How Philip Chiyangwa made his wealth and money!

LIKE or hate him, PHILIP CHIYANGWA (PC) is one of the most known Zimbabwean black businessmen to emerge in independent Zimbabwe, who features prominently in Africa’s Richest Black People List. His meteoric rise from a barefoot and spike haired vegetable vendor in the dusty streets of Hartley (now Chegutu) in Rhodesia to a flamboyant businessman, property developer and politician in Zimbabwe has never been understood by many, who have more often than not, claimed that his wealth is ill-gotten. Daring and unshaken in his spirited quest to get richer and richer, Mr Chiyangwa — who says he has a PhD in Common Sense — has courted controversy on his road to riches. Features Editor ISDORE GUVAMOMBE (IG) talks to Mr Chiyangwa (PC) about his upbringing, Business Empire, wealth and the future.

IG: Who is Philip Chiyangwa?
PC: I am a businessman, who has gone through a long way. I did not get my wealth yesterday. I got it through years of hard work, investment, reinvestment and strategic planning.

I am Christian but I must say these things are not manna from heaven. Where others see disasters and problems, I see opportunities. Even when I diversify, I remain focused. My mother Marita taught me to be astute and to be an entrepreneur from pamusika, the vegetable market. She taught me to buy and sell and my father taught me to cast visions and to stay focused. That is me.

IG: People say you are a crook . . .
PC: No, no, no! They are mad. If I stole a cent from anyone or anyone’s mother, grandmother or so, they should come and claim it. Kana ndakabira mai vemunhu kana tete kana mbuya vake ngavauye vatore because I now have the money, I have the money! My money is clean. When people are spiting me or sleeping, I am thinking hard and strategising to make more money. I have a doctorate in common sense, where academics and professional end, is where I start.

IG: HOW did you make your money?
PC: There is no magic in making money. You must characterise money as your friend. As blacks we have over the years believed that no one makes clean money. There is no magic in making money. They think money is difficult to make and that money is for those who have it already and that is wrong. If you have a problem with money it’s you because as for me, I have the money and I don’t have a problem with money.

Philip Chiyangwa
In many homes people fight over small money and how then do they expect money to visit them when they fight over small money? If you value money and you wish to create and accumulate wealth, you must be able to sacrifice and do things to make it happen. All my investments are in Zimbabwe not outside Zimbabwe. I can export but I remain in Zimbabwe.

IG: That is a bit philosophical. Anyway, where did you grow up and how?
PC: I was born in what is now Chegutu. You know there is no tarred road in those locations? I grew up in the dust. I was born in a family of 14, same mother, same father and I was number seven, now I am number one. All those senior to me died. My mother was a vendor, a vegetable vendor and she was the first to teach me to buy and sell, which is what I do to make money up to today.

What differs is the scale. My mother sold vegetables, I sell stands and properties. I buy companies and sell, when it becomes necessary. My father was a restrictee, a political detainee in Whawha and Gonakudzingwa. He was in and out of detention for politics.

I went to school with old people, in Grade three, you would get someone 15 years old and in grade six or seven you would get someone 20 years old. You needed to be clever and it made me clever. In between school I was a vendor helping my mother.



IG: That famous story about your scramble with bigger boys to get to the top of the rural bus and grab vegetables . . .
PC: Ah, that story. Okay, as vendors we would get our vegetables from buses, Dikita, Matambanadzo and Masiyandaita, that came from rural farming areas like Musengezi.

Each time a bus arrived, there was pushing, shoving and jostling among vendors to grab the vegetables first. I was too small and young but I would run for my mother.

The other boys were big and strong so it was a struggle for me to get the vegetables from the bus career for my mother.

One day, I cycled to a place 15 km away and parked by the bus stop and when the buses arrived I paid for all the vegetables and when the buses got to Chegutu, the other vendors were told that they had all been bought by me. I was a rendezvous buyer.

This is how my mother became a wholesaler of vegetables and all vendors would get vegetables from her. It became a norm. This is how my mother managed to send all of us to school, as a vegetable wholesaler.

IG: After school did you ever work for anyone?
PC: Yes, my first job was working as a garden boy for an elderly Portuguese family that had abandoned Mozambique when Samora Machel took over power.

I was later to learn that those are the people who blocked sewer and water pipes in protest of black rule in Mozambique.

Between running their errands and tending their flowers and hedge, I would dream of getting rich.

I would think of having my children growing the same way like I did. Like I said, my father was a restrictee. My situation did not make me despair, it hardened me and made me more ambitious. My poverty inspired me. I always dreamt of getting rich. I knew my situation would change for the better.

