Is it normal to steal for 40 years and still remain poor?

Tapiwa Gomo

ZIMBABWE turns 40 years this week. On social media, some have been saying if Zimbabwe was a person, he/she would be the most unorganised 40-year old. Nothing captures the state of our affairs better than that.

For nearly ten years, I have been writing in this column reviews of our independence and I have tried to offer projections, partly based on the situation on the ground and partly just being patriotic.

Today when I look back, I realized that we have lived a huge lie. Evidence of this lie is found in the archives where they keep the Presidents’ independence speeches. By April 18 this year, 40 independence speeches full of false promises would have been read by three Presidents.

None of the policy commitments in those speeches have materialised. It is for this reason that I decided this year to digress.

Today I want to discuss the issue of stealing. Why do people steal and for how long are they supposed to steal? The concept of stealing is discussed in various fields of study including psychology, behavioural sciences, biological, criminology and many others. Stealing is an act of taking something that doesn’t belong to you without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.

Stealing with impunity is done by those in power or associated with power which makes them immune from arrest or punishment. In the areas of studies noted above, there are two major causes of stealing; one is stealing for purpose and the other kleptomania.

Stealing for a purpose is done either by people who are struggling to make ends meet or those who have investment goals, but do not have the resources to implement them.

Say one has a business idea but cannot access bank loans for whatever reasons, they may venture into stealing to raise the needed cash to start their business.

This type of stealing is goal-oriented and has an end once the objective is achieved. There are several cases of people who are known to have acquired their starting capital through stealing and established huge companies. At peasant levels, the goal is to feed the family and to send children to school. Once enough resources to achieve the goals have been achieved, they immediately stop stealing.

The second type of stealing is known as kleptomania, or compulsive stealing or as an impulse-control disorder.

Some of the main features of this disorder suggest that kleptomania could be an obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder, but also share similarities with addictive and mood disorders.

Some scholars describe this type of stealing as psychological compulsion instead of a desire to profit or gain something material or financial.

This makes it different from the type of stealing described above in the sense that there is neither a purpose nor an end to it. It is perpetual. With kleptomania, the individual operates under the influence of an irresistible urge to steal.

More often than not, they steal items for which they do not have use because they consider the items stolen of little to no value to them and they can easily afford if they choose to pay for them. Unlike criminal theft described above, objects that people with kleptomania steal are often not used. It is more like the farms and companies that have been grabbed in recent decades and never used – a reason our economy is what it is today.

The stolen items are either kept as stash, given away to friends and relatives or thrown away. There are two critical points to note here. First is that the urge to steal can be seen as natural — just a desire to fulfil an urge and that makes it a perennial behaviour. The second point is that whatever has been stolen is wasted which means the individual who steals is unable to accumulate wealth and therefore remains poor, so to speak.

It is with these two points in mind that we must reflect on own political and economic situation over the past 40 years as we seek to chat a new way forward for our country. When kleptomaniac is combined with political power, it breeds immunity and autocracy even though it is evidently impotent.

Our political arena has a long list of people who became poor the day they were ejected from public office, while most of those in office — despite having dipped their fingers into the national coffers, they still have very little to show for it.

If anything, that is the main reason why they have clung to power under the guise of trying to liberate and develop the country.

Some of the central elements of kleptomania include recurring intrusive behaviour, impulse control, aggression, abuse of power and authority, and idolising human brutality which they consider to be victory.

They also have a severe obsession of power and dominance even if they do not make productive use of it, which is why kleptomania is regarded as an obsessive-compulsive type of disorder.

Why does this happen? Several psychoanalysts, unlike biologists, argue that kleptomania is an individual’s attempt to achieve symbolic compensation for an actual or imagined loss, and thus feels that the only way to satisfy this desire must be symbolized in the form of stolen items and the stolen power to protect the space for further stealing.

Few weeks ago, I asked in this column if our comrades went for counselling after the war because what the nation has experienced so far is characteristics of kleptomaniac behaviour.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.


  1. That is correct analysis. I am sure people like Chris Mtsvangwa ideology
    of we fought for this country therefore we rule by impunity supporting autocratic governance is our problem now.

  2. The challenge with a lot of Zimbabweans is living on suppositions . All low density houses in all cities belonged to whites and the greater part of our current residential areas were not there before independence . All the CEO and management positions belonged to whites . The position that the writer of this article holds today including the ones held by you readers were for whites . The farms , plots , the cattle , the pigs , the tobacco farms were for the whites . All these are now owned by by you and all you see are the suppositions of thefts . If you have any real evidence of the thefts , please bring that up and see if ZAAC will not act on that .All you can do is shout theft with no evidence . Lets be realistic Zimbabweans . There is definitely someone stealing somewhere somehow but if there is no evidence , it simply means no theft has been committed . Please bring us articles of value and not dreams and dreams .

Comments are closed.