Saturday, August 20, 2011

Corruption is Corrosion

This year, besides the earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, has been the year of riots and protest marches.  The populations of many countries have stood up for their rights and banded together to oust those corrupt officials in their governments.  Some are still trying to take over the government and lives are being lost in the various struggles on a daily basis.  If you don’t like poverty, austerity measures or what have you, you down tools and strike and march down the streets waving placards.  Of course, the thugs in the marches aren’t really that interested in the politics of the protest, for them it’s just an opportunity to loot and vandalise the town.  Everybody gets caught up in watching the images on the news of the violent outbreaks and protests, but nobody actually asks why we are in this current situation.  What is causing the people to riot and protest?
Driving into Moshi town today, being hounded by the vultures in their orange safety vests, all wanting to rip you off for 500 shillings, the cost of a day’s parking in streets that will fail safety requirements in most countries, I found myself fuming at the corruption that is so prevalent in Tanzania.  The orange safety vest vultures get a percentage of the parking fees they collect.  They target mostly the mzungu (foreigners) and will write you a 500 shilling pink ticket for a full day’s parking when in fact they should be charging you 200 shillings and issuing a white ticket for a half day’s parking.  They start writing the pink ticket while they approach your car, so when you ask for the white ticket, they smile and point to the already completed pink ticket and try and force you to pay 500 shillings.  As you can gather, I’ve lost my patience with these vultures.  I know they are only trying to make a living and it’s not their fault.  It’s the corrupt government officials who are taking the bulk of the money they collect for parking.  What really annoys me is that none of that money is put back into the community, the roads and buildings are not maintained at all.  Instead the money is just pocketed, going to make some government officials on the take even richer.
TANESCO the state-owned power company is another example of a corrupt entity.  Daily power cuts make living here hard, but even if we only get half or less than half the power supply we should be getting, your TANESCO bill doesn’t reflect that.  You are charged the same, if not more, than what you’d be charged for 24 hour regular power supply.  And when I asked to get one of the prepay meters installed, I was told on Friday that my name was on the bottom of the list of those wanting to go prepay, and that I should spend the weekend thinking about what I could offer them that would make my name go to the top of the list. 
Corruption is corroding society.  Rusting it away until it starts to fall apart.  How did these power-hungry people get elected into the governments in the first place?  And how do we get rid of them when their corruption becomes evident (like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe) and despite losing elections they refuse to leave?  How can we remove the rust without cutting it out with riots and protests?  Dialogue doesn’t seem to work.  It seems that old saying is true.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Maybe we need more accountability measures to be put in place and harsher consequences for those indulging in corruption.

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