IG: How did you leave?
PC: Cutting hedge as usual, the milky liquid accidentally got into my eyes and the old lady would not understand seeing me rinsing my eyes with water at the tap continuously.

She was enraged and shouted at me so I ran to my mother who took me to the shops and bought milk. She cleaned my eyes with the milk. I never went back.

IG: People say you are not educated, how far did you go?
PC: I am educated. I attended Universal College in Highfield and did bookkeeping, elementary, intermediate and advanced certificates. I did typing too. That was in 1976. In 1977, I did Accounting Machines (NCR and Burroughs) at Commercial Cotcers College, now Zedco; ask the old folk what it means.

It was a special course. I then went to work at York House in Bulawayo, now owned by Mines Minister Cde Obert Mpofu. While there I did an advanced diploma in accounting.

I left in 1980 to join Dunlop Zimbabwe as an Industrial Engineering, Assisted and Work Study Trainee. I learnt the whole process of making a tyre. That time my elder brother, the late David popularly known as Mr Bulk, was working at Chitungwiza Council as a debt collector and he pressurised me to relocate to Harare.

I made seven applications for jobs in Harare and was finally called by Willovale and I shocked them in that interview, where I finished answering questions in a record 15 minutes of the stipulated 30 and I got 100 percent. I was later to move to Van Leah together with Tichafa Ndoro, who is still Managing Director there and that is where I first met Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, way back in 1982. So all those people who say things about me and Gono don’t know what they are saying, man. I have known him since that time, not yesterday.

IG: When exactly did you go into your own business?
PC: When I left Willowvale for Van Leah, my brother David, had left Chitungwiza Council and was buying and selling cars. I used to market cars for him from my office. I then decided to do my own thing and left.

IG: What did you go into as your first business?
PC: I formed Phids Electric Sounds, a disco that became very popular in Chitungwiza, Musami and St Ignatius and massive promotional work. I managed Hosea Chipanga, the Erosion Band and others. I dominated boxing promotion and wrestling. I managed the African Boxing Champion, Proud Kilimanjaro Chinembiri, Gilbert Josamu, Ambrose Mlilo, and Langton Tinago. I accompanied Kilimanjaro on his fight with Lennox Lewis, which was a fluke. I also did accounting books for many black business people who had shops. I felt I should be a businessman.

IG: Is this when you formed CIA?
PC: Yes, its actual name is Commercial Industrial Agency. We supplied stationary and furniture to rural schools and institutions and by 1984, I had started manufacturing my own furniture and selling it. My business then grew with the economy. Business was not difficult; there were opportunities for all enterprising young Zimbabweans.

In the 1990s, I became the first black to own a Betting Licence and the whites were after me. They wanted no black person in that industry. I was minting money; I had 43 branches throughout the country and employed more than 183 people.

IG: What did they do to you?
PC: Mashonaland and Matabeleland Turf Clubs were after me, man. They were white-dominated and there were an enclave of classic white racists, diabolic and protective of their interests. They spent three years fighting me. Suddenly, I was fighting all white people because I had gotten deep into their enclave.

I touched their raw nerve and white law firms came after me big time. Some blacks are apologetic to the whites because they don’t know these people. Most of them are coconuts for the whites to crush and eat. For whites to respect you, you must know that you are black, good and equal and as hungry for money as them.

IG: What can you tell us about Affirmative Action Group?
PC: I had enough reason to enter and fight agriculture, the white man’s nerve centre after my ordeal with the turf clubs. The only way was black empowerment and this is how we mooted AAG with the late Peter Pamire. I attacked them where it hurts most and founded AAG, 17 years ago. AAG has done extremely well for black Zimbabweans. It was the entrance of blacks into the private sector.

I am also a strategist.

IG: How did you leave politics, was it your involvement in the so-called Tsholotsho debacle?
PC: After MDC got into Parliament through the backdoor by taking advantage of the relaxation and infighting within Zanu-PF, the internal struggles took their toll on a lot of us. Some ended up cooking stories about me. I was caught up in that. Some said I was leading the Tsholotsho team. That led to my unfortunate exit from politics. I had to come to terms with the machinations of politics and I forgive those small-minded people who created the story for me.

IG: How have you received the Inclusive Government?
PC: After the formation of the inclusive Government I have been able to analyse the total ineptitude in dealing with the MDC-T. Tsvangirai has a collection of touts, bad apples, people who have failed in life yet to be in Zanu PF one has to have a distinction of competitive edge. Criminal perverts and excretes collected into MDC and Tsvangirai buries himself into the pus.

It is common cause that the Prime Minister is not among the most learned and he talks about me while addressing Harare councillors, without getting the facts right. I have more money anybody has ever come across and he said I was a crook. No one who has associated with Tsvangirai has ever made money like me. I challenge them.

