The burden of corruption

Every so often one bright star dims, never to shine again. It is sad when ones sees the light going out. I see stars dim each day in Africa and my heart bleeds for this beautiful continent.

My brother is only 21 years old and has his whole life ahead of him. He is impressionable, idealistic, optimistic, naïve and hopeful about his future. He belongs to the generation that does not take anything at face value – the generation that questions the status quo and if they can’t get the answer they google… and problem solved.

In Zimbabwe he could have obtained his driver’s license about five years back, from as early as age 16. He has attempted to get his license four times with no success. Not because he is thick, not because he can’t drive but because he says he has taken a decision that he is not going to pay the bribe money that the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) examiners believe is owed to them.

He has bluntly told our parents that should they give him the bribe money to pay them, he would rather use it for something else. He declared that he would be the first person in a long time to bring home a driving license without paying the bribe because he was confident he could drive.

Without a doubt he can, I have personally seen the amount of preparation he undertakes before he goes for a test. I am not an examiner, but I know he drives better than most licensed drivers on the road.

His argument has been that it is us, the people, who choose what’s easy over our principles, who perpetuate corruption – not the officials who receive the bribes. So he has been relentless in proving his point. I have secretly admired his ideals, at only 21.

I remembered when I needed to get my licence – the issue of paying a bribe was not one that I debated with myself. It was a given that if I needed to get a driving license, I should put aside bribe money to pay the VID staff involved. Case closed.

In dealing with my brother’s stubbornness, my parents faced a crossroads. On one hand they could not actively encourage him to pay the bribe and get on with life, while on the other, every time he went for testing without paying the bribe, they knew for sure he would not pass. That meant they had to keep paying for the numerous tests he was going to undertake to prove his point.

On this fourth test, he was confident it would be the last. I was secretly hoping that this time around they would pass him, to vindicate him, to make him believe that there is still hope and corruption need not be engraved in our DNA. I knew that if he failed again, he would not be able to hold on to his ideals.

He would believe that the system was unbeatable and would have to join it, like many of us who had done so unquestioningly. I knew that his optimism to beat the system would wane and he would realise that he needs to get on with his life and not fight a system so much bigger than himself on his own.

So on that fourth attempt, he returned home with another fail. He said the examiner had informed him that as he drove past Parliament buildings along Nelson Mandela Street, he was supposed to have put on his hazards – obviously, an untrue and absurd observation just to fail him because he had not paid the bribe.

He felt dejected, defeated and overpowered by a system that many would rather side with than battle against. My brother, after his fourth attempt at the VID announced that he was ready to pay the bribe. Just then, I realised that another bright star had dimmed and succumbed to the burden of corruption that Africa carries. He had surrendered to the sickness that would take as much time to un-entrench as it had taken to engrain in the inner beings of our people.

Post published in: Africa News

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