“I got into the teaching profession by accident,” the 46-year-old businessman told The Zimbabwean from his Johannesburg base.
Matshelela hails from the Matshetsheni area of Gwanda in Matabeleland South.
“I achieved great results in my O Levels and wanted to do something different with my life, so I initially refused to teach. My father had refused to follow the same route he now wanted to force me into, when he turned down a bursary he had won from the then-London Missionary Society (now United Congregational Church of Southern Africa) to undergo a teacher training course. To me that looked like double standards.”
Matshelela explored a number of fields after school, but lack of experience made it very difficult for him to make any meaningful progress.
“With fate having played such a hand in my life, I had to bow to my father’s will for two reasons: I did not enjoy the fact that some of the privileges I had had as a scholar had been withdrawn, and some of my school colleagues were already working but I was unemployed.”
Now that he has spent two decades teaching, Matshelela believes that education is the key to the economic success of his country.
“Imagine what could happen if a greater percentage of Diaspora-based Zimbabweans could further empower themselves academically, while those who are not so intellectually gifted could take up courses in entrepreneurship and technical studies,” said the former school headmaster.
“Zimbabweans are generally known to be educated and hardworking people and we should not lose that, despite the poor state of affairs in our country.”
To make sure that his dream of an empowered Zimbabwe comes true, Matshelela opened the aptly-named Themba Lethu (Our Hope) Community College, which provides training in both the academic and business fields.
“Our aim is to give a second chance to those who have failed in their O Level education and local Matric, so that they can get Cambridge-certified education, which is highly-regarded,” he said.
“To cater for all Africans, we employed people who speak French, but our main focus is on empowering Zimbabweans, who will one day have to go back to their country. The days are gone when people go to school so that they can work for somebody else for the rest of their lives.”
To cater for the employed, Matshelela, who completed most of his high school education through correspondence, has designed an evening session in the Johannesburg-based college.
“The kind of education we had in Zimbabwe when things were still well, coupled with our traditional ethos, has always been the backbone for success and that is what we are trying to maintain here.
“We are here in the Diaspora because things were no longer working for us in Zimbabwe, especially for civil servants. We also must remember that we left some very brave people back home, who are keeping the country afloat. That means we must always do things that will improve our country and reward these resilient individuals.
“I urge fellow Diasporas not to invest too much in their foreign bases, but make sure that whatever business they are doing in their bases is duplicated in their communities or cities back home for the benefit of their communities.”
He has not lost focus of what drove him out of his home country in 2008, when he abandoned a school he had led as a headmaster for four years.
“I simply left because things were bad economically and thought I should get a fresh start. Now that I am in business, I will soon be transferring the activities I am involved in here back to Zimbabwe, especially Matabeleland South, where I come from.
“By doing that, we will be making sure that Zimbabwe continues to grow. Instead of concentrating on the hate that most of us have about certain people in government, we must also remember that Zimbabwe should not be defined by the actions of a few individuals in government.
“Leaders will come and go and instead of talking ill of our country, we should all share the good dreams we have for it and make sure that we stand united to make them happen.”
On Zimbabwe’s politics, Matshelela still has some misgivings about those in power.
“As someone who was involved in the liberation war as a collaborator, I still have a lot of respect for true revolutionaries, but I still believe that the leadership in my country should cherish the revolutionary ideals they shared with us back then and combine them with true values of democracy. The concept of political suppression, tribal and ethnic dominance and basing our future on our ancestral actions cannot take us anywhere.”Post published in: Opinions & Analysis