South African-based businessman Justice Maphosa is a man on a mission to help Zimbabwe come up with ways to create an all-inclusive economy.
BY NDAMU SANDU
The Big Time Strategic Group founder says he will, in a few months, launch companies in Zimbabwe in the financial services, agriculture, insurance, transport, logistics, events management and health sectors. The process to establish these companies has been ongoing for the past three years.
“We took a board resolution to invest 90% of our funds into the Zimbabwean economy. It’s already happening and we are not apologetic about investing in our own country. We will unveil all the total monies invested in this economy when we launch our products and services in a few months’ time. Our major focus at this stage is perfecting our technologies ahead of the launch,” he told Standardbusiness last week.
He said Zimbabweans had to make a head start and invest in the economy otherwise foreign investors would come and take over the economy. He said Somalis and Pakistanis had taken advantage of the gap in the South African market thereby establishing retail businesses in the country’s rural areas and townships.
“I come from Matabeleland South where gold was mined in large quantities in the past. They took the gold and left. Today Matabeleland South is still very poor, without a single restaurant, let alone a hotel. There’s not a road that was funded by these mining operations. So, who is to blame?”
His company burst onto the local scene in 2015 by sponsoring the annual gospel concert in Gwanda. It was the main sponsor for the Miss Tourism pageant run by Barbara Mzembi in 2016. Last year, the company switched pageants and bankrolled the Miss Zimbabwe edition. He also funded the Harare Carnival. Maphosa told Standardbusiness he had also assisted former Tourism minister Walter Mzembi in his campaign for the secretary general’s post at the UN World Tourism Organisation.
“…I assisted Walter Mzembi a lot in his campaign. He knows that too well. We were close. I took him as a brother, but he turned out to be something else. For me personally, that is all in the past now. He is what he is. He does what he does best, being Walter Mzembi for sure. May his good Lord be with him,” he said.
He said Zimbabwe had never fully recovered from the economic crisis that peaked in 2008 and the majority people could be classified as “working poor”, doing precarious work with irregular incomes in agriculture and the informal sector.
“Look at the long queues at the banks, petrol stations, everywhere really. Is that correct? Is that not an opportunity to solve that equation? Zimbabweans need to wake up and do it for themselves and stop thinking that a saviour from outside of us will come in one day and do it for us.”
Big Time Strategic Group had a brush with the law over tax evasion in South Africa. Maphosa sees that as a learning curve and took full responsibility as the accounting officer.
“We have paid SARS [South African Revenue Services] and we have never done any mistakes with SARS since then. We pay our taxes to SARS. We are in good standing with SARS and we intend to be like that forever. This is not a concern for us right now. Its water under the bridge and we have long moved on as a group of companies, setting up other sector companies to compete for the slice of the pie, recording revenues and profits. Our language is business and Africa is up for the taking. That’s where we are now.”
Maphosa sees President Emmerson Mnangagwa as “our leader, a father figure, an elderly man, a political leader, a president on his seat driving and championing the cause for a new Zimbabwe that is thriving, working and solving its problems internally” and a Zimbabwe that is not solely relying on handouts.
“That’s how we see him. That’s what our relationship with him and us as a business starts and ends,” he said.
“Personally, I have met him as you heard him speak and tell all of you about his struggles when he was fired and ended up in the diaspora. I am fond of him. He is a likable leader who never misses a moment to educate you about this and that as a young man, when you do find a moment to sit down and quiz his brain.”
Maphosa said his business supports Mnangagwa’s views around what the new Zimbabwe should be and what young and upcoming leaders of the future should do now to make the country great.
He says he was inspired by poverty to succeed.
“I had to succeed. I had no other choice. When you grow up being laughed at because of what you are and what you eat daily, you become resistant to your immediate problems and start focusing on how you can beat the odds,” Maphosa told Standardbusiness.
“When you see and watch and hear people that have travelled, seen it all and are in their own right successful, it rubs on to you and you begin to think that maybe, just maybe that life would and could be possible for you as well. Such was my life and inspiration as I grew up. This is why I left home very early to be alone and focus on building myself. This is the story of me.”
He said a business person required dedication and that there was no one size fits all approach and one had to have leadership skills from the first day, be unafraid to take on risk, and have a self-driven, competitive spirit to deal with issues of stereotype.
“It wasn’t easy. Even to find the correct clientele with the available disposable income, who will then buy your products was a challenge,” he said of his experience in South Africa.