On Saturday 14 April at 2.49pm Tsitsi Masiyiwa – wife of prominent Zimbabwean businessman tweeted what became an extremely controversial and viral tweet.

“Wondering how a nation with GDP per capita of $1 000 for over 37 yrs life expectancy 34yrs upto 31% children stunted, can insist on the right to work 8hrs plus 1 hr lunch 5 days a week, rest for 2 dys watch football for 42 wks straight. Where is the sense of urgency desperation?”

Before we go into who Tsitsi is – let us dissect that tweet and the comments that followed for a bit yeah?
The Stats

Mrs Masiyiwa highlights some staggering numbers. She doesn’t say which country she is referring to but it is pretty clear its Zimbabwe she means and yes US$1008.60 is indeed our GDP per capita. GDP per capita is a measure of a country’s economic output that accounts for its number of people. It divides the country’s gross domestic product (US$16 billion) by its total population (16million). That makes it the best measurement of a country’s standard of living (the degree of wealth and material comfort available to a person or community). However, this may actually be overstating our levels of comfort because according to Index Mundi, 72.3% of the Zimbabwean population is living below the poverty datum line of $574.

This is just a surface picture of what is going on in Zimbabwe – a lot of companies have shut down, the economy is in shambles, heavy taxation is one of many burdens the ordinary citizen has to live with and a big chunk of the population is unemployed. But people are not okay with just sitting at home and so you find countless informal “businesses” on the country’s landscape – tuck-shops, vending stalls….anything to make ends meet. So yes, Tsitsi is right; the situation in Zimbabwe is terrible.

Reactions to the Tweet

There have been mixed reactions to this tweet. On one hand you have those highly incensed and have been responding with all sort s of insults and then those who seem like they are bootlicking by supporting her sentiments.

Why the Anger?

It would seem that people are furious because of what the tweet appears to insinuate. Reading between the lines – “how can a nation insist on…?” Could she be referring to the politics of the country? On how people have constantly voted along certain lines when other options were available? “The right to work so and so hours plus lunch break” gives the impression that workers are lazy. Eight hours and lunch break are a luxury that we cannot afford. “Where is the sense of urgency?” – Does this mean Zimbabwe is where it is today because of the workers, or was she addressing the leadership?

So now people were asking what right she has in saying such. That as an extremely wealthy person can she sit on her high horse and tell us that we are poor because we choose to? And then those on her side were of the opinion that because she is rich so we must listen to what she is saying because there is wisdom there. That even if she oozes money, she herself actually hardly ever rests and that if we are to take her advice which is coming from experience, we may reap the rewards.

So then – who is Tsitsi Masiyiwa?

Her life prior to being Mrs Masiyiwa is a difficult one to find. So from what little I could gather we will make some deductions.

She was born Tsitsi Maramba on January 5, 1965 in Harare, Zimbabwe – the youngest of five girls. She went to Chishawasha Primary school and then finished off her education at Dominican Convent. I’m not sure if Dominican Convent was as fancy in the 80s as it is now, but if it was – clearly she did not experience the kind of education the normal citizen has gone through.

I couldn’t find what first degree she has or where she had it but apparently she has an MBA from the UZ. So let us suppose she did four years of undergrad and finished at 23/24. Began her Masters after about a year at home and then finished when she was about 26/27years old (we are told she did her Masters in the 90s, not exactly when so these are just assumptions).

In 1994 when she was 29years old, she was appointed Executive Director and Head of Empretec Zimbabwe – a joint program sponsored by the UNDP and Government of Zimbabwe (the ordinary Zimbabwean is not head of anything by age 29 ). It got me thinking – what was her first job? Did she ever have a low income 8-5 or she just went straight from school to a high profile career?

I failed to find what her net worth is, but her husband’s is US$1.42billion and in addition to that he is a board member of THE ROCKERFELLER FOUNDATION. If you don’t know who they are GOOGLE THEM! What I’m just trying to say here is that these are big peoples with big monies.

Someone said that they are not removed from reality because even though they do not live here they have intelligence sent to them on a daily basis. But the argument I suppose isn’t whether or not what she said is fact or if she understands our plight. I figure it’s more to do with tact. When you have certain advantages some things just don’t sit well when YOU say them. Was she right? Perhaps.

Personally, this is how I think this thought should have been put across:

“Zimbabwe has a GDP per capita of…… seeing as the youth make up a large chunk of the population we have a unique opportunity that if we harnessed it, prosperity is at the tips of our fingers. What if we introduced 24hr shifts in all sectors – primary, secondary and tertiary? Imagine the potential…..

I think a tweet along those lines would have been powerful and a lot of us would actually have embraced the idea.

But that’s just me, what say you?

Shanee R. Banda