14 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Where Is Our Sense of Honour?


The Japanese have a high sense of community accountability. It is not unusual for a company head or national leader to voluntarily apologise and resign once negligence or non-performance is proved.

Once defeated in war, the Samurai warrior would commit suicide rather than face the shame of going back and facing the community.

Asian communities of Korea and China share this same sense of pride and honour. For example, when the Koreas - both North and South - play soccer in the World Cup, one can feel their strong sense of national honour and pride. Their heartbreak when defeated is very deep because they cannot bear the shame of going home empty-handed.

Zimbabwe has a few people who have enough sense of honour to voluntary self-censure, but sadly our general culture is brazen and shameless.

Why? For example, when we do not have enough electricity for the nation, it seems no one takes responsibility to apologise. We go for long periods without water, in some places even years, but it seems no one takes responsibility.

All we get is bickering and blame shifting from those concerned. Instead of the head of Zesa or the water authorities admitting they have failed and resign to make way for those who can perhaps do a better job or suggesting how we can better manage these critical needs, they entrench themselves, and continue, even asking for higher salaries without providing the services.

Surely, those who fail to provide a service should be relieved of their responsibilities, not given salary increases.

The plight of our pensioners is saddening. Our fathers and mothers who served this nation faithfully, working hard when they still had the strength, to give us the life we enjoy today have been made destitute, their life savings amounting to a few loaves of bread.

I distinctly remember pleading in the early 2000s with officials from the High Court who were handling finances for some orphans I knew.

The late mother had left enough money to buy a house in a low-density suburb.

But she had not lodged a formal will. The money became State-administered funds. I could see that the money was being rapidly eroded by inflation.

I suggested the money be used to buy a property that could then be rented out to preserve the value of the money and thereby meet the intended level of benefit for the children. Alas I failed to do that and the money was eroded to nothing.

One of the first things I did when I started working was to take insurance.

I remember the insurance salesman telling me how much money I would have by 2010. The insurance was structured so that in 2010, I would be able to get a portion of the money and from thereon would be able to take some money on an annual basis; needless to say that all came to nothing.

Numerous stories of this nature can be told, and we can all end up crying if we think too hard about such issues.

We can argue about who is to blame. Was it the President? Was it Government? Was it a series of bad decisions? Was it the MDC? Was it sanctions? It really does not matter who is to blame once all is said and done. Instead of crying over spilt milk, the mature course of action is to get up from this mess and chart a way forward from here.

I would like to humbly propose some considerations for the future. First, our attitude has to change.

Rather than shifting blame, leadership at all levels must do some self-introspection. What could have been done better? Should there be an apology? Should there be a resignation or appointment of another? Second, some form of public compensation, especially for the pensioners must be made.

A deliberate, budgeted for exercise to cushion pensioners must be made.

A percentage of national revenue could be set aside for them.

Another possibility is that corporate business leaders could make this an initiative they deliberately give to.

Third, those who are given national responsibilities that have far reaching implications for all should be made accountable and asked to leave if they fail to deliver essential services.

When essentials like electricity, water, insurance and pensions are touched, somebody somewhere must be held accountable.

Somebody somewhere must lose their job. Those who fail at their job must be relieved of those jobs and more competent people must replace them; if incompetency is not sanctioned and it is continuously maintained, then a dysfunctional society results.

Those who receive exorbitant salaries and have privileged access to positions of power should in return provide quality service.

Public office which has national implications should not be held in a trivial spirit. People who hold corporate, civic or national responsibilities with far-reaching implications for everyone should not see those responsibilities as a means for selfish gain.

It is shameful to become rich and yet not provide the promised service to the public.

The honourable way is to resign before being asked to do so.

It is time we stop accepting sub-standard service and demand the best for our money.

As a people, it is particularly shameful for us to watch our parents struggling after they worked so hard. We must do something about the plight of that generation.

As somebody once sung, "Ndati bhutsu yangu yapera heeri, hawunyari here kundiwona ndichitambudzika iwe?!" Let's not watch our parents struggle. Where is honour?

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