands. He writes in his individual capacity