By Zvamunoda Gunduza
CHENJERAI NGWARATI and I have known each other since primary school, engaging in all sorts of mischief together.
I will always recall the day we were whipped in front of the whole school by Kaviya (the headmaster of St Lazarus Makumbi Mission then) because we had sneaked into the school orchard to steal some peaches instead of gathering around with others to close the school term.
We always had this peer factor between us; we went to the same high school and did the same courses in accounting and finance after high school.
With that history, we always kept in touch despite the ‘separation’ that arose from our jobs and other family commitments.
In 2009, we urged each other to save some money so that we could do something meaningful in life.
Around early August 2010, we had each saved around US$800.
That same year, Apple had released the new iPhone on June 4 2010 with a purchase price of around US$199 in the US and around US$699 the world over if my memory serves me well.
In Zimbabwe, that new iPhone cost around US$700 or even more around August of the same year.
I could not resist the new and trendy phone.
Everyone seemed to talk about it and how it was a status symbol.
I also wanted status. Being a bachelor, I was also eyeing the women so I also thought it was a confidence booster…that instant testosterone booster.
Chenje, on the other hand, had decided to buy two heifers for around US$300 each, four goats at around US$30 and a simple ‘mbudzi’ of a phone.
I recall laughing at his phone and making fun of his decisions, telling him: “Wapindwa nechiruzevha mface wangu (you have become too rural).”
Chenje delivered his livestock back to his old man in the rural areas in Domboshava and he pretty much lived his decent life like before whilst the iPhone 4 users, like me, were the talk of town.
Come January 2017, Chenje urged me to come to his rural home so we could catch up. I agreed after a long time playing the ‘busy’ card.
When I arrived, he had gone with his old man to fetch some firewood to fire their bricks which were drying under a shade due to the rains.
I drove off in the direction his young brother had pointed. As I was driving out his yard, I couldn’t help but notice the many cattle that seemed to be staring at me in pity.
I met Chenje and his old man just as they were crossing some bridge and, as usual, I told him I wasn’t going to stay for long because I had a lot of outstanding work.
Chenje was wearing a torn T-shirt and some gumboots…quite unusual for a finance person.
We sat by the bridge as he tried to knock some sense into me.
He said: “Tafadzwa, I am sure you saw the many cattle outside our yard, can you believe they were as a result of those two heifers I bought about seven years ago?”
I looked at him in shock!
“But how? Where did you get the bull, how is that possible Chenje? Are you also telling me that the many goats I saw are yours too?” I exclaimed.
“Tafadzwa, you and I did a bit of math. Each calf takes about two years to mature, a goat matures in less than a year…if you do your math, you will see it’s very possible to have even more than 20 cows in seven years. My old man simply used to take turns herding cattle with our next door neighbour who had a good breed of bulls among his cattle…we didn’t need to buy bulls…he had advised me against it. What phone are you using these days?”
I pulled out my old iPhone and I must say, it’s still hard for me to let go because it reminds me so much of the ‘glorious’ days and it cost me a lot.
Right now, nobody really wants to buy it as it has long been overtaken by the latest and ‘sexier’ versions.
He looked at me in pity and said;
“You are not alone in this craze Tafadzwa because a lot of our colleagues have the same mindset. We often live for the time and don’t usually take interest in what the world is all about. Do you remember the finance course we took back in 2009 which had this module of derivatives that we didn’t like so much (I nodded)?
Well while others were at pains trying to cram the Black-Scholes model, I got interested in one term that these books often scratch on the surface yet it is the reason we have our derivatives market…the underlying.
I wanted to understand what this underlying was, why it was the reference point for the calculation of derivative products. I then realised that the commodities were the mother of all these things, be it the stock market or anything else. Those minerals, those livestock are the reason the world stands today.
They are the underlying cause of wars too. Colonialism was inspired by that underlying…the need to control the source of the resource. Slavery the same. Religious wars are just smokescreens… the underlying is the major cause.
“So I told myself, if the underlying is the basis from which the world financial markets are created, I want a stake in that too and maybe one year, the futures and forward contracts will be entered into based on my livestock, my meat, my raw hides, my leather, my milk, my shoes, my sofas, my jackets…it all starts with owning one cow, one goat, one sheep, one hen, one mineral claim. Control the underlying.
Right now, even senior people in industry are not empowering themselves and their generations but are busy chasing status instead. Directors in many local companies find it so easy to craft a policy whereby they can give a CEO or senior managers loans to buy US$260 000 cars, cellphones and laptops, among others, whose value falls significantly in a few months rather than issuing out empowering loans.
“That’s capitalism for you…the least you can do is find yourself on the positive side of it than sweat all your life enjoying temporary value only to realise you wasted a good 40 years for three months’ salary of a pension. Control the underlying baba.”
We said our goodbyes as he headed back home while I stood there pondering about what he had just said.
I looked at the back of his cart and it was inscribed ‘Always Demand the Best’.