The Debate That Tsitsi Masiyiwa Started: Do We Have A Work Ethic In Zimbabwe?

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Posted by Read 21 Comments

A few weeks back, Tsitsi Masiyiwa came under fire on twitter after she had in a no direct way questioned our work patterns or work culture as a country. While I may not agree with her tone on that particular post, she really made me think about our work culture as a nation and as individuals.

In many scenarios we have heard this term in shona “ chero yangu ichiuya” a phrase used to express the fact that even if I don’t do my job perfectly, come month end my salary will come in full. This probably originated in the civil service. Our civil service is neither of those things: it’s not civil and it’s not service.. I remember teachers made chero yangu ichiuya a slogan when dealing with kids that don’t do homework.

We have seen many marketing departments that are redundant, many products that have become white elephants, we have seen many social media pages that are not attended to, we have seen websites for big organizations with a full IT department that are not updated. we have done transactions that never completed and we are given sorry excuses up to the point of giving up because the process of reversing the transactions are just tedious.

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We have seen many companies still using ancient technology in this modern day era of AI and Machine learning, we have seen employees who spend the day playing on the internet and still be paid at the end of the month. We have been served by very rude customer service reps who make us feel like a burden to them.

All this can only mean one thing. Somewhere, something is broken. Why would a full marketing department not do enough research to push their brands and increase sales than stick to ancient marketing methods that reach a minute audience? Why would you need to be told by outsiders that your website needs to be updated? Why are you still using human beings to do tasks that can be done faster and efficiently by a machine or an algorithm?

Is it because our working environments have broken down so much that nobody seems to care from the management to the last person in the organization? Is It because we are not being paid enough hence we take these tasks lightly? What has caused our work ethic to deteriorate so much?

What can we do about all this?

Developers out there, have you ever thought of developing a system that can measure productivity at work, a system that will trace the employee’s steps from 8 am to 5 pm and give a report to the boss about their work, which the bosses can use to assess productivity and then give a none biased assessment of why something is appearing the way it is? Have you ever thought of tailor making this solution to suit any business that will engage you to provide this solution to them?  

If not, you have a long way to go, but hey chero yenyu ichiuya yakakwana….

About Guest Author Rose Masayile

Rose is a brand message and social media specialist at Controvert, the parent company of Techzim. Her daily grind is to work with ad agencies and brand managers to construct and distribute brand messages in the digital universe 

Tsitsi Masiyiwa

Tsitsi Masiyiwa is an African philanthropist and social entrepreneur who has devoted much of her life to empowering the lives of young people through education and technology. She is wife to Strive Masiyiwa a telecoms mogul who is founder and chairman of Econet Wireless International... Read More About Tsitsi Masiyiwa

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21 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    I totally agree with Tsitsi’s views. As a collective, I include myself in this, we’ve found it to be easier to blame someone else, to wait on someone else to solve our problems and to not go above and beyond our call of duty in all areas of life.

  2. JamesM says:

    Someone at last has made the observation. There’s no work ethic in this country at all. Work ethic is actually wanting to work and getting things done. It is not wishing that what happens after work and at weekends, should happen during designated working hours. We like to brag how literate we are compared to the rest of the continent. Literacy does not translate a strong work ethic. It means you are fortunate enough to be able to read and write. I find examples of strong work ethic in South East Asia countries. Unfortunately how we work in Africa simply doesn’t match up to how our South East Asian brothers do it. They work. And here in Zim another disease that afflicts our work environments is jealousy. Shanje vanhuwe rizere muvanhu vedu. A combination of jealousy and inability to execute means that our economy will always be dominated by resources and talent from outside. Compare Mauritius and much of sub-saharan Africa, and the comparison isn’t flattering.

    1. Anonymous says:

      this is more than truth, Asians work guys zvema zimbos zvekuti hatishande pama weekends kuno ku China hazvishande

  3. Obert Pasi says:

    what prompts people to do ‘chero yangu ichiuya’ is because employees are left powerless to suggest good things within companies. good initiatives from employees are thwarted by management and employees victimised whilst shareholders pays blind eye. solve corporate governance at the top first before attacking hardworking people in the trenches.. so the rich man’s wife erred big time there

    1. JamesM says:

      Management style and corporate governance are not synonymous with work ethic. Work ethic has a lot to do with individual, personal discipline and execution, at home and everywhere else, not just the work place. The rich man’s wife is spot on.

