Image credit: Ubuntu Hope

“Nothing turns on this.”

__Through all the noise, quietly discern what really matters.

Those who work with me have heard me say, time and again: “Nothing turns on this.” Let me share with you where it comes from:

In 1995, after waiting for nearly two years, we finally managed to get a hearing before the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe, the nation’s highest court. It was a daunting moment to see those esteemed judges in their gowns and wigs sitting before us!

The Minister of Telecommunications was represented by one of the most celebrated barristers in the nation’s history, an advocate called Chris Anderson SC.

I was represented by a South African advocate and constitutional expert called Wim Trengove SC. He was considered one of the most brilliant legal minds, and also represented President Nelson Mandela when he came out of prison.

Finally we had our day in court! Chris Anderson went first. He referred me as “the prince of freedom of expression,” but it was not meant to be complimentary! He attacked me personally and viciously. I was totally shocked as he questioned my suitability as the holder of such a license.

It was relentless and my wife sitting next to me began to weep silently. Some of my supporters in the gallery were shaken but most just prayed.

Although I was not being cross-examined, he would often turn towards me with a menacing sneer on his face!

Sitting behind Advocate Trengove, I began to write furious notes denying these false allegations against me. To my surprise, he just never seemed to care about what I was giving him! The attacks continued for almost the entire first day.

During the break I confronted my lawyer: “You really must defend me! You have not interjected once to challenge these lies he is saying against me!” I complained bitterly. “This guy wants the judges to think I’m some kind of crook, and even a risk to national security!”

Then Advocate Trengove said something that changed my life forever:

“Nothing turns on anything he has said up to now. I’m not here to defend you personally; I’m here to win a constitutional matter over freedom of expression. As long as he continues on this line, you will have your license.” And with that he politely excused himself and returned to attend to his papers.

The following day Advocate Trengove laid out the constitutional case in a quiet tone, never once raising his voice. There was no jeering or sarcasm, just a polite deferential style.

You could almost feel the force of his humility.

__Lesson #1: Advocate Trengove stayed laser-focused on his objective which was to win a Constitutional Court case. So many people easily get sidetracked by things that are not central to the issue at hand.

I watched as each of the judges wrote copious notes. It lasted less than two hours.

Then finally the Chief Justice spoke for the first time: “If we rule in favor of your client, what order would you like to see?”

“I would like to confer with my client your honor.”

We were given a recess and we drafted a single paragraph: “Econet shall have the right to move traffic within, into and from Zimbabwe.”

The judges passed it around. Chris Anderson read it, and looked down to the floor.

The case was over. Within months, the court upheld our application. It would be another two years before we opened our doors to the public, but every time something was done to delay us again and again, those words rang in my heart:

__”Nothing turns on it.”

A key thing I learnt from that particular experience is that it is important to focus on the “substance” of what someone is saying rather than the “form” (style of delivery). If someone comes shouting and screaming or hurling insults, learn to ignore it, and extract substance (if there is any).

I also learnt that the most effective people are not necessarily those with soaring rhetorical style or have the best command of English or any other foreign language.

# In life you will always be confronted by situations in which people will seek to provoke you or even try to detract you from your set purpose.

# You must train yourself to have such a presence of mind that provocations do not force you to lose your cool.

If you are going through a tough time right now, turn to someone next to you and say: “Nothing turns on this.”



by 19 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

19 thoughts on ““Nothing turns on this.”

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.
    “An evil hearted man is filled with venom, and his speech reveals it.” (Matthew 12:35/TLB). Don’t use foul, arrogant and threatening language to communicate your point about any issue.

    • Jose Cumba

      Dear Dr Strive Masiyiwa,

      I hope this message finds you well! :)
      I am Jose Cumba from Maputo, Mozambique.
      Sir, I would like to write to you privately…Please kindly inbox me on

      I, in advance, thank you for your consideration as I’m looking forward to reading from your feedback.

      Be blessed!

      Jose CUMBA

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.
    “The purpose of God is not established through the anger of man.” A good leader knows that the worst decisions are made when he or she is angry, or reacting to being offended by the words or actions of another person. “Lead from humility,” means you don’t respond in anger or injured pride.

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.
    Explaining what had happened in court that day, one of my legal team said: “Good judges know that lawyers who bang on the table have no case.” This does not just happen in court cases. People who have nothing to offer make the most noise.

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4.
    Years after that, I ran into Advocate Chris Anderson and he heartily shook my hand: “You were truly a worthy opponent.” After that we became friends.

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 5.
    When I was in my last year of high school, I was chosen to run on the track team which would make me eligible for a place on the provincial team. When I told my mother, she was mad and she shouted at me in my mother tongue: “Don’t forget what you travelled for!” I immediately pulled out and never ran again, because my mother and I had a simple deal: I had to get the best results, and secure a scholarship to go to university. The future of our family was riding on it. I did both. End of story, no regrets.

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 6.
    Sometimes a detractor can be well meaning, but it is nevertheless a distraction if it deviates you from your stated objective. People will even flatter you by suggesting you can achieve something else even greater. Carefully weigh such suggestions, and just be careful you don’t end up on a complete tangent!

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 7.
    Some of the best things that have happened to me were not pleasant when they were happening! I call such situations “school fees.” I got my first degree at the “University (of Hard Knocks)” in Zimbabwe and my PhD at “Cold Comfort” University in Nigeria. In both cases I got a distinction. # It’s a mindset.

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

    “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.”

    [John Adams, 2nd US President].

  9. Garikayi

    Thank you for the inspiring post. I have just started my company and I am looking for books to read on marketing particularly in the current times we live in where everything is on the internet. May you please write something for the young people out there including myself on where do you start when it comes to marketing. What are the dos and not dos? If not may you recommend your best reading material please.
    Thank you

  10. Eneh Quthy

    Greatness in the highest order. Thank you sir for this inspirational and uplifting words. You are just a role model. I’m starting my article soon. If you did it, then i sure can.

  11. Esther Muketo

    Thank you for your insights and inspiration grounded on the Word of God. You are a real blessing and a living testimony

  12. Shepherd Dzingai

    I am a young agricultural consultant and development. I am learning a lot from you. You are mentoring me to become a big person in my Christian walk and the Business kingdom. You have unique business principles and models.You are Inspired to change our lives.
    I was to communicate with you privately.

    May God richly bless you.



  13. Nemu

    Dear Dr Strive Masiiwa
    Sure,nothing turns on it.
    Thank you for the inspiring post.I have learnt to focus ahead even under challenging situations.
    God bless

  14. Archibald Moses Zhomwa

    Reading your posts sir gave me more hope and strength and realised that I will have to go through certain battles like the one you had if my idea is to set sail in our mother country Zimbabwe.
    Thank you and God bless


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