Think big


Do you want to be a person who leaves a mark, not for the mark itself but by the audacity of your vision and its realisation in your lifetime?

Taxi drivers are almost universally reviled for the way they drive. I have been driven by an Afghan driver in New York and almost driven off the road by Kombi drivers in Lusaka, Johannesburg and Dar es Salaam.

The worst and most colourful in my experience ever, are the Matatu drivers in Nairobi, even though they have now been tamed somewhat by the government’s banning of the graffiti style colours that adorned them.

I found that to be a pity but, if you want the populace to obey you, give them a uniform! These guys basically make up the rules as they go along ensuring everyone gets a dose of trauma before they get to work or home in the evenings.

You will, therefore, imagine the jokes that have been flying around ever since the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) announced that they will be launching an airline in November.

The jokes range from overtaking on the runway, passengers passing the fare to the pilot, dodging air traffic controllers to finding short cuts to Cape Town!

Here is the serious bit. Santaco controls 95% of the taxi industry in South Africa employing 290 000 drivers, 80 000 rank marshals, 100 000 conductors, 100 000 car washers and 150 000 informal traders at taxi ranks.

They serve 15 million customers every single day! They are bigger than some Zimbabwean political parties and they mean business!

The low cost airline will initially fly between Johannesburg and Cape Town via Bisho for between R500 and R600 with, of course, a taxi drop off at the airport!

There are plans for a route to Durban for R300.

They intend to list on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and will issue 40 million shares to mostly Santaco members.

These chaps are as serious as a cop issuing a speeding ticket to . . . a taxi driver.

Now let’s turn to you as we always do in trying to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness, otherwise what is the point? If I walked in to your company today and said:

“Look Air Zimbabwe may or may not collapse and this presents an opportunity for you to set up a low cost airline,” how long would it take before you threw me out like a passenger who has not paid his fare in a kombi? I ask this of myself too by the way. Are we too scared to think big? Does our potential frighten the lights out of us?

When Senegal beat France in Korea-Japan 2002, I sensed that at one point as they progressed through that World Cup tournament, they said to themselves:

“I think we have gone far enough now. This is too much success, time to bow out.”

They were fired up against the former colonial master, secured the victory and then it did not matter much after that. Like Zimbabwe versus Zambia or Ghana versus Nigeria in the past, and Liverpool versus Manchester United of late. As long as the former beats the latter, their season is made. Ouch!

Do we have a ceiling? Wilfred Jo Tsonga didn’t think so last week coming back from two sets down to beat Federer at Wimbledon.

It is not done unless your name is Nadal and look how long it took him!
Well, consider this from the Virgin Atlantic who had the utter cheek to take on British Airways:

“Back in the early ’80s Richard Branson was probably best known for Virgin Records, the legendary record label that signed major names like the Rolling Stones, Janet Jackson and The Human League. In 1984, much to the horror of his directors, Richard announced to the world that a high quality, value for, money airline would begin operating within three months. Three months, some licences, staff and an aircraft packed with celebrities later, Virgin Atlantic Airways was born. By the end of the decade we had flown over one million passengers and started shaking up services onboard by being the first airline to offer individual TVs to their business class passengers.”

In his timeless book, Built To Last, Jim Collins talks about big hairy audacious goals as being typical of those entrepreneurs who went on to great things.

I know the principles thereof can be applied to almost every sphere of life from the political vision for the country, the aspirations of a young cricket player in Binga, to setting up a successful chain of tuck shops and everything in between.

Do you want to be a person who leaves a mark, not for the mark itself but by the audacity of your vision and its realisation in your lifetime?

When books are written (maybe I will write it) about how Zimbabwe went back to her glorious self, will you feature in it?

Are you happy to be anonymous and grey, neither black nor white or even more colourful so that you can just be left alone to your mediocrity?

Do me a favour, watch biographies on the History Channel and see that you are no different from the people who are featured therein.

Santaco has other plans by the way. They want to launch a property portfolio to “commercialise the 15 million commuters passing through our hands each day”. Just thought I should throw that in. Someone is thinking big . . . are you?

Albert Gumbo is an alumni of the Duke University-UCT US-Southern Africa Centre for Leadership and Public Values.

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