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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Twenty reasons why I support a white man who is more Zimbabwean than most

Article by Rutendo Matinyarare

Many Zimbabweans are shocked to see me promoting Simon Rudland and they are asking why I’m defending a Rhodie.

Well, it’s because Simon was made by Zimbabwe, its indigenization policies, black Zimbabweans and not by Rhodesia.

  1. Simon was born in 1971 and at the age of 7, his father who was a farmer in Chinhoyi (never a minister in Ian Smith’s government), suffered a stroke and his mother who was a nurse at the Avenues Clinic, had to sell their 600-hectare plus farm to lease a smaller one so that she could afford to care for his father and to take Simon and his siblings to school.
  2. On completing his O’ levels, Simon didn’t perform well academically, so his mum kicked him out of the house. He joined Delta Corporation as a diesel mechanic apprentice and in time qualified as a diesel mechanic on a measly salary.
  3. He then got an opportunity to sell truck & bus tires and parts for McMillan senior, and it was here, working with the likes of Scott Sakupwanya, that Simon was introduced to black bus & truck operators like Chawasarira, Pam’s, Kurakurerwa, Musasiwa and others who bought the bulk of his tires and the truck parts he sold.

These relationships with these black entrepreneurs allowed the young Simon to save enough money to buy his first truck and trailer bus from Pams (Peter Pamire). By learning from these black bus operators, he put his first bus to ply the Harare-Chitungwiza route.

How Pioneer Was Born.

  1. Mr. Kuguguyo (Chawasarira) gave him a space at his garage to park and service his bus every night. This stint, servicing his bus at Chawasarira, taught Simon the lessons of how to build a logistics empire.
  2. Simon then bought second hand Mercedes buses which then plied the Harare-Budiriro route. It is from these local trips that his transport empire known as Mavambo began.
  3. Black commuters filled his buses which brought in the revenue that laid the bricks upon which Simon began his first long-distance route to Murehwa. It was from these long-distance trips to Murehwa that the well-known electric yellow buses and trucks of Pioneer Logistics were born.
  4. According to Simon and other transport operators of the time, this was the most profitable era for transport operators. During this time, Simon was able to build the Pioneer fleet to consist of 69 buses and 249 trucks.

The Fall of Pioneer

Unfortunately, he made the tough decision to fold the bus business after one of his buses was involved in a horrific accident with a ZUPCO bus in Magunje, resulting in the death of 39 people.

Horrified by the loss of life, Simon and his brother decided to leave the business as they could not bear the thought of their vehicles being involved in any more tragic incidents.

Simon Buys Clan, Swift And Bak Storage

  1. Simon’s success story commenced from the humble beginnings of Mavambo and Pioneer Logistics. Through the help of several black partners, workers and customers, Simon emerged to acquire Clan, Swift, Bak Storage, as well as interests in sugar giant Hulettes and shares in the Mazoe Citrus Estate when it still existed.

It is noteworthy to mention that Simon, an outsider among the Rhodesian white elite, started off as an underpaid diesel mechanic at Delta and grew to become the biggest investor in Zimbabwe because of his close relationship with black Zimbabwean businessmen.

The Creation Of Gold Leaf Tobacco

  1. Shingi Mutasa also played a pivotal role in assisting Simon to secure a loan from Musa Capital, a black American Private Equity Firm and a former client of mine, to start Gold Leaf Tobacco.
  2. During the imposition of sanctions in the early 2000s, the era of quick money disappeared, but Simon remained in Zimbabwe. This was unlike some black Zimbabwean millionaires who externalized their indigenization proceeds, launched new companies outside of Zimbabwe and then badmouthed the government that had made them, all because they were being investigated for fraud exposed in a 1999, Ministry of Finance Commission of enquiry into the operational affairs of First Mutual Life.
  3. During this period when the Zim dollar experienced hectic devaluation, Simon rationalized Pioneer trucks and like a true Zimbabwean, persevered through challenging times alongside other resilient local entrepreneurs.

When the environment stabilized, he continued to acquire iconic national companies to maintain the country’s stability while growing his portfolio.

  1. Despite the perceived risks associated with investing in a sanctioned Zimbabwe, Simon saw opportunity and reinvested his wealth in logistics (excluding buses), sugar, tobacco farming and citrus farming ventures.
  2. Today, he is now being targeted by unfounded allegations that aim to get him sanctioned and his assets frozen on concocted money-laundering charges. Nonetheless, this Scottish descendant adamantly refuses to leave Zimbabwe or to stop investing in the country, declaring that he is a Zimbabwean and nothing else.
  3. Through it all, Simon remains humble, recognizing that without the support of black Zimbabweans and the country’s indigenization policies, he may not have become one of Africa’s leading entrepreneurs.
  4. For this reason, he remains loyal to Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans because they made him who he is. He holds only a Zimbabwean passport and is not a citizen of any other country. Zimbabwe is his only home.

Even though he conducts business worldwide, he owns only one house in Harare, while he rents accommodation elsewhere.

Friendlies Charity

  1. What won me over about the man, though, is that he supports a charity called Friendlies, which provides food for thousands of hungry Zimbabweans every day.

The same charity also provides surgery to correct cleft palates in thousands of Zimbabwean children, to give them a better quality of life. SR didn’t want me to expose this because, as he says, he doesn’t do it for recognition. However, I believe that good stories must be told.

  1. He adopted two Zimbabweans and raised them as his own children. One of them is now a nurse in Australia, while the other followed in his footsteps and owns a logistics company in Zimbabwe.

Thomas Rudland School

  1. Simon has turned many Zimbabweans into millionaires, and he even adopted and funded a government school that he rebuilt, refurbished and renamed after his grandfather: Thomas Rudland, to ensure that poor kids of Bulawayo can get a classic education.
  2. The man has two farms, one in Zimbabwe and another in neighbouring Zambia. He drives a Toyota GD6 as his only car and when I asked him if he owned any other cars, he said that he could not afford to buy expensive cars when there are so many people in Zimbabwe to pull out of poverty.

Simon Rudland Employs 4000 People.

  1. Today, SR employs over 4,000 people because of his loyalty to Zimbabwe and Africa. He believes that we need to create more Zimbabwean millionaires and billionaires before sanctions are lifted, to avoid giving away the vast heritage that we have in Zimbabwe to foreigners.

This is why I defend Simon and others like him: Kuda Tagwirei, Sandra Mpunga, Shingi Mutasa, Divine Ndhlukula, Scott Sakupwanya, Mashewede, Nyariri, Chigumba and so many other business people who have gained my respect as I learn more about the Zimbabwean economy and what they have done to keep it going.

I have criticized many of these captains of industry for not developing the future generation, but all the same, I appreciate that they are special. They continued to stand with Zimbabwe when it was unfashionable, yet they could have left to go and live comfortably anywhere in the world like the well known Zimbabwean CIA asset did.

It is these men and women who have kept Zimbabwe a going concern that is now attractive and fashionable for foreign investors like John Deere to invest in today.

I salute these people for risking sanctions and fake money-laundering allegations to hold Zimbabwe up.

Written by Rutendo Matinyarare, Chairman of ZASM and Marketing Strategist for Frontline Strat Marketing Consultancy.


The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation


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