Security is always important in all areas of human existence and domiciling. It is critical for the state house to be fully protected every time as a critical part of our country and the leadership we enjoy as Zimbabweans. I have no doubt that we are not the only country that takes such issues seriously.
It is when uniformed and disciplined forces such as soldiers allow such an honourable exercise to degenerate into corruption and an insatiable gusto for money.
I have had the misfortune of getting lost around Harare, being new and not familiar with some roads. I believe this is normal and that any normal human being would understand such a problem.
So, I usually make use of the GPS which seems not to read the state house area as sacred and so does not take certain turns there at certain times as being akin to sacrilege.
Twice I have found myself facing the drums the soldiers use to signal to anyone driving in that direction that they may not proceed in that direction.
On the first occasion, I was coming from the Borrowdale Trauma Centre, where I had undergone some very serious tests and was feeling quite drowsy. The GPS just directed me in that direction and when I saw the drums, I stopped and made a swift U-turn in respect of the rules of my country as a law-abiding citizen.
To my chagrin, the soldiers came charging at me carrying one of the scariest weapons in the whole world, the gun.
I was scared but knowing that I had done no wrong I kept my cool and believed that the soldiers were at work and their job was to protect us. They stopped me and asked me to alight. I was now scared to death. I find it easy to deal with the police, but I have a traumatic experience with soldiers I wish to avoid tackling here. So, yes, I was afraid.
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They told me that I had broken the law and I asked them which part of the law because the moment I realised that I could not proceed any further I made a U-turn.
Remember, I was weak, coming from hospital. Now I was sick and afraid. I am no cry baby or sissy but soldiers do make me feel scared. They just failed to explain to me what wrong I had done and it then dawned on me that they wanted me to give them some money for them to let me go.
Phew! Soldiers? The military, failing to serve with honour and dignity? Really? Taking advantage of the weapons they are given to protect their citizens and using them to scare them and get some money out of them.
They told me that I had committed a crime and that I was in deep trouble and that if I did not cooperate with them, they would hand me over to the guys inside the premises who would really deal with me.
I pleaded with them to let me go and even appealed to their sense of pity to say I was coming from the doctor and needed to go home and rest but they were not touched.
They just wanted money and they coughed out a figure of a hundred dollars. That is quite some money in Zimbabwe and we work hard to earn it and now the soldiers wanted me to part with it for not committing a crime. Maybe they wished I had committed one.
When I realised that they were serious and really wanted money from me, the village boy in me lost it and I told them they could go ahead and do whatever they felt needed to be done.
They instructed me to get back inside the car and drive with one of them to the ones inside the premises who would deal with me. I did not care anymore and so I obliged much to their surprise. That is how I survived their intimidation. Soldiers at work, practising corruption.
There has been a general decline in the sense of service in the workplace, where employees are given positions to serve both the internal and external customer but usurp such positions to use them to feather their own nests.
It is unacceptable for anyone to do this and when it’s done by the military, citizens should be scared and commanders should take action.
I must mention that one of the soldiers looked high and stoned and in this state of mind, he carried a gun, a weapon called inkafulakufa (a weapon that spits death) in my language. I do not think that any sane society should tolerate this level of decadence.
I must say though that I think I understand the general service decline in the country. That is not to say I condone it. I had a conversation recently with a friend on Facebook who complained bitterly about the bad service he got at the Beitbridge border post.
He said that the service was terribly slow and that officers manning different levels of service asked all sorts of silly questions and even came short of doubting anyone’s name on their identity card just to make them eventually pay something so they could be allowed to proceed with the speed they needed.
Most employees are turning their service portfolios into corruption positions they can use to make extra cash whenever they can.
My sense is that there is a service crisis emanating from the general economic problems in the country and poor leadership in the workplace.
Captains of industry have allowed themselves to sink into a level of inertia that makes them stop finding ways of taking care of the internal customer who is the employee.
They do not realise that this is suicidal because the internal customer is now harassing the external customer who brings revenue to the business. The crux of the matter is that the problem starts at the level of leadership when leadership sees no hope in doing business in such a manner that there is meaningful gain at the level of the general workplace.
To surrender business acumen to economic problems is to be lazy entrepreneurially. Business leaders who know that human behaviour is scientific will act accordingly and investigate as well as apply informed methods of correcting this decline or we are doomed.
Service is the crux of the matter. The workplace is there for all of us to think service every time we have a chance to interact with anyone.
It is retrogressive to not understand that employees come first for leadership because when they do not, then the external customer suffers the most by getting the shorter end of the stick. Corruption is born out of this and we are getting worse in this area because the workplace, and that includes the military is decaying. We need to stop the rot.
Bhekilizwe Bernard Ndlovu’s training is in human resources training, development and transformation, behavioural change, applied drama, personal mastery and mental fitness. He works for a Zimbabwean company as head of human capital, while also doing a PhD with Wits University where he looks at violent strikes in the South African workplace as a researcher. Ndlovu worked as a human resources manager for several blue-chip companies in Zimbabwe and still takes keen interest in the affairs of people and performance management. He can be contacted on [email protected]