Tuesday, 13 March 2012

David Hatendi; Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst

"The old fable covers a doctrine ever new and sublime; that there is One Man, present to all particular men only partially, or through one faculty; and that you must take the whole society to find the whole man. Man is not a farmer, or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all. Man is priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and soldier. In the divided or social state, these functions are parceled out to individuals, each of whom aims to do his stint of the joint work, whilst each other performs his. The fable implies, that the individual, to possess himself, must sometimes return from his own labor to embrace all the other laborers. But unfortunately, this original unit, this fountain of power, has been so distributed to multitudes, has been so minutely subdivided and peddled out, that it is spilled into drops, and cannot be gathered. The state of society is one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters,--a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man. "R. Emerson

David Hatendi was the first black Rhodes Scholar to come out of the then Rhodesia. That, in itself is a high recommendation. Yet, as society we are privy to the many Rhodes scholars who wobble and dither, whose actions make us wonder what good is scholarship if in action it is indistinguishable from the street brute. In David we find what Emerson called the Man.

The man is no more.

He died in his sleep. As private and quiet, far from the maddening crowd as was his living years. Typifying what Emerson saw as the true scholar, as someone imbued to reflect and act; “action ripens thoughts into truth”, Emerson wrote to the American public. A man must think and act, think and act. His actions always guided by his thoughts. Very difficult enterprise today, where actions are rather spasmodic. Zimbabwe has lost its own Emerson.

For a young man, David represents a breed very rare in Zimbabwe. That fine essence of being, the combination of thought and action that made him a Superstar. He achieved many firsts, the least of which was his Rhodes scholarship in 1977. He was one of the first black students at the prestigious Peterhouse Boys school, an elite private boarding school 80kms outside of Harare in Marondera. His father, a priest was an Anglican rector there.

From high school, he went on to graduate from the University of Zimbabwe. Throughout his scholarly life he was active in sports and culture. At oxford we are told he, “took part in cricket (including playing for the Authentics), squash, hockey, and athletics, served as President of the Oxford University Africa Society, and was President of the Shakespeare Club (a dining club), and a committee member of the Grid Iron Club.”

After an international illustrious career at the World Bank, Morgan Grenfell, IFC and NM Rothschild and Son, he went back to Zimbabwe to become the first black managing director of MBCA. This was not just any bank but, then an extremely private and prestigious one, whose major shareholders were Old Mutual and NM Rothschild and Son . Which he led for ten years before a brief stint at NMB. So prestigious, was MBCA at the time corporates would fall over each other to have an account and it was the best employer in the country. Testimony of how he led the ship.

What is interesting is to contrast the path he chose compared to the path many bright black scholars in Rhodesia chose. On one hand, you have the Edison Zvobgo, Nathan Shamuyarira, Bernard Chidzero and Simba Makoni who went to prestigious schools and worked in prestigious organisations in America and the UK. They chose public life and became politicians.

David chose the private life and to be in business. Choosing industry over politics is a rare achievement in Zimbabwe, especially during the 70’s when politics dominated the landscape. And every black young man thought it his duty to contribute to the black struggle after which become a government technocrat in Zimbabwe’s early years. Even rarer was that he never became a politician in his later years, or as is the norm in Zimbabwe, an extension of one.

So much political madness has occurred in recent years. One that would have reeled him over would be the political appointee at the central bank in December 2003. His brother in Law Julius Makoni bore the brunt as his Bank NMB was targeted and he fled the country. So did many bankers and industrialists. In one defining scoop, what was a bright future for Banks and Industry turned into a nightmare, worse than a blistering “snowed in day” in Dickens’s Oliver Twist. Zimbabwe’s best left the country at this point and were easily assimilated in the best organisations in London and New York. David chose to stay and build in what little way he could. Spending most of his time in private business and charity.

I remember him most, in his pristine bespoke, Anderson and Sheppard navy blue blazer with glistering gold crown buttons, pinstripe shirt and a polka dot pocket square. Khaki chinos probably made by John Lobb, red socks and standing upright in velvet brown loafers. This was his favourite dress and one he was most comfortable in. Did I mention he had full hair? He was a gentleman in deeds and manners. In conversation he was well read, well thought out and well spoken.

When I look at the personal decisions he made I ponder at how easy it could have been for him to choose a different path. That he remained a private individual and could walk the streets of Harare nonchalantly as any other, only his dress and stature to recommend, is probably his most enviable quality. He was accessible. A man of such breadth and depth, could still hold a conversation with the common man and have direct influence on young ambitious men. Above all make it possible for someone like me to imagine a non political life as a real possibility. That one can still achieve without political connections. Perhaps Africa can learn a thing, Politics does not mean Influence.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

This and that

“There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. “ Ralph Emerson

There is something to be said about a man’s state of mind. It is either he spends the better part of his life wishing he were something else or doing something else other than the present. Or, he spends a great amount of time complaining how this or that does not work or is not suitable to his liking or whim. This, I have observed is what rules the nature of the present man. He is neither happy with his present state nor the state of the world.

