Simbi Phiri: Success par-excellence and the bane of Malawian self-hate


    By Kelvin Sulugwe

    He is the common denominator of Malawian success on the continental stage, the entrepreneur, the cause celebre. Reading through his rise, you get the feeling, like most Malawians abroad, Simbi Phiri is a man who unites and divides. Almost simultaneously, it is spectacular.

    Make no mistake, the divisions are more imagined than real, conspicuously among the citizens of his birth country. Most based-on myth, something I will expand on in a little later. It is hard to imagine a man boasting of a stellar resume, a philanthropist, a businessman, and per his peers, ‘an exceptional but decent human being’.

    But if his CV is stellar, his works telling, and his heart big, then his rise will blow your mind. Here is a Malawian, (apparently from my home district, Mchinji) who rose to become one of the most respected business tycoons on African soil.

    I have been forced to voice my naked thoughts having followed a number of newsites and those well learned Facebook experts who have of late, copied and pasted what unidentified and misleading news websites have been venom ingredienting the internet concerning our very own.

    Making a name globally is no mean achievement. Just like my former master, Simbi has had his fair share of accusations and misjudged propaganda leveled against him.

    A quick search of his name on google will show you that the man accumulated great wealth in South Africa. This hardly contestable. His name is up there with the most powerful, and influential men on this continent.

    It is quite amazing. Anyone who has ever set foot in the Republic of South Africa, or any other place in the world will tell you that it is no mean feat for an expat to establish himself among locals. An expat is almost always ‘up against it’, if I may borrow from the Queen’s euphemisms.

    To rise in a foreign land, one must be very smart, hardworking, strong and courageous. The terrain is never easy, the systems are built to promote locals, opportunities are limited and most countries reserve lucrative sectors for locals.

    It is hard thing to do. Period.

    But the victory parade ought to be sweet when you make it. Unless if you Malawian, and your blood, sweat, and tears, which must ordinarily be a cause for national pride, are often a warrant for needless abuse.

    As I stated earlier, in Malawi, successful exports (expats) are a cause celebre. I can even bet bottom dollar, by now, a few readers are of the imagined view that I have been ‘simbitised’. Granted, I am a PR expert, but this here is no PR job. I am just exhausted.

    I am tired of Malawians who feel their fellow Malawians don’t deserve to make it, as if each citizen is apportioned to suffer till kingdom come. I am tired of the tendency that browses for shortfalls in other people just to pin them to the wall of shame. Often time without warrant.
    I for one, nowadays, take time to understand and limit myself to understanding circumstances in their exact forms and appreciating the efforts of others and let those who sit on the throne do what seems to be the easiest of them all, JUDGE.

    Case I point, in my search about this Mchinji role model, I also came across several articles apparently dragging his reputation through the dirty dirty mud. Well, just because it’s on the Internet, that doesn’t make it true (Ofcourse neither is it false), but unfortunately, common sense is very uncommon to both publishers and readers. I choose to be inspired by these people who have made it this far. How they make it is their story to tell, I will simply applaud their glory and be motivated with their told stories.

    Simbi Phiri has proved beyond Thomases that he is a man who can build a community if given the thumb, not the middle fingere. From building police houses to helping his community with roads and now, expanding to a national level with what will be the most brilliant and innovative project aimed at bringing water from the Lake Malawi to the dry lands of the capital city and its surrounding areas.

    We have to be happy for once in a life time. We tend to benefit more from these rich sons and daughters of the land. Or would it bring all the smiles if such a project landed in the hands of a foreign company, that will in the end dry our foreign reserves and bid goodbye after amassing billions in Kwachas turned dollars?

    Simbi deserves so much more than needless shaming, and dubious accusations. He is a Malawian who has made it, and ought to be celebrated as a worthy national product. Nothing else.

    • Kelvin Sulugwe is a Malawian born business person, philanthropist and PR specialist. He writes in his own capacity.


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