      1. Obert Pasi says:

        management style and corporate governance affect motivation which consequently affects how one behave at work. people are not machines. and even a machine if you don’t pay attention to it it will break down. a capitalist’s mindset by the rich man’s wive of enslaving people and expecting them to perform 100% whilst not addressing the rugged conditions they work in is selfishness that has killed this continent

  4. Jacobian says:

    as much as may agree with your sentiments , Tsitsis post was an attack on workers RIGHTS. should workers then be slaves coz the economy is in shambles. Even your dog you feed it and give it a place to sleep. Her comments were deplorable and remain so. No amount of sanitisation will wash away the true gist of her comments and her thinking. Work ethics and Workers rights are two separate issues and should not be mixed.

    1. Mukoma Negomo says:

      Zimbos have become too conscious of workers rights at the gross whilst negating work ethics, hence companies are struggling, so good observance Tsitsi.

  5. tip says:

    What we lack is not a work ethic, but a 24/7 mind or mentality. I have worked as an agent before, & when we asked for management input on a small thing on a Saturday or Sunday, they simply told us they will respond to us on Monday. Business decisions are taken on the basis of “5 day 9 – 5 job”. Having a 9 – 5 job is good, but what happens when you are not at work: a 24/7 mentality is about constantly thinking and observing things, strategy etc, & giving support to fellow colleagues even at 2am. We now live in an interconnected world and business decisions no longer need to be subjected to a “5 day 9-5 job” mentality. A question: if there is an internet outage (probably on a Saturday) in Zimbabwe, like the one of last year, what do you think the manager of a company which is dependent on the internet/servers will do? Wait for Monday to look for alternatives. Then the supply chain case of Nokia and Ericcson may provide a perfect snippet of what is likely to happen.

    Just take time to research these 3 people, steve jobs, bill bernbach, and larry fink. By 6pm they were home having dinner with their families. And just look at how steve and bill were really successful, and look at how larry fink’s company (Blackrock) is currently the world’s number 1 money manager. Should we call this a strong work ethic or 24/7 mentality? I think I would go with the latter. I don’t about you

  6. Takue says:

    Zimbabwe needs better leaders at all levels. Including effective self leaders!!!

    1. Anonymous says:

      I concur.

  7. Anonymous_Too says:

    This is quite interesting indeed.

    First and foremost, I would like to have had the chance to correct Mrs Masiyiwa there. Zimbabwe’s life expectancy is no longer 34 years of age, a simple Google search with a mobile phone can reveal that. For someone in her position of influence and power, she should have at least made an effort to verify some of her claims.

    Now, I don’t want to make this a session of bashing a rich person. As someone from a humble background, believe me, I have ample experience in that, it’s almost our daily bread.

    I do admit, Tsitsi may have a point. The author of this article definitely makes that point stand out. But like all matters like this one, what some may refer to as ‘bread and butter issues’ there is often a lot of debate with these issues, a lot of conflicting views. It is advisable to listen to everyone’s opinion and respect it.

    I do respect Tsitsi Masiyiwa’s concerns.

    I do also have concerns about our work ethic in Africa.

    I’m a University student, doing an allied health professional degree. It is a privilege that I have been through some lectures in management.

    I do believe that a good work ethic is something that originally comes from within-it is intrinsic! It is a result of good or should I say, efficient personal management. However, also external factors do play a role on influencing the inward choices we make. In our case as a country, there isn’t much to look forward to for people to work harder. There isn’t much to motivate people. Like one of our most prominent politician’s highlighted, we have a confidence problem in our country. There is not much in our governance in our country and at times even in our work places to push us towards a good or strong work ethic. Our leaders themselves, whom we work under and should ascertain how we do work and give us direction, at times lack vision in the first place and subsequently lack specificity in their specification of goals to direct people towards work ethic.

    There could be examples given of Asian countries for good work ethic. There could be examples of other countries as well, that at times do not run on Capitalism system but perhaps Communist system. China would be a good example of both. When these countries are looked at, something that might be apparent is their leader’s ability to communicate a good sustainable specific attainable attractive vision by an apparently hardworking leadership. The working class internalises that and carries it with them wherever they go to and it translates to good work. However, at times all that glitters is not gold. Asian countries have some of the worst working conditions. Some of the companies that go there to invest do so because of deplorably cheap labour. It is unacceptable.

