Politics bad for business: Chikandiwa starts afresh in SA

In 1978 political activism by his father weaned Lovemore Chikandiwa from the bright streets of Harare and cast him into dusty Mwenezi.

Back in business: Lovemore Chikandiwa.
Back in business: Lovemore Chikandiwa.

It also restricted his otherwise promising academic career to the standard Ordinary Level certificate.

“My father was a headmaster at one of the top schools in the capital city, but that ended abruptly when he became actively involved in liberation war politics,” said the 44-year-old.

“The situation got worse by the day for us and when he finally left work to join the struggle, we had no option but leave for the rural areas as well.” What his father fought for was achieved, or so Chikandiwa believed – until he decided to follow in the footsteps of the man he has always held in high esteem, first as a soldier and then a political activist.

Exactly 34 years after his father’s actions cost him city life, Chikandiwa finds himself holed up in Pretoria – without citizenship, without dignity. This is the price of having joined the MDC.

He is the Director of Chikandiwa Construction, but that has not driven away the bitterness of what forced him to flee his homeland.

“I worked as an army officer for a few years, but left mainly because the peers and friends I had attended school with had made a better life in business, while I earned peanuts.”

He quickly started his own business, a retail shop that sold grocery items and his life dramatically improved. In no time, he was travelling around the country to import goods to supply bigger retail shops besides his own. “But I did not like the direction my country was taking, especially economically and politically, so I decided to get involved by joining the only party that I identified with,” he said.

That later proved to be a very bad business decision, as he became the target of Zanu (PF)’s Central Intelligence Organisation and the Police Internal Security Intelligence.

After he had lost the Chiredzi South seat in the 2000 elections, Chikandiwa became a marked man.

“My customers were threatened against doing business with me and the CIO, under the leadership of one Matambanadzo and Chitsaka of Chikombedzi President’s office, combined with the PISI, then led by Chanengeta, to thwart my business efforts.”

He left for South Africa in 2005, having already studied architectural and construction work.

“I struggled to get an asylum permit when I got here, because the authorities took only three Zimbabweans from the thousands who slept in the queues everyday and it took me weeks to be served.”

From doing menial construction work he clawed his way up to owning his company. “It was not easy when we started because getting tenders was very difficult for a company owned by a foreigner, but we have gone past that stage now, especially through sub-tendering with locals that get tenders.”

“We do all the work, while the locals do the earning. But it gives us more determination to work hard and also prepare to return home, where we believe life will be better when a good government gets into power,” he said.

“It pains me to read about the swelling numbers of people in the housing list, while Zimbabwean building experts and companies are busy developing neighbouring countries. I will definitely take my business home once the situation improves. We cannot be refugees forever and the more we focus on the future generation, the better for our country.”

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