HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsComment: Brands, politics make for controversial bedfellows

Comment: Brands, politics make for controversial bedfellows

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It is a fact that corporate brands and politics make for controversial bedfellows.

The fastest way to destroy a business is inviting partisan politics into conflict resolution and corporate strategy.

This truism, it appears, has escaped businessman Nigel Chanakira, whose quest to reclaim a controlling stake in Kingdom Financial Holdings Limited (KFHL) has seen the political animal creeping out of the woodwork to either render moral support or to actually punch from Chanakira’s corner.

This is a danger to the Kingdom brand which had become synonymous with business acumen, before the brutal fight for control with the Moxon family .

The financial services provider had become the face of good black business, the antonym of reckless, fronted indigenisation projects, fuelled by patronage systems.

There is no doubt that Kingdom owes its brand to Chanakira. There is equally no doubt that Chanakira lost control of the banking institution the moment he sold the largest part of his shareholding to Moxon and Econet in a bid to recapitalise operations.

In fact, the untold truth is that after the sell-offs, Chanakira remained in control of Kingdom through two agreements with Econet and the Meikles family.

But there is an unending debate about the method the embattled banker employed to regain control of the institution – the use of political muscle.

It only stands to reason that the institution was also born in much the same way, and has little or no relationship with the “rags-to-riches” fable as many people have been made to understand.

The resolution to the conflict that has riddled the business, in our view, could have been handled better without the political figures that have now started to speak in support of Chanakira and who, in some instances, appear to portray the businessman as their protégé.

Two weeks ago, President Mugabe, from the blue – at the funeral of his brother-in-law Reward Marufu — spoke in sympathy for and in support of Chanakira.

National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board chairman David Chapfika at a conference late last month openly manipulated the disputable indigenisation law to bolster Chanakira’s position, and at the weekend controversial businessman Phillip Chiyangwa told the media that Chanakira had won back the banking institution and that the issue was now over.

This is after Kingdom Meikles Africa Limited had invited bidders for the KFHL stake in the conglomerate.

There are two readings to the Chiyangwa announcement: it could be a counter-strike against the Moxon family who are keen to hive off KFHL from their stable.

They are prepared to sell the stake to anyone, including Chanakira, who has struggled to raise the dollars.

The other interpretation is that Chanakira has won back the business courtesy of support from Chiyangwa and his comrades.

It would be fatal for Chanakira and more so for Kingdom if control of the business was retained as a result of partisan support.

This would be a black eye for Kingdom. Chanakira did not require partisan support to build the Kingdom brand.

His tribulations, at the hands of the state 10 years ago, was a major boost to his business. Kingdom remained independent and growth followed the freedom from partisan interests.

A reversal of this image of KFHL would be fatal — especially if political hands start to control the levers of control at the bank.

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