IG: That brings us to your land deal with Harare City Council. What really happened?
PC: This was an unfortunate incident that was cooked up and made believable for the people of Zimbabwe. I wonder if the MDC-T can govern.

An incompetent assembly of people, who had absolutely no idea of law, facts of the deal gathered and decided to deal with Chiyangwa of Zanu-PF.

Firstly, the council was broke and I gave them money for salaries, US$7,1 million and they gave me land but as usual, this is a sign of the poverty in MDC-T. Tsvangirai brought into councils a baggage of corrupt councillors. We are now locked up with this kind of councillors, bereft of ideas and procedure. They sat and discussed my issue without getting in touch or inviting those who crafted the deal. It was a land swoop deal and they still owe me a lot of land, ask Tendai Mahachi the town clerk. I gave them 22 ha of land and they gave me 17 ha. Stupidity took over reasoning. If they owe me a public apology and if they pay little money I will forgive them. I have an affidavit from Mahachi on the deal.

IG: What positions to you currently hold?
PC: I am the president of the Construction Industry Federation of Zimbabwe, Vice president of the Zimbabwe Construction Industry Council which incorporates Zimbabwe Institute of Engineers, Zimbabwe Building Contractors Association, Institute of Architects of Zimbabwe and Real Estates Institute of Zimbabwe, among others. There are seven of them. Of course I am the founder and chairman of Native Investments Africa Group.

IG: In your life, which incident do you regret most?
PC: When I lost my daughter. She was my first child and she drowned in a swimming pool together with my friend’s daughter at Jameson High School in Kadoma. Apparently, I had influenced my friend Isaiah Chabveka to send his daughter to the same school with mine. Both girls drowned. It was very sad. It was a double tragedy.

IG: What is the future of your business empire?
PC: The future is to diversify; there are a lot of foreigners coming for our diamonds and other minerals. We need to look into that area. The housing project is being reviewed so that we provide cheaper stands at around $25 per month for 30 years. The poor must have access to decent accommodation. This is what we want.

I am a trendsetter, I want to take advantage of the situation and look at econometrics. I want to write my autobiography, I want to release two books on how to make money.

They are coming onto the market soon. I think it is easy to make money; there is nothing scientific about making money. I have a doctorate in common sense; I start where academics and professionals end.

Philip Chiyangwa on winning Tourism Personality of The Year Award
Zimbabwean Tycoon, Phillip Chiyangwa is a polarizing figure. There are not too many people who sit on the fence with him. You either like him or you don’t. But Love him or hate him, Chiyangwa or ‘PC’ as he is fondly known on the streets of Harare these days, is no doubt a mover and a shaker and an award winning businessman with interests and investments in property development, manufacturing, agriculture, heavy engineering and of late hospitality, travel and tourism.
Philip Chiyangwa on winning Tourism Personality of The Year Award
H&C Editor Emang Bokhutlo and reporter, Patrick Chitumba, caught up with him in Alexandra Park where the headquarters of Native Investments, the half a billion American dollar business empire of Chiyangwa have relocated for a chat about his recent Tourism Personality of the Year award, that was bestowed on him by the Zimbabwe National Tourism Authority in the resort town of Victoria Falls on World Tourism Day.

A warm welcome to his opulent offices by his secretary and a short wait in the lounge and then the man of the moment makes a grand entrance from the carport full of life as usual and speaking loudly on the phone. As soon as he is finished with his phone call, we find out soon enough that interviewing Chiyangwa is a pleasure.
In typical cocky and abrasive Chiyangwa style, which has earned him a reputation from the media as flamboyant, he volunteers information fast and openly and doesn’t shy away from self praise, boasting and controversy. If there is a firm believer of blowing one’s own trumpet, it ought to be Chiyangwa.

Before we could even introduce ourselves formally, Chiyangwa had already placed two bowls, one with roasted peanuts and the other with roasted maize in front of us and sarcastically quipped: “These are our traditional foods in Zimbabwe but do you know that we had to wait for a white man to package and sell them instead of doing it ourselves.”

We quickly steer him back to the main subject of the interview, his Tourism personality of the Year award and he says, “We own 1/5 of the land in Harare. Our investment portfolio in tourism is massive and by the time I am finished with building my hotels, I will own more rooms in Zimbabwe than any other tourism investor in this country. Those that claim to be the largest hotel groups will be small in comparison. We are talking of about 5000 rooms.

