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5 signs that it’s time to move on

Ever feel stuck and wonder if you should stay put or move on? Here are 5Cs to help you decide. Sometimes we find ourselves in unpleasant spaces. We know we need to move but somehow, seem rooted in …

Source: 5 signs that it’s time to move on

5 signs that it’s time to move on

Ever feel stuck and wonder if you should stay put or move on? Here are 5Cs to help you decide.

life is too shortSometimes we find ourselves in unpleasant spaces. We know we need to move but somehow, seem rooted in that negative place. In our reluctance to rock the boat, we hang in there, hoping that change will come without any action on our part. We somehow don’t seem to realize how the situation could be damaging us, or how much we could be hurting ourselves.

The situation could be a job, relationship, or any other scenario that should normally be beneficial but turns out to be the opposite. As human beings, our ability to adapt to change is often celebrated and has been credited for our survival against extinction and other threats throughout the ages.

However, not everyone is versatile and sometimes we struggle to change. Indeed change can be difficult as it almost always comes at a cost. So, more often than not, we make excuses to avoid moving out of a situation that is detrimental to our life and health simply because we want to avoid the pain of change. Take for instance the battered wife who stays with an abusive husband until he kills her. Alternatively, we turn to negative coping mechanisms and find outlets for our frustration that soothe us without addressing the problem, for example the employee who turns to binge eating because she cannot handle an abusive supervisor.

The truth we all know is that piecemeal solutions will never work. They are merely a temporary salve to a deepening wound which can contaminate other aspects of our lives if left untreated.

The reality of life is that it is littered with challenges – that’s normal. However, putting up with a challenge over the long-term and learning to live with a negative situation is not ideal. The best we can do for ourselves is to face those challenges and deal with them before they overcome us.

Of course we don’t want to over-react to every minor situation by taking drastic measures. So, there question is, how do we differentiate a temporary situation that will self-resolve, from something potentially permanent that requires dramatic action on our part? I believe there are always some tell-tale signs hence it is important to pay attention, take heed and know when to move.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that the signs that it’s time to move on are often pretty obvious, yet we ignore them and wait until the situation becomes untenable, then we make irrational, desperate decisions that can potentially aggravate the situation.

Here are some suggested tell-tale signs that a situation is untenable and one needs to act. Although the list is by no-means exhaustive, I believe that anyone who is experiencing at least three of these in a particular situation should seriously weigh the options and take action.

  1. Plummeting confidence

Anyone whose confidence is constantly battered will eventually lose it. When pressure is repeatedly applied to a particular spot on an object, that point gradually weakens and the object eventually breaks. The same applies to a person’s confidence. If one is in an environment where that confidence is persistently attacked, it will eventually  give in. These attacks could be in the form of words or actions.

A highly accomplished lawyer friend of mine was consistently verbally abused by her ex-husband who cheated on her with adolescents and justified the action by frequently telling her that they were more intelligent than her. Although she brushed off the words and appeared to be coping well in most areas of her life, the verbal abuse eventually took a toll on her work and threatened her career. She became unsure of herself and this was most evident in meetings and situations that required written work as speaking out and writing revealed her mind, which she was no longer sure of. Consequently, any criticism  of her work, no matter how constructive, was perceived as an attack on her intelligence. It was only after she separated from him and surrounded herself with positive people who gave reaffirmed her that she gradually regained her confidence.

My advice is, if you are in a situation where your confidence is consistently being chipped, then you need to act urgently for your own sake.  Address the people or circumstances that are causing your confidence to dip. Assuming you can cope without taking any meaningful steps to address the situation will only serve to prolong your misery. Face the situation squarely and deal with it.

  1. Confinement

Every living thing is expected to grow – this is the normal order in life. In the absence of growth, degeneration and regression set in. If for example, you are stuck in a career that is not going anywhere, then it is time to seriously consider moving on. The danger with staying in a confined place for too long is that you will eventually settle for less than you deserve. In this ever changing world of more frequent new discoveries, knowledge can easily become redundant. If you are in a confined space, chances are you are not learning anything new and you are not growing, while what you know is quickly becoming irrelevant.

Confinement will do you no good. It will only serve to curtail your progress, while you become increasingly frustrated. So, do yourself a favour, get up and move on.

Life is supposed to be progressive and we should keep moving forward in order to reach our next level. Stagnancy under any circumstances can only lead to frustration.

  1. Reduced capacity/capability

I’m sure we have all heard that there are two kinds of resources – the finite and the infinite. Finite resources, which are usually tangible, decrease with use, while the infinite resources, which are often intangible, increase with use. These infinite resources, with reference to an individual, include one’s mind, ideas, relationships and general capacity. If one’s capability is either redundant or under-utilized, erosion and subsequent frustration are inevitable. If your capacity is being reduced, then most likely you are neither reaching your potential nor contributing meaningfully to society so you are better off moving to a place where you can grow and be of greater value to society.

  1. Feelings of being caged
Photo credit: 

Ever seen a caged animal? Being in Africa, I see lots of those, but I also see animals that are roaming free. From my non-animal expert opinion, I get a sense that the animals that roam freely in the wild are much healthier than the ones that are confined.

The same is true of human beings. We thrive when we are given room. Any kind of confinement is to our detriment. If, in your career, you feel like a caged animal, then it’s time to move on.