    I would like to say, a strong work ethic starts within! It is something that should be taught in the home and at school, at the so called grassroots levels. With that in place, a good reward system should be in place to serve as an incentive to us and those to come after us. It is really unfortunate that when a good work ethic is instituted, corruption and fraud wear out the system and rewards are no longer given to hard workers but the nifty and the swift!

    A massive paradigm shift is needed for our nation concerning this issue, one where people are taught and realise that a collective strong work ethic changes us for the better accompanied by a conducive system to work in. If an individual has a strong work ethic and a sense of urgency in a mass of people without that, that individual may not effect much change. Their spirit may actually be worn down by the lack of results from their efforts. If leaders and managers cannot provide a platform for people to work and change systems, then not much can be done. There cannot be a work ethic to discuss if there is no platform to effect work! There is a sense if urgency, it’s just difficult for our efforts to be realised when one has a higher learning degree such as one in Mechatronics or Public Administration or Marketing and the platform I am given to work is one where I am a vendor and sell airtime and other wares!

    Mrs Masiyiwa has some good observations. Zimbabweans need to work to make Zimbabwe move. There needs to be confidence in our people for them to put in a lot of hours of hard work to push our country forward. We need Zimbabweans who work for Zimbabwe. I urge her too to have a sense of urgency for the nation. She should come back home and work here to build the country. Perhaps she would see things as they are on the ground! She would see the work ethic of the self employed Zimbabweans in the Harare CBD who work from dawn to midnight, with little to no breaks for tea and lunch. She maybe would see the workers in the industrial complexes and how long and hard they work for so little. The only energy left after that is to sit and watch football.

    Yes, a strong work ethic is needed for our country. It has to be instilled within, through a massive paradigm shift of a nation as a whole. For this we need good trustworthy convincing leadership to give us a good potent attractive vision to work towards. Without this, well, work ethic is always going to be a problem never solved by seemingly blaming a working class that does not have the reigns to effect a change in any system for a better change.

    1. Farai Mudzingwa says:

      Agree with you! These issues are very nuanced. Not as black/white as Mai Masiyiwa made it come across.

  8. Capo says:

    As a manager I concur with what Tsitsi postulated. An employee goes through a particular cycle.The first few months in employment; the employee will be pitching up for work at 0730hrs for 0800hrs and knocking off at 1730hrs instead o finishing work at1630hrs. As the employee settles, he will now be pitching up for work at 0815hrs. By 1600hrs the desk will be cleared and computers logged off. Instead of finishing working by1630hrs, the employee stops working at around 1600hrs. He will not be responsible for the lost time.

    1. Mason says:

      Now as a manager, what measures have you put in place to make sure that the worker is responsible for thise hours?

      I understand as a manager, you main goal is to instill and preserve efficiency!

      Now if the worker is efficient enough to have done a days work before knocking off at 16.00, then there shouldn’t be a problem with, their work has been done!

      But if the worker is not that efficient and knocking off too early and management doesn’t do anything about it-no incentive for staying late and no withdrawal of incentive or punishment for going off too early, then management has failed ‘managing’ it’s human resource!
      It’s the one that now needs managing itself to make sure it does it’s job!

      1. Charles Muzonzini says:

        kkkkk analysis iyi yakanyanya

      2. Capo says:

        You are expected to finish work at 1630hrs full stop.Thus said, we expect you to be around your workstation at 1630hrs. You do not need anymore incentive to do the work you signed for and neither should anyone follow on you or according to your own words , ” punish you” for not doing the work you signed up for. As an employee, improve on your work ethics. I hope your are employed and understand the work environment.