Man is the only species whose weakness is apparent to him alone and whose world is then governed by those weaknesses. Plants and animals are prone to greater vagaries that expose and make bare their weaknesses. Yet never has a plant or animal stopped sprouting or its being, to complain of inherent short falls. The eagle soars as far as it can and so do ordinary flies, roses bloom and so do thistles. The day never stops.

Man cannot survive as if the world owes him a living. The universe, in its reality and existentialism has existed way before man and his thoughts ever existed. His birth is significant and unique, since he possesses ability no body or form possesses. Man can create in the same likeness and foam, nature and nurture like his maker.

The drivel

Yet man is best useful and happiest, in another’s creation. He is told of a “New York state of mind”, and thus leaves his village in Kenya, sells his cow and soul to fund his trip. Upon, his arrival in New York, he toils, changing his accent and stride, acquiring those peculiar habits that will make him a New Yorker. In this quest, of embodying New York, the boisterous boy shouts in mantra, “New York State of mind”, (after all he lives there) as if to convince himself and not the crowd that he shouts at.

A state of mind is a spirit. It is not a location. Search New York itself and you will find the caricature is boxed and preserved in a fantastical Hollywood location site. And never evidenced in New York itself.New York, was someone’s creation. Before they sold it to those men fond of being followers.

Of Politicians

What of those men keen on revolutions and ravel as surrogates of defunct ideas? Whom one finds happiest amongst fellow hordes in "occupy this" and "occupy that". 99% nonsense and 1% noise. I see many coming out, with t-shirts and such, with aplomb subscribing to the Obama frenzy. “I got your back”. What foolishness, utter laziness to abrogate one’s ambitions to a political demagogue. Obama is a man blessed with trickery to force other men to follow a fade. The more that follow, the more popular he becomes. Never leave one’s fate to any politician of any hue.

Entrepreneurship and starting something that changes the world

Whatever it is let it be what has never been done before. Only then can you attest to have changed the world. Write a book if you must, break the Olympics record, record music, paint art, invent- innovate, in all remember fortune favours the brave. Be different. Let your story be one your grand children will find relevance. That is good enough.

A venture like any adventure is best explored with closed eyes and an open heart. Trust your guts and will power. Dream differently and relish the creative realm- therein the story of life is weaved.

Of youth and school days

What I learnt most in high school was less the core curriculum and more the extra- curricular. In extra activities-non core (the irony) I veered off science and economics and entered the worlds of Dickens, Hardy and Austen. I debated with much acclaim and understood team spirit on the grounds of sport. Here, the lesson is quite clear for any young man out there. The best of humanity is found on the sports field and in liberal subjects outside of the classroom. One learns to lead through experience as a track captain, learns of human attachment by being part of a team, and meritocracy through competition.

Sadly these virtues are lost to the stupidity of youth. Saddest, is that the less stupid find great accomplishment in the classroom to the detriment of the extra curricula? The classroom teaches one to parrot and become a follower. Most people are of this fold. True leaders, those of a breed of born qualities such as intuition, courage and will power find practise in some sport, art or cultural pursuit.

On Marriage and life long associations.

In all of society the propensity to get married is equal if not more than the propensity of a bird to fly. It is an innate human quality, a selfish desire for affection. No matter how primal or sophisticated the human becomes, instinctive desires lead us to mate. This ability to create is a laudable endeavour and gives one a sense of purpose beyond the self.

What I find disconcerting is the desire to mate as the single most important human desire to live for. How pathetic is the human race in its desire to copulate and wish all troubles away. The hurdle is twenty six living ages for women and thirty five for men. After which, hormonally the human species cannot habitat alone and the desire becomes greatest to be hitched. This has obvious dangers, which any mind can decipher.

My comments shall be restricted to finding the right mate. Circumstances permitting, an individual shall come across as many hopefuls as the stars in the sky. A difficult endeavour to compute the “right” mate, since any metric used is likely to change with time. Moreso, a star in the sky only shines brightest depending on where one stands. The wisest words I have heard where in a parable about Wheat and Tares. Let them grow together, since it is difficult to differentiate when they sprout and are growing. But at harvest time, Wheat and Tares become obvious. Live life and be patient until harvest time. Before then, everything is murky and ill conceived. Imagine harvesting a maize cob before its time.

Upon finding the right mate. Never regret one’s choice, since regret is self fulfilling. The more one regrets, the more disappointing the choice.

Should I conclude?

The danger is apparent. One cannot live a life as if they owe it to anyone. Not even their parents. Man owes it to himself to live. To his spirit to determine his course and state. Only then will the universe listen. Man is made to lead. Uncover this great secret and watch how other men of weak disposition will imitate.