Just as the circulation of blood gives life to the human body, so the commercial and industrial enterprises constitute the life-blood of the population. It is not Our intention to support one part of the activity of the Empire as against another part, but to assist them all to grow and work together for the benefit of the whole population. We shall assist the commercial and industrial as well as all other sectors to co-operate for the benefit of the whole.We are gratified to accept your words today stating openly that you have decided to abide by the Ethiopian Constitution and particularly by the Currency Law and Legal Tender proclamation issued over a year ago. It should be recognised that We accept no difference between foreign and local traders. The progress of business in general is in the interest of the whole population; therefore, We shall do all in Our power to assist you to maintain this progress in the future....
H.I.M Emperor Haile Selassie I, November 22, 1946
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
Ecclesiates (Mekbib) 9:10
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work and eat their own bread.
II Thessalonians (wede tessalonike sawotch) 3:10-12
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Many reasons have been put forward for the problem. Some of these are
The Rastafarian is discriminated against- it is virtually impossible to get a job or a loan from the bank without standing trial for one’s beliefs. Turning up for a job interview with the appearance of Rasta is a sure-fire way of not getting the job, they won’t even bother to look at your qualifications. The Rastafarian is associated with juvenile delinquency, dishonesty, and laziness and is never given a chance to prove himself.
- The Rastafarian community is poor to begin with, so there is no capital to start businesses or self-help projects.
- Many people do not recognise Rastafari as a bona-fide community, and so we cannot get help at an official level, e.g. from the State or the NGOs.
This has been the situation, leaving the Rastafarians to eke out a living as best as possible. Many are engaged in the making of arts and crafts, some in informal trade. This business has managed to keep many alive, but I think that it has failed to pull the community out of the doldrums. Even so, we should not be ready to discard it, but examine how this sector can realise its potential.
We also need to look at other things that we can do.
The way forward.
Despite such adverse circumstances, it is necessary that we, the Rastafarian community, establish an economic base. We need to earn a living, to meet our needs and finance our projects.
Many Rastafarians of our generation are starting families of their own. We will need to take care of them. We want more out of life, many of us are too young to just settle for the kind of life that we live.
Why should this be a community-effort? Well, it follows to me logically that we share the same frustrations, and face the same obstacles. The non-Rastafarians use the strength of their money against us.
For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.
Ecclesiastes (Mekbib) 7:12
It just seems logical to me that we need our own money, with which we can defend ourselves. Look at the image of the bank note at th etop of this article, it has the name and portrait of His Imperial Majesty on it. We have all heard about the symbols on the American dollar bill, and how they relate to another god. We have also heard about the economic system that ensures that that dollar bill is perceived as more valuable than, say, the Zimbabwe dollar. And yet, there is a bank note that has our God's image on it.
Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it?
The above verse, to me, points to the fact that Christ's salvation in fact includes economic salvation. And this is what I am trying to address here; that we the Rastafarians be delivered from economic bondage, from poverty and despair.
What about the skills?Many Rastafarians are educated- accounting, management, vocational, these are all skills that are to be found among Rastafarians. What we need is to harness those skills to our collective benefit. This means that any activity that an individual engages in, he or she should strive to pass on business or a job to the next Rastafarian.
How do we start? We start small. The Scriptures show us through the Parables of the Mustard Seed, of the Talents etc, that from small beginnings, we can do great works. All Rastafarians have to understand that sitting around complaining is not going to feed us. We all have our skills, many Rastafarians are educated. If the System does not want our skills, then surely that is the sort of freedom we need to use those same skills for ourselves?
And so, I have outlined here areas of economic activity that we can embark on immediately in the Eastern Chitungwiza area. The idea is that these will lead to an expansion in to other projects.
Some Rastafarians have managed to obtain some land just outside Chitungwiza, in the Seke area. This land has a well. This land would be suitable for a market gardening project, and a very profitable one at that, supplying fresh fruits and vegetables of all kinds. It could be run on co-operative lines or as a private company. A market gardening project would require little capital to start with. Fencing materials, fertilisers, seeds etc. Many Rastafarians have some knowledge of agriculture- it was part of the curriculum at ZJC, O and A levels of education.
It is deplorable that at a time when the issue of land has become of concern to many Zimbabweans, the Rastafarian community in Chitungwiza has not made use of this little piece of land. How then can we ask for more, when we have not made use of what we have?
