Zimbabwe: Marco Machona, the man, the business, the politician

Ruffcut$ Wear clothing logoBy Shout-Africa Correspondent – He is the founder and chief executive officer of one of the fast growing clothing and entertainment brands in the world – Ruffcut$ Wear. Marco Machona’s (MM) clothing label became a continental brand with more than 20 albums, 10 short musical videos and 60 television episodes. Ruffcut$ has also partnered with various international brands, registered in nine countries, has more than 200 stores and nine boutiques in Southern Africa. Besides being a shrewd academic and fashion mogul, Machona has cast his eyes into politics. Shout-Africa Zimbabwean Correspondent (SC) had an in-depth interview with the fashion mogul-cum-politician about his upbringing, clothing empire, political understanding and ambitions.


Marco Machona

Marco Machona

SC: This is a very big decision that you have made and must have put a lot of thought into it.
MM: I was born into politics… My family has always been in the forefront of the liberation struggles. Some were lawyers, advocates, doctors, Member of Parliament, first black Mayor of Masvingo, assistants to Lancaster House preparations, mobilizations and even war vets. My family tree and roots is traced down the Nile from Egypt to Great Zimbabwe and we were the early settlers of Masvingo Ruins. Born & Raised in a Catholic boarding schools was an introduction to politics, even though then one is not sure what to do with all the information. All Zanla Forces when in Gokwe would be taken care of by our family: from food, entertainment to security. At the age of 9, my mother then registered me as a Zanu PF member and have been active as a youth since those days – taking notes during meetings, delivering information between cells and cleaning guns for fighters based in Gokwe Area then.  I was basically the ‘mujibha” then – a runner that bought drinks, cigarettes, look for women and watch out for guerrilla fighters during those early ages. I was just loved by the fighters I met and developed an early understanding of the struggle since then.

SC: Does this mean that you will be standing in the next projected polls?
MM: I will stand as an independent candidate in the next polls. In fact it took so many years to completely find enough reasons and grounds to dish Zanu PF. I was born into this political party just like most of my generations. We watched and absorbed everything the party told us: education, discipline, respect of parents, visions, focus & everything that Zanu stood for then. I have compared the Zanu PF that my mother introduced to and this one – that disparity, that difference, that lack of democracy even within organization and what it is today has made me become the last few to dish this organization that we all treasured and saved with
honors. Even the little chores we did then were from the bottom of our hearts, for free and without question.

If certain things were different in Zanu PF – I think most people would still be in the organization. Now Zanu PF doesn’t represent its own founding principles, its own vision and the very essence of humanity and civilization that we all once supported has been eroded. It has become almost impossible to defend this organization in any forum locally or abroad.

Not only has the mandate expired by current leadership is at wits-end with what and how to implement some of its old and founding policies.

These are some of the reasons why I will stand as an independent candidate. I also want change so don’t think MDC should monopolize those words but that’s what people want and MDC seem to be cashing in on that – even without explaining how they will influence change.

Whole world needs change including these huge parties – can’t be the only reason to vote for a person or political party. The challenge is to state what needs to be changed and HOW?

SC: When exactly did you start thinking about becoming a politician?
MM: It’s been more than 20 years now.  I knew then that after I am done with education, travelling, starting my own business and having kids – would eventually become a great politician. I didn’t envisage such hostile environment though. I thought with all those comrades who would carry me or teach me how to clean guns or how to shoot – my ambition would have been easier and royal …but now I seem to be against all that background. That single decision to be independent is in agreement with the original Zanu PF principles and those fighters who I met would be proud of me today. They probably would have told me the same that for a politician –you should stand by the truth of the revolution of that yesteryear and with that of today. Same principles apply. Only people and leaders have shifted and betrayed their own organizations.

