23 April 2012

If Mark Zuckerburg was Zimbabwean

Mark Zuckerberg! This is an open letter to you, and if by some miracle someone knows someone who knows someone who knows you (six degrees of separation remember!) then I pray they pass it along the social networking chain till it lands on your Facebook Homepage.

Ever since I watched the movie, The Social Network, I’ve envied you. Green is a colour I hate but I have to confess my heart turns a sickening shade of green when you are mentioned anywhere in my hearing. I mean you and I share so much and yet we are worlds apart. We both apparently have a fascination with technology and people, we both studied Computer Science, though I can smugly say I actually finished my course whereas you didn’t. But of course to be fair, I have to mention that you are orders of magnitude richer than I am at the present moment. But in order that I may sleep at night and just to console myself, I wonder from time to time what would have happened if you and I had swapped places. Specifically where you would be had you been born in Zimbabwe all those years ago.

You see Mark, your choice of birthplace has quite a lot to do with your success. I found myself being awarded a Birth Certificate crowned with the National Crest of Zimbabwe, whilst you on the other side of the planet were born to the star spangled banner and from there on your life was on a roll. Now imagine for a moment, Mark, what would have happened had you been born here? Well first of all let me tell you, the likelihood of you having a first name that was actually a verb or an adjective would be infinitely higher. Probably you might have been called Prosper Zuckerberg, Brilliant Zuckerberg, or maybe even Delight Zuckerberg. You see, people in my country have this amazing and as yet unexplained predilection for getting inspiration for their children’s names within the pages of dictionaries. But that I suppose is me making mountains out of molehills. Your face would still look good on the cover of Time Magazine whether your name was Mark or Lovemore.

Priority Zuckerberg just doesn't have the same ring to it does it?

But that begs the question would you have made it to the cover of Time in the first place? Let us see. If you were Zimbabwean you probably would have followed basically the same path your life took in the first two decades of your life: a rather pleasant life (in the beginning), a strong academic background & your parents encouraging you to take up Sciences or Engineering courses at the University of Zimbabwe. But there I think you would hit your first barrier. Let me put it this way; try telling a Zimbabwean parent that you are dropping out of University to start a website and they will either (a) Smack you with a sjambok till you can’t walk and you forget any notion of dropping out (b) Call a meeting of your extended family and take you out to your rural village to consult with the ancestors as to why you were straying (c) Take you to a prayer meeting at Word of Life International to chase the demons out of you. You see it’s not easy being a Zimbabwean. Now let’s for a moment assume that you were made of stern stuff Mark and you got through all those obstacles and still quit school, after all the movie made it seem even the faculty of Harvard couldn’t take you down.

Ok, so now you have started what would become Facebook in the garage of your best friends’ parents. You are now spending hours coding away and busily creating the codebase that will hopefully become what Facebook is today. There you are, you’ve just created the function that dynamically refreshes status updates in real-time on both the sever and connected clients. You sit flush with success then wham!! The electricity goes. You see in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority has a very liberal definition of what the verb ‘supply’ actually means. We have suffered rolling blackuts in all major centres for the best part of a decade. And there goes the 800 lines of code that you spent six weeks creating. I can hear your Zimbabwean alter ego screaming in frustration from this universe. Sigh.

The people at ZESA don't quite understand what the verb 'supply' means....

But again, let’s assume you are made of metal Mark. You go on to create a function that saves all your work as you create it so that power cuts don’t really bother you. And when push comes to shove, you use the car battery of your mom’s Datsun to power your laptop. Facebook is growing, but much more slowly than it did at Harvard because let’s face it, Zimbabweans are not exactly the most connected people in the world. When the only computer with internet connection is a paid for one at the local internet café, it is far much easier not to get addicted to social networking sites. But you are a genius Mark and you figure out that launching Facebook on mobile is going to get you further than it would on the PC. Off you go to code a further 10 million lines of code for the different mobile platforms and you present your product to the country. Users are excited and Facebook seems to be taking off…but there is a slight problem. You see Mark, in Zimbabwe, cellphone data coverage is still more of an art that it is an exact science. Even standing next to a base station, with your phone fully charged and showing full signal bars, Opera Mini will still tell you that there is no data connection, please try later. Yes that scream you hear is the sound of Zimbabwean Mark, clinging to his sanity by a thread.

But Mark, I have faith in you. You are a genius. After all, why else would they name you Person of the Year? You figure a way round it by somehow hacking into Econet’s, Telecel’s and Net-One’s servers and fixing what seems to have stumped all the engineers who currently work there. Facebook takes off and is a roaring success, spreading from University to University like wildfire. The South Africans come and invest US$ 20 million dollars and before you know it, you are installing servers in basements all over Harare and Bulawayo. Then one day a ZESA power surge destroys them all! Okay let’s be kind and assume that would never happen. Facebook is growing in leaps and bounds; you appear on the cover of the Harare Herald as the man about to change the face of computing forever. You sit in your mansion in Borrowdale Brooke, calmly contemplating your bright future, when you hear an ominous knocking at your solid mahogany door imported from Lebanon (you see if you were Zimbabwean you would feel the need to include such details in your daily conversation).

The door opens to reveal a trio of men in black Saville Row suits and Oakley sunglasses. When they leave three hours later, you are left staring at the document that as they, painstakingly, explained gives them the legal right to sift through all the user date in every single one of your servers for information that could compromise the security of the Zimbabwean Republic. Yes Mark, if you thought the United States Senate was being difficult on you for not protecting your user’s data, you have not met the Zimbabwean government who assume they own all your user’s data. Sigh. But again, you show yourself to be a man of integrity and morals and you begin what becomes a titanic battle between your company and the Zimbabwean government at the African Union’s Human Rights Commission. Let’s assume the African Union is full of amazing individuals who protect the rights of all Africans and you win your case. Bazinga! But seriously just for the sake of it, let’s just assume you win and Facebook shrugs off the lawsuit and you set your sights on the stars.

Oh Mark. I wish I could tell you it ends well. Your Zimbabwean alter-ego has so far shown resilience in the face of power cuts, ingenuity in the face of poor services, moral uprightness in the face of the Secret Police. Surely this story ends happily? Well, there is the slight problem of that pesky last name of yours. Zuckerberg. It’s not Zimbabwean enough. I know, I know, you were born in Zimbabwe but so were a few thousand white farmers who got chased off their farms. The day will come when your company is served with papers from the Ministry of Indigenization, notifying you that the Zimbabwean government is taking over 51% of your shares for the nominal price of US$2.50. This spooks all your investors who immediately abandon ship and next thing Google and Yahoo! make a joint buyout which the Zimbabean government, as the controlling party in your company, approves. Facebook is ‘restructured’ as a feature of Yahoo! Mail and after a few months, is quietly shelved into oblivion by Yahoo!

The new indigenized Facebook logo
(c) Ministry of Ingenization (Yes we have a Ministry called that!)

Which leaves you where dear Mark/Priority/GodKnows Zuckerberg? There there. Maybe you will have the sense to move to South Africa and start Twitter? You see Mark, I am on your side, this entire article notwithstanding. So whenever you have a bad day Mark, read this article slowly and carefully, and thank all your ancestors who somehow conspired to make sure you were born as far away from Zimbabwe as you actually were.



  1. Thnx Vuyo. just making ppl see how awesome we are as Zimbo's.

  2. where is the like button!!

    1. :) It's there just above the labels. I have no idea why Google makes it so small,,,wait a minute, actually I do lol.

  3. I just followed the link you placed on Twitter. Nicely done, sir! A true reflection of the state of our nation. "Yes that scream you hear is the sound of Zimbabwean Mark, clinging to his sanity by a thread." Lol!

    1. Hahaha, thanks bro. Zimbabweans are strong like that, not collapsing countries, imploding economies, dictionary names or ZESA's shenanigan's will keep us down!