Short-changing the honest citizen

In Zimbabwe, dishonesty is rewarded and celebrated

The systemic and systematic ways of short-changing the honest citizen have become so pervasive and entrenched among us that they have become part of our culture as a nation.

We have perfected the art of short- changing the honest citizen through policy, legislation, corruption, deception . . . the list is endless.

It has become the norm that the dishonest citizen reaps the fruits of joy while the hapless, honest citizen (who is often a victim) watches helplessly.

In this article I will give a few examples that are both historical and current to illustrate my point.

I remember in 2013 when I was on duty covering a rally addressed by the late former president Robert Mugabe where the ageing leader announced that there was to be a blanket write-off of outstanding water bills and rates.

The response to this populist policy was a thunderous applause, obviously from the dishonest citizens that included politicians and bussinesspeople (who owed millions), and other people who had not been servicing their debts with councils.

What about the honest citizens who had been religiously meeting their financial obligation to council in the hope of good service delivery? Nothing came their way.

When councils subsequently failed to provide services such as garbage collection, water supply and road maintenance etc, citing lack of financial resources, the honest ratepayer and the dishonest citizen both suffered, with the honest citizen facing twofold losses; loss of money to council and loss of services.

It was celebration for the dishonest citizen and sorrow for the honest ratepayer.

Actually, there were calls from many quarters for the amnesty to be extended to bills for all utilities!

A colleague (a dishonest citizen) once told me that he never pays rates from the beginning of the year until towards year end when councils embark on "promotions" that include debt write-offs or reductions.

Today, the honest citizen will go to council and get registered in the waiting list comprising those to be allocated stands when their turn comes; that turn will never come.

The dishonest land baron is allocated vast tracts of land for a song by councils — obviously the land that was supposed to be allocated to those on the waiting list — and those on the waiting list continue waiting for Godot who never comes.

The honest citizens will read the Highway Code, get a provisional drivers’ licence, honestly practice driving until they master the requisite skills, go for the driving test, but they are deliberately failed.

The dishonest ones, who can hardly start a car, pay the licensing syndicate and easily get the required certificate of driving competency.

On the road, the honest citizen with the genuine drivers’ licence in their pocket and a vehicle with all the basics and in relatively good condition viz-a-viz our roads, is harassed by the police and VED officials in an attempt to squeeze a bribe out of him.

In worst cases they cook up an excuse to impound the vehicle as punishment if the honest citizen “tries to be clever”.

On the contrary, the dishonest citizen, with no drivers’ licence, a vehicle that is rugged, unregistered and visibly unroadworthy (eg trucks that transport sand and mushika shika), is allowed to pass by these officials with either a friendly smile or a little financial handshake.

The honest citizen will stick to the rules of the road only to be crashed by the rogue, dishonest citizen who is unlicensed and whose vehicle is unroadworthy; this happens in the eyes of both the police and VED officers.

In the hope of getting a reasonable pension as a safety net when they retire, the honest citizens work hard for the country through formal employment, contributing to the economy for years through taxes and infrastructure development only to shed tears on retirement when they discover that their pension is hardly enough to pay for their trip to and from the bank.

Monetary policies and legislation are shifted to cheat them out of their pensions and savings.

They may discover, to their chagrin that their savings evaporated from the financial institutions.

The banks also have no mercy for the honest citizen who trusts them with their money.

The money simply vanishes in the name of bank charges and taxes.

Instead of accruing interest, the money accrues debt and the honest citizen ends up owing the bank! 

This type of honest citizen is not only found locally.

There are numerous of their ilk in the Diaspora; citizens who really love the country and their deeds speak volumes; they send the much needed foreign currency home and they invest in various industries contributing a lot to help our ailing economy.

The irony is that this honest citizen does not get any incentive for such immense contribution, instead they face difficulties in sending equipment for their businesses through unfriendly legislation and corruption at the borders.

On the contrary, the dishonest citizen with “correct” political connections is allowed to siphon the country’s wealth through smuggling, money laundering and other means that allow them to invest, ironically, in foreign countries.

While the honest citizen in the Diaspora contributes to the economy, he is not allowed to contribute to the socio-political development of the country as he is disenfranchised of his rights to participate in activities such as voting.

In such instances the honest citizen in the Diaspora is labelled “enemy of the state” or a puppet of the West and legislation targeting their disenfranchisement is enacted.

And we all know what happens to the local, honest citizen’s vote.

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