SC: Why do you feel like this is the right time/moment to do so?
MM: There is no right time to join politics. My father was a prison guard at Khami, Hwahwa, Commara, Kadoma Reformatory and many prisons in the country where we lived a nomadic life. My father was always having these “smart” prisoners coming home to clean the house and gardening. One day I asked my father – why is that he allows these prisoners to drink our tea, eat sadza, play games, watch our TV and read newspapers – the he told me that they were political prisoners. I think that was a huge turning point. I was about 12 – 15 years that time. I met almost all political prisoners – some of whom are huge bosses today. Names I can’t say. Some I assisted with reading and interpreting news from print media. Some we played games indoors till they go to their cells. I think when really knew who they were. I was then shocked by my upbringing more than ever.

I think I am more mature, focused, fearless, strong and brave – meaning that it’s the right time. It’s also the most dangerous time for someone like me to join politics. When MDC was formed, I was invited by friends – some who are still in the party.

When I was at UZ – I was always in demonstrations: throwing bricks at cops and challenging One Part State by Bob (President Robert Mugabe) then. I guess I was already in politics – just a different kind of participation.

SC: What prompted you to take up this herculean task?
MM: You know there was a time I admired Mugabe more than my own father, more than any leader. I have known and with time started questioning his decisions, policies, vision, tactics, lack of grooming young minds and general direction of the country. I still gave Zanu the benefit but every year became worse than the previous one. I for years distanced myself from main stream politics or even commenting.

Even during my days at ZBC – I almost interviewed everyone except Mugabe but talked to ambassadors, (late Simon) Muzenda, dignitaries, commercial farmers and my age group. That’s when I knew Zanu was in trouble. That was more evident about 10 years ago. I decided to study the political environment closely, each leader, each minister, each decision and track down promises and campaign strategies.  I would assist some Zanu PF members to win in their own constituencies, assist with messages and provide short notes for family members who were contesting. I knew then that I had a special understanding of politics – more than the average understanding of those I was seeing in Govt. The more I read and studied them the more I became disappointed and the more I saw how a leader changed against his principles. Agitated and frustrated, I knew and prayed for the best time, mind-frame, words and good standing with my Lord to enter mainstream politics. YES – I am always invited to join that group and this group but my history is different. I have an old soul and an old spirit of Zimbabwean politics. For money I would be in Government by now or dead.

SC: Why did you choose to be independent? Why not join other mainstream political parties like Zanu PF or the two MDC formations, Mavambo Kusile Dawn (MKD).
MM: It’s independent of mind, independent of ideas and independent of vision NOT necessarily being totally different. I can be myself and expose my ignorance or wisdom without blaming anyone or any political party. My generation and one behind me want to hear what a politician think, feel, see, do, eat, sleep and follow before voting for them.

You find in these parties a bunch of politicians – seasoned – can’t even debate, can’t put a point across or come up with their own original idea to advance Zimbabwe – BUT they hide behind leaders and political parties. My generation is different. Before they vote for you – they want to asses you as an individual before you join others. I think it’s only fair because it’s easy to join Zanu or MDC and just agree with everything there. Just go along and jump. Swim and run when others do it. I am not that kind of politician. For the first years, I want a clear mould of myself, a clear all round politician who can be sent anywhere or be anywhere in the world and your people or Government won’t doubt you. That’s what I am. I am solid in my convictions.

Building my business for 10 years is a clear indication that I can withstand heat, pressure of poverty or success and build a character out of myself that trustworthy and depend enable yet modern. I do respect MDC very much but I don’t want to be an opportunist, you know those people who emerge from nowhere just in time to get a ministerial post…More people sacrificed more than me – so being independent allows an opportunity to asses me or let me say the people in my constituency to asses me.

MDC is an improvement of Zanu PF, a couple of notches up but very similar and also running out of ideas to develop Zimbabwe. Sometimes I wonder what will MDC do should Zanu PF decides to implement change….then you will see what I am talking about. In 10 years – MDC will be like Zanu PF of today – undemocratic, same leaders, no clear succession plan with the party, the “handiyende mentality” starts to creep in and complacency.  Being independent – I can share my views if I was belonging to these parties – or risk being fired. I don’t worry about that now. I tell and warn my young generation of things to watch out for with these parties.