He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding
Obviously, horticulture alone will not meet the food requirements of the Rastafarian community. I propose the formation of Purchasing Co-operatives. This is where people pool together their money and buy foodstuffs in bulk. Because they are buying in bulk, they get these foodstuffs cheaper.
The Rastafarian community generally has little access to credit. Before I left for England, I proposed the creation of a Savings & Credit Co-operative Society, a Village Bank as they are popularly called. I have attached information on how such a credit scheme could work. I also pledged a computer.
Under the laws of Zimbabwe, a co-operative needs at least 10 people to be set up. I am person 1. I also pledged to meet the cost of printing passbooks/ for members and to buy a computer for the co-operative’s use.
This project has not yet taken off because there is no one to push for it to date. Yet, if we are to do all the other things that we would like to do as Rastafarians, it is imperative that we have our own little bank.
I am sure there are Rastafarians who have some knowledge of accounts /finance/ banking to take this up.
Arts and Crafts
And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought
Trade in arts and crafts relies on tourism, which has declined rapidly over the past half-decade due to Zimbabwe’s reputation abroad. And more recently, the Government embarked on the controversial Operation Murambatsvina, which saw the demolition of informal traders’ stalls and places of businesses. Many Rastafarians were hit hard by this exercise.
Despite making beautiful arts and crafts, Rastafarians are still to reap from this sector on a level commensurate with their efforts. This is because we have no control of the trade.
This is what we need to do, gain control. There is the problem of capital. I propose that those who are in the arts and crafts trade pull together the little money they have and form a trading company or co-operative. This would be different from the individual members/share-holders, and its job will be to sell their products.
One way of reaching the lucrative Western market is the internet. We can register a company in the United States of America, which would then sell arts and crafts online. The profits are shared among the shareholders and the makers of the arts and crafts get a good price for their products.
Many of the sisters are already earning a living as hairdressers. The biggest problem they face is the declining market for their services, due to falling incomes in the Chitungwiza area.
However, the fact remains that hairdressing is an essential service and there will always be customers. What the sisters can do is ensure a steady stream of customers. They could expand their service or product range, and ensure that they have a reputation for honest, quality service.
I am aware of Mai Svisva, Ras Daniel Svisva’s wife as one of the sisters who is working as a hairdresser. There are many others. Perhaps if they could get together and work out a sound business plan.
A hairdresser's potential lies in its capacity to create jobs. It also creates business, in terms of supplies etc.
Rastafarians in the Diaspora
Rastafarians in the Diaspora, whether of Zimbabwean origin or not, have a strategic role to play in developing our economy. They have a the money to purchase our exports, and the means to open up markets abroad. The recent dispersion of Zimbabweans to the four corners of the globe can thus be turned in to an advantage to us.
There is nothing unusual about this. For a 100 years, Whites have been sending to their motherland the wealth they gained here. We should not be afraid to use our elbows to make room for ourselves anywhere in the world. This is not only Rastafarian, but very Zimbabwean, a veritable manifestation of our ethos. We must remember our forebears, who built an empire that traded with faraway China, Venice, Indonesia etc, and grew oppulent.
Can we do it?
The question should be; will we do it? For there can be no doubt that we can. The real question is whether we can still call ourselves Rastafarians, God's Chosen, the Heirs to the Covenant, while we languish under an economic and social system that has no room for us except as its rejects. We all need to recognise that we have the means to prosper despite the hinderances they have put before us.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies
So, this new economic developement has to be taught at the Nyahbinghi, Temple etc. Our God, Emperor Haile Selassie is a money-God, a Developement God. Read His Autobiography, He set up a bank, he organised farming, trade, manufacturing and so on. These are the works that we need to perform if we are to really claim to be following in His footsteps.
Not only are we intending to gain materially from these works, but we look too to a higher Pay Day!!
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Revelation (yeyohanis ra'y) 22:12
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
II Corinthians 9:8
Still on work, how many of us are aware that, if you say this word the way an Amharic-speaker would, it sounds like the word in the King of King's tongue for gold? And gold, for us Zimbabwean Rastafarians, reminds us that our land was where King Solomon had his mines.
and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
Matthew (Mattewos) 12:42
That too is another powerful utterance of the Christ. Now that the One greater than Solomon is here, should we not then bring Him due tribute of the purest gold?
In conclusion, I say that anyone who questions whether we can do this- whether we can raise ourselves at this point in time- is questioning whether we are truly Rastafarians. I know what answer I am ready to give to thatquestion.