“In Borrowdale alone we have 470 bedrooms and outside Harare we stretch as far as Victoria Falls, Masvingo, and Gweru. When we do business we like to go big, so we are not talking small investment here.”
Emphasizing that despite his huge appetite for tourism, his strength still lies pretty much in property, Chiyangwa said that they were open to partnerships and have in fact been discussing possibilities of management contracts with experts in the hospitality industry such as Best Western hotels, Legacy hotels and African Sun Limited. ”
Phillip Chiyangwa with one of many of his luxury Cars with licence plate "tsivo" which means Revenge
Reminding us that he also has the Africa Tourism Investor Award and Runner up to the Tourism Manager of the year award winner, in the private sector under his belt, Chiyangwa goes on to say, “I nearly finished the white man off, but he ran away with the award. The only reason he beat me to it though is that he is London based and his company has a secondary listing on the London stock exchange. The truth is you as a black Zimbabwean you can not go to London and say Zimbabwe is a good country to invest in, but he is one of their own, so he can do it.”

Asked what exactly it is then that he did to deserve the awards, he says, “If you conduct business with a certain level of passion and perfection, which we have been doing for years, the results would be recognition, awards and of course revenue creation and profit.”

Born some 50 years ago in Norton, just outside Harare, the CEO of Pinnacle Property Holdings went on to tell us that his money is not inherited, but initially came from selling vegetables on the streets which he went on to invest in property which gave him huge spin offs.

“I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth in the sense that I have been chosen by God to succeed and there’s nothing anybody can do about that but I definitely didn’t emerge from old money. I grew up helping my mother as a vegetable vendor and then I started buying land when some people were sleeping only for some of those people to wake up and start questioning me on how I got the land. I work hard and where some don’t see opportunities I do.”

To such detractors and critics who like to question his wealth, he says, God is the one who made the decision to cast a blessing on me so that I become the most successful person in my family, which is normal in every family.”

Asked whether this therefore meant that God made a decision to make others poor, he says, “If money is a visitor, why is it not visiting you? Ask yourself, do you have a charm or you do not have one? I did not have a good background where I inherited money from my parents, No I was a vegetable vendor. All I have are my parents’ genes and God gave me a gift and a task to become rich. What I can tell you though is that many black people are scared of wealth. They have a poverty mentality. They just can not accept riches. My advice to those who want to free themselves from poverty is to learn to appreciate wealth and not to be afraid of money. I have the largest house in Zimbabwe and I am not ashamed to say so. My house has 68 rooms and I used to have a Cessna twin engine aero plane which I sold in 2004 but I am planning to buy a bigger one just because I can afford it.”

Further making an observation on why black people are generally poorer than the white folk and why he would never apologise for his lavish life, he says, “What I find amazing is that black people are mesmerised by the wealth that I have at the age of 50 when they don’t see anything wrong with Zuckerburg, a white kid being richer than me at such a young age. It is time black people start realizing that wealth is just material things, whether you are white or you are black you can have it because at the end of the day when you die, you can’t even take it with you. All that I am going to have when I am dead is a little piece of land in my home village, Zwimba where I am going to be buried, so what’s the big deal about riches that we should be afraid of them.”

Is he scornful of black people then? “No, I am just telling you the facts as they are. We hear of many black scientists but we never hear of their inventions. My advice to black people therefore is to just observe the white man carefully and whatever you see him do, copy it and do it somewhere else. If he packages maize, you package it too and sell it somewhere else,” he says repeating what he has been telling many of his students at his public lectures.

Explaining his most recent property investment in an up- market suburb of Harare called Bluff hill, Chiyangwa, who survived tough economic times in Zimbabwe by inventing what he calls, ‘survival and sustainable products’ said he was on a mission to assist the less privileged to crossover by giving them an opportunity to own decent homes in a respectable residential area.

“Right now I am creating a new era in Zimbabwe and blurring the class lines and bridging the gap between the poor and those who have by giving even the so called poor a chance to own decent houses in Bluff Hill, which they originally couldn’t afford. I am doing this through my affordable housing scheme. People who want land through this scheme, which will cost them only U$150 a month for 25 years must line up for it and fill up the application forms. It is as simple as that.” He says

About some of the challenges he has had so far in business he says, “We have a problem with certain people who think every thing is about deals. If they hear you are investing in something they want to be in on the deal, not realizing that you have to sweat for your money and not everything is always about a deal. There’s also the African political system, which says, if you are eating you have to eat with me, otherwise you can’t eat all. It can be frustrating.”

Finally the man who consoled a Zimbabwean contestant who lost in Big Brother Africa All stars TV show, with US$300,000.00 making such a huge amount of money look like small change, said he did it simply to take Munya Chidzoga out of his distress. “The guy was clearly in distress because he was cheated in a show owned by Nigerians, run by Nigerians and presented by Nigerians, so it was only logical that we do something for one of our own,” He says closing the interview.

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