SC: Which constituency exactly will you be standing in for and why?
MM: Gokwe South, it is home and my father is buried there. I will probably be a shocker to those contesting. But again we have to confirm boarders as you know people change not only goal posts but the ball, uniforms and the pitch itself in Zim politics. It’s my (neighbour)hood that I will contest irrespective of the actual boarders of the day. I grew up there and there is no single MP who hasn’t come through my family’s hands to parliament. They knew one day I would contest. I just hope they make way or lose in the elections.

SC: What change or difference if elected do you think you can bring to your constituency.
MM: Gokwe is all cotton, coal, agricultural products and close to game reserve neighbouring Binga. It’s a rich district. All the cotton and coal has been disappearing – my first task will be to bring the processing of textile and cloth brands production in Gokwe.

Coal should stay in Gokwe. Those who want it should process it straight from Gokwe. All associated investments for those two resources unique to Gokwe should not leave the shores. Should result in jobs, curb rural – urban migration.

Gokwe is like California without development – can grow to be bigger than Bulawayo with better vegetation and infrastructure linking with Zambia, Kariba and Beitbridge.

SC: What effect do you think this development will have on your fashion empire – Ruffcuts Wear? (Negative or positive. Why?)

MM: Ruffcuts is slowly becoming a family run business. We are slowly reaching our goal to reach 20 African countries. This year will see Ruffcuts in East and Central Africa. We just opened Lesotho a month ago and on my way to Swaziland. I get invited to so many countries but short on resources.

My daughter will head Ruffcuts USA. I am trying to convince my son to run Ruffcuts Germany. My point is that I knew I would be in politics, so decided years ago on spreading the brand and be independent of me with time. I have done my part with Ruffucts. I am proud of myself but I need to conquer Africa now like Econet. I know the terrain better and experience has taught me short cuts now than when I started.

Politics and scandals are inseparable – I am a human being and with politics come hate, envy, power struggles and jealousy, so I started working on cushions a long time ago.

SC: You also mentioned that you will be doing a door to door campaign. Do have a team that you will be working with or you will be doing it personally?
MM: It’s a natural way of campaigning if you don’t belong to these huge parties. Remember that some rural constituencies are more compact and closely knitted than others. Gokwe South is easy for me because I can literally map it in boxes for the door to door runs. Yes I am building a team from the area that will assist me.

SC: What technological means will you use after your door to door approach?
MM: Phones. I do have a plan in progress that will use phones on my campaign. You know, you need a police clearance to have a rally – so we have to find other means to constantly work on the strategies and get information out there. I do have a unique plan. I have been planning this for years you know. I know my area and people. Rural voters are getting younger and younger. It favors my kind of campaign.They are tired like me of Mugabe and don’t like MDC that much. That’s Gokwe South for you.

SC: If you were to weigh your options what chances of winning do you think you have?
MM: I will win. Like all contesting, it’s a matter of having enough uninterrupted time to introduce yourself, your story and creating a database for my other strategy. I am a master of campaigning, a guru in marketing. I get paid to think how to position a brand, a name or message. I am a PhD candidate at Wits University and when given a chance will cause damage in elections. I study people. I was born and raised in Zanu, studied MDC against the people – their clear chances are also slipping away. People are changing. Politics in future won’t be that intimidating or so stuck up in suits, it will be about doing things. My campaign will be based on what I will do not about much of promises. If I sponsor sports, I will show them the team, the soccer field, the entertainment or a plan of the City I was talking about. I don’t think many potential MP from Gokwe – as individuals have a clear understanding of the potential this constituency has. My campaign won’t be much about what’s not tangible or those slogans we grew up with but can we go and build that bridge and we do it. Can we paint that school and we do it. I don’t want to run an election campaign of words only. If I say a clinic, I want it to be there from my own resources.

 If I lose those establishments will be standing and functioning. That
will be my strengths.