  9. Charles Muzonzini says:

    The problem is that most of the organizations in Zimbabwe have a tendency to want to exploit their workers. We all see it with the issue of non-payment of salaries while “maChef” are living high on the hog. All the while those bringing money into the company see it while they starve. So of course they won’t care about their work. Zimbabweans have no problem being industrious and hardworking when they are in business for themselves or in the diaspora. The problem is our corporate culture!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I used to work for a company in Zim before relocating that did IT consulting.The company i worked for hardly made more than 10m usd a year in revenue and yet had over 350 employees.We had too many managers at once i calculated we had a manager for every 6 employees.Here are some interesting observations i made and this seems to apply across most businesses.
    -Most companies in Zimbabwe are overstaffed but they are in denial.The owner kept adding more employees even when he did not have any new orders for work.
    -Majority of employees did not have a culture of research.They would ask for things that were even publicly available on google.Research is a skill that is mainly built by an individual for himself although the company does play a role in promoting this.Sometimes consultants will tell the client something is not possible even if it was as they would not have researched.
    -It would take 3 years to complete a project initially scheduled for 6 months.
    -You would be questioned and sometimes made to explain yourself for taking annual leave which is your right.
    -We did not know what some of the employees did at work.They would come in and go everyday and had fancy top level positions but noone knew what they really did.
    -Management (e.g. CEO) would leave flashy lifestyles and yet the employees were not paid.
    I mention all of this as this somehow contributed to low employee moral and ethics.Bottom line is its two sided,we do not have a work ethic that is true but in some cases there are contributing factors such as poor leadership and in majority of cases employees were just not concerned about their work.One of our team members had a masters degree but he failed to articulate basic business processes.There was so much fixation on positions etc.
    When i moved into a new environment in the country i am now based it took me a lot of adjustments to be up to speed with the work ethic.The work ethic there was so much on another level.We do not work over and above our normal hours but in those normal hours people are focused on work and goal deliveries.There is not much fixation on positions etc.This is a large multinational with revenue exceeding billions of US dollars.I also made some observations:
    -We have a pool office based environment and i work on the same floor as my senior manager and one of the partners. N.B. In most Zim companies this is taboo a manager has their own offices.
    -There is so much emphasis on timelines and deliverables.You are told from the onset the cost of the project what is in the project charter etc.This was a major shift from were i worked were you would be fired just for finding out how much the project was worth.
    -We were a very lean team of about 40 consultants in our department and in my first year there we made more revenue than what we did with our previous employer who had 350+ consultants.
    -There is less focus on what one drives etc . . there is more emphasis on work life balance.We hardly work weekends at all unless it is too critical and there is need for us.
    I could go on.The point i am making is the problem we have is a culture and leadership problem.Most people dnt have the work ethic as it is something that is not built within our workplaces.It does not make sense for companies to continue operating when clearly there is no business,though painful decision to make most companies need to be honest with themselves and cut down on excess idle stuff.
    A good practical example of our work culture is at the beitbridge border.At one point whilst driving through there we had a queue of 20 people who wanted to do their TIP.I was number 10 on the line. i got the at 2am and left at 5 am just to do a TIP.Surely something is wrong with our work ethics.
    I understand what Tsitsi Masiyiwa was asking and unfortunately i feel that as Zimbabweans we do not want to have honest conversations on issues that we know and are uncomfortable talking about.Does it make sense to be fair that people work 8 hours a day and they say we are busy and yet our GDP etc is that law.Fellow countrymen i think we need to have an honest debate on this.We all know what is happening in our work places lets have an jonest conversation on that.

  11. Sagitarr says:

    Very interesting, insightful comments and observations here! I agree with the school of thought that we need an honest conversation on this topical issue. I think if all job adverts clearly state the salary (and everything else) it becomes clear for one to know where they stand in an organisation, but in Zimbabwe this is “private & confidential”. It is also an advantage to the country to have some kind of national time management philosophy because we waste so much of it and become less competitive as a result. Lastly, we need more honesty such that we admit what we don’t know and use the opportunity to learn. In my view this builds a better work ethic which is productive, efficient and fulfilling. The downside of having an excellent work ethic in a company where this is generally lacking is that you might just “explode” and you might end up doing other people’s work and end up frustrated and unhappy. Like one contributor mentioned, self management is key in making the high work ethic intrinsic and voluntary. I work for a company where some managers are so incompetent you wonder why the directors keep them in those positions. Nonetheless, I put in a full day’s work every day because its my personal philosophy to do so.

  12. Crashed & burnt says:

    Guys, I was the extreme ideal of the worker that Tsitsi thinks only exist in her dreams; in the office between 6 & 7, out the door 2-3hrs after the boss or working through the night when **it hit the fan, ate at my desk as i worked over lunch, never took my annual leave, worked on weekends with no overtime, never questioned when we had ‘cashflow issues’… Over 10 years of that, and I gotta say in hind sight, I was an idiot. I worked myself into depression and physical debilitation only to be treated as a consumable to be tossed when I finally couldn’t continue at that pace. If those who work beyond the call of duty don’t get met half way through company/national policy and commensurate compensation from the top, whats the point in burning yourself out? People aren’t blind. If they see hard work rewarded or at the very least acknowledged and matched by the bosses, they will be more likely to rise to the challenge, otherwise we see what we have in a lot of places now. Create the right environment and people won’t begrudge going the extra mile in a non-self-destructive way when the chips are down.

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