I once worked in an office where I was excluded and was a virtual stranger throughout my tenure in that office. I was not the only person who felt that way. The office we worked in was very fractured and the leadership applied a policy of divide and rule. Consequently, cliques emerged and because the leadership preferred to work with a chosen few individuals, everyone else was left out in the cold. Colleagues who were in the clique played along as it eliminated competition and allowed them to shine. It was a very sad place to be because I would wake up every morning and go to work to sit and watch everyone else working. My efforts to contribute were quashed and whatever I had to offer was trashed.

Assignments were dished out to everyone around me – along with superfluous compliments. I was caught up in a situation where the office was bustling with activity while I was locked out by an invisible barrier of systematic psychosocial abuse and a curtain of exclusion. In order to be productive, I had to scrounge for work, picking up the tasks that no one else wanted to do. Needless to say I ended up picking up the unpleasant, tedious and menial tasks, which could often be done within minutes, then I’d be bored again, while scrounging for more work.

My efforts to initiate ideas that would have made my work more exciting were crushed as soon as they were uttered.

Like a caged animal, I watched longingly as colleagues got about their work, their negative attitude forming invisible iron bars that kept me out of the collective space. My participation at work was at best vicarious and at worst non-existent. Information related to work was kept a closely guarded secret and my efforts to get involved were like trying  to break into a secret society with a cryptic code of conduct.

Human beings adapt quickly and are easily conditioned so I soon crept into the shadows and learnt to be invisible just to maintain a peaceful co-existence. I also realized that as long as I stayed in the organization, I would not grow. Working there was like wearing the same, tight shoe everyday while trying to walk comfortably and convince the world that all was well regardless of the arrows that were being shot at me.

I love my work and enjoy what I do, so having that taken away from me was devastating. After some introspection and consultation with trusted colleagues, I realized that the problem was not with me, but with a manipulative, handicapped leadership that created and fanned divisions for its own ends.

Unable to cope with the psychological abuse and being mindful of its potential long-term damage, I was forced to make the choice to move on. I had to decide whether to stay on and let my spirit continue to be bruised until it was crushed, or move on to an organization that valued my skills and contribution. I chose the latter and moved on, although it took months for me to get another job.

  1. Incessant criticism

Nobody is perfect, we all err hence criticism is a normal part of human life. Constructive criticism is helpful and can result in improvement. On the other hand, when criticism is incessant and based on prejudice and pre-conceived notions, it loses its objectivity and becomes destructive. If you find yourself in such a situation, self-evaluate and ask objective people around you to help evaluate you. If there is nothing wanting on your part, then perhaps it’s because the people around you are biased.

In the final analysis, you are your best advisor. Don’t ever let anyone tell you what’s best for you, after all, you will live with the consequences of other people’s advice long after they have forgotten what they said. If you feel it’s time to move, then by all means take the leap.

The truth is, people give advice based on their experiences and assumptions. On the other hand, you’re wearing the shoe and you feel the pinch. Don’t let their assumptions overrule your experience.

The danger of staying in the wrong place for too long is that you lose who you are. Don’t let that happen to you. Evaluate your situation, make a decision, then take the leap!

Beyond fooling around, this April…

April FoolsToday is 1 April.

To some it is April Fools’ Day – a day when people play pranks on each other and enjoy a few good laughs.

To others, though, it is an opportunity for sober reflection. It is a sign of the passage of time. It marks the end of the first quarter of the year and entry into the second quarter. It means instead of the 12 months we had to pursue our dreams on 1 January, we now have nine months left.  It is a wake-up call, a reminder that time is moving and, as Freddie Mercury sang, “time waits for nobody.”

Today, have fun while playing pranks on others, but take time to reflect on your goals and achievements.

What goals did you set for yourself this year? What do you hope to achieve? Do you have an action plan? How far have you gone in achieving those goals? Are you on track with your action plan?

If you have made some progress, well done, keep going. You still have another nine months, continue so use them wisely, just don’t relax or lose track.

On the other hand, if you have not made much progress, let today be one of reflection. Revisit your plans. If you are not making progress, look at where you have gone wrong. What is hindering you from fulfilling your dreams?

The range of possibilities is very broad. It could be that the goal was unrealistic in the first place, or the action plan is impractical, or one had not planned properly for the required resources.

Unrealistic goals

goal is a desired result that a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve: a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development. Many people endeavor to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines.

It is always great to dream big. However, implementation is not always as easy. Bear that in mind as you pursue your goals because being overly ambitious can sometimes work against you. Perhaps you set unrealistic goals that cannot be achieved within the allocated time, or perhaps your goals are fine but you need to work on other factors. Relook at your goal and see how you can make it more practical and achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals that you won’t even come close to achieving.

For example, assuming you decided to launch a new business but have not made much progress because you dreamt of having a huge fashion boutique in a prime location yet you  don’t have a client base and can’t find shop space. You may need to make adjust some aspects as you inch towards your ultimate goal. You can still run your business, but perhaps from a different location.

Assess your options and go for what works well for you. It is important to start moving, rather than wait until everything is in place, so start where you are and work with what you have to make your dream a reality.

Impractical action plan

Perhaps your goal is great but your action plan is impractical. An action plan is a detailed plan outlining actions needed to reach your goals.

A lady I know decided to start a business that required use of a truck all day, every day during the harvest season. What I did not know was that the whole plan was based on the use of my truck. When everything was in place she asked for my truck. As I was