The respect thing

24 04 2010

Last year my nursery supplied some 40,000 seedlings to the informal street market – we were not paid. It’s most usually the security guards at the heart of the theft. We got most of the trays back but the evidence as seedlings was long gone and no arrests were ever made.

Earlier in March I was on the way to the airport with Sybille when I got a text from the senior foreman saying that another 12 trays of onions had gone missing. There was little I could do at that stage but when I got back from surgery and another theft, onions again but now 22 trays, occurred I put the suspected guard in the truck and left him at the local police station to be “interviewed”. A few days later I asked the investigating constable if anything had happened. She asked me if there was any evidence left!

I recounted this story to Charles a black manager on the farm where I live and asked what he did. He laughed. They’d had a similar problem with the security guards on the potatoes so he took them off to the police station for a night’s stay and a good hiding (his words) and warned them if there was any more nonsense they’d go back for another hiding. I commented that as a white I would not get away with that (and I have to admit I’m a bit squeamish about it). I repeated the story to a white farmer that afternoon and he said that while he would not do anything himself he just gives the police a bag of potatoes and they do the dirty business.

Some years ago I was working in Malawi for UNDP and was astounded when one of my highly educated black colleagues told me that she didn’t think Africa was well suited to democracy. I had to admit that after giving a bit of thought I was not so sure she was wrong. It is no secret that Africans respect the “strong man” which, unlike the conclusion of the “Witness” BBC podcast on the Zimbabwe independence and “liberation war” I listened to, is the reason why Bob is still in charge.


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One response

25 04 2010
Big Blister

Uh, that’s a really tough one.

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