When Business Follows Politics…Part Two

Growing up in Zimbabwe I knew only one governing party dominating politics. Business on the surface appeared to be an independent economic unit but this proved to be a fallacy. On certain dates like the President’s birthday, newspapers would be full of adverts wishing the President happy birthday, public and private sector alike. At the same time opposition politics was growing so anyone who did not wish the president a happy birthday was likely to be fingered for being sympathetic to the opposition. With the Zimbabwe dollar losing value, government increasingly became agitated and like an abusive father in time of turmoil, the hand of politics came down heavily on business. The politician became a torment to business, owners of businesses were sweating, in those days government would wake up with a policy directive and before you know it a bank or two would be shut down. In an economy where business follows politics the following is not far:


This is the number one by-product of businesses pandering to the whims of politicians. The small guy sitting at the receiver of revenue or companies registrar who earns $250 salary suddenly assumes a position among the Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates in stature. In these offices you will see these small guys make rich people jump because they have the power to stop your business being registered or refuse to give you a tax clearance certificate you desperately need to do business. The government employees become a law unto themselves. Illicit power is not a preserve for the high and mighty, even the ones at the bottom who run errands for those at the top soon assume colossal figures. When businesses or people are forced to beg the hand of the politician, they will soon compete until the one with the highest bribe can be the first to be licensed therefore winning market dominance.

Knowledge Gap

When government becomes accustomed to telling business what to do instead of the other way round, companies will resist sharing sensitive information with the same government or they do it hiding behind the veil of a federation. In Zimbabwe you will not hear companies criticizing government programs and policies unless it is the Confederation of Zimbabwe industry, individual CEOs and MDs steer clear minding their own business. Business has a wealth of information to provide to politicians, good and bad. Recently business could tell the Bond Notes were a bad idea and could worsen the economic situation. Of course they interact with members of the public and gathering market sentiment. But this knowledge is mostly channelled through public opinion, businesses dare not confront politicians fearing reprisals. So the gap between the market (people) and government (politicians) widens while businesses keep collecting intelligent information which is only suitable at micro-economic level.


Business has a wealth of information to provide to politicians, good and bad.

Inadequate Policy Solutions

I was at a meeting sometime in 2016, this was a business-politician-people initiative geared to find solutions to problems in Zimbabwe. A smart journalist acting as conduit for people’s views asked a pertinent question to the politicians where people were seeking a win-win policy. It was clear the politicians were not comfortable or ready for such bargaining. As the journalist pressed for an answer the business people present sought that this issue be dismissed as it was of a political nature and this initiative was purely business. I asked myself if business exists in vacuum and whether it was divorced from politics. Here we were sitting as business & government representatives mapping a way to get people to fund government-business initiatives but the same people were being shut out. I did not lose this observation and would test it later, I wanted to initiate a push for government to be amenable to be told by business and people of inadequate policy constructs or where the policies were suffocating progress. Like the journalist I did not succeed because when business follows politics for a long time, business becomes the gatekeepers for politicians’ fragile ego. In such times telling the politicians the truth becomes an act of espionage and lack of patriotism. Poor policies become the order of the day because politicians will still ask business if what they are doing is right and business being patriotic will say Yes every time.


Generally in societies where business follows politics citizens become less sharing and caring as hearts harden.

Social Unrest

The human is an interesting creature, ignore a people for a long time and they find a way to get your attention. We see civil unrest across the world as people cause chaos and sometimes destroying property. I remember a community was once ignored and as a last resort they burnt many schools and finally the government paid attention. Without condoning the destruction of property, it is important to see the lengths people are willing to go just be heard. As business withholds vital market information from policy makers and the knowledge gap increases, people will turn to protests. The economic costs of stand-offs between people, business and politicians is worse than war because in war someone sooner loses. In social impasse people lose individually and die off alone making it easy to slide into that “it’s not my problem zone”. Generally in societies where business follows politics citizens become less sharing and caring as hearts harden. As a simple survey, check the social media for pictures of accidents and death, you will notice that people in more prosperous places will not post pictures of dead people or gruesome accident scenes.


Since politicians will have many gate keepers, as economy falters the queue for people wanting to be gate keepers too grows. Life plays out on this feeding trough and whoever can get close to the top whether business or people will get to eat and eat well. There are many dodgy millionaires in Africa who will scoff at the poor as they hustle hard on the feeding trough. No armed robber or drug lord amass riches to help the general populace, they are likely to enslave the people. If you go to Harare you can see the widening gap between the connected and the general populace, wealth is concentrated in the few who resemble drug lords at feeding trough.


While it is evident that the goal of any governance system should be to funnel information from the market through to the politicians for policy direction, this should not be a panacea. The relationship between politician-business-people is delicate needing continuous monitoring and improvement. When each part knows its limits then growth and prosperity for all can be achieved. In United States the business sector has become powerful through sponsorship of political candidates so much that they hold sway over who the people can choose. In as much we strive to balance economic metrics such as imports and exports, there is a need to ensure a balanced relationship between politics, business and the people. Everywhere I look around Africa, economies are in perpetual recession because people who do not have an understanding of market indicators are busy directing how the same markets should work. Cecil John Rhodes made Great Britain great through taking market information back to Buckingham Palace, Richard Branson was knighted for entrepreneurship. Here in Africa we hound and persecute our business people, when they tell what the market is saying they are labelled as meddling in politics. We need our politics to start taking a cue from market information businesses are sitting on, so shall we open doors of prosperity for our people.


The views expressed in this blog post are the independent opinions of the writer and do not reflect any company policy or position of Savanna Investment Group (Pty)Ltd