Spirited debate about tomatoes, graduates, enterprise and jobs

By Sakwiba Sikota

The last few weeks have seen a spirited debate about tomatoes, graduates, enterprise and jobs. We have also witnessed mobs of people walking around with rotten tomatoes searching for Stella in order to hurl them at the former “First Daughter”. Some say that the ever controversial and effervescent Stella was about to lose her groove.



Facebook was lit up with pictures of graduates and people dressed as middle to upper class folk sitting on the streets with a pile of tomatoes in a small dish or basket ostensibly for sale. These postings made me renew my faith in the innovative nature of the average Zambian. The wit and imagination shared on facebook over this issue has led me to believe that the Zambian spirit is alive and well capable of overcoming all adversity.

A few years ago I received an email joke about a tomato millionaire which can add some flavor to the Stella debate much like tomato ketchup adds flavor to a bowl of spaghetti, a juicy burger, a rump steak or fish and chips.
The email has a message and perhaps will re-ignite the debate. It read as follows;

“The Tomato Millionaire

An unemployed man goes to apply for a job with Microsoft as a janitor. The manager there arranges for him to take an aptitude test (Section: Floors, sweeping and cleaning).

After the test, the manager says, “You will be employed at minimum wage, $5.15 an hour. Let me have your e-mail address, so that I can send you a form to complete and tell you where to report for work on your first day.”
Taken aback, the man protests that he has neither a computer nor an e-mail address. To this the MS manager replies, “Well, then, that means that you virtually don’t exist and can therefore hardly expect to be employed.”
Stunned, the man leaves. Not knowing where to turn and having only $10 in his wallet, he decides to buy a 25 lb. flat of tomatoes at the supermarket.

Within less than 2 hours, he sells all the tomatoes individually at 100% profit. Repeating the process several times more that day, he ends up with almost $100 before going to sleep that night.

And thus it dawns on him that he could quite easily make a living selling tomatoes. Getting up early every day and going to bed late, he multiplies his profits quickly. After a short time he acquires a cart to transport several dozen boxes of tomatoes, only to have to trade it in again so that he can buy a pick-up truck to support his expanding business.

By the end of the second year, he is the owner of a fleet of pick-up trucks and manages a staff of a hundred former unemployed people, all selling tomatoes.

Planning for the future of his wife and children, he decides to buy some life insurance. Consulting with an insurance adviser, he picks an insurance plan to fit his new circumstances. At the end of the telephone conversation, the adviser asks him for his e-mail address in order to send the final documents electronically.

When the man replies that he has no e-mail, the adviser is stunned, “What, you don’t have e-mail? How on earth have you managed to amass such wealth without the Internet, e-mail and e-commerce? Just imagine where you would be now, if you had been connected to the Internet from the very start!”
After a moment of thought, the tomato millionaire replied, “Why, of course! I would be a floor cleaner at Microsoft!”

Moral of this story:

The Internet, e-mail and e-commerce do not need to rule your life.
If you don’t have e-mail, but work hard, you can still become a millionaire.”
Stella was saying that formal employment need not rule your life and if you do not have a job offer, but work hard, you can still become a millionaire. One may ask if Stella has lost her groove or woken up the Zambian imaginative spirit. There are therefore, somewhere out there, some stellar tomatoes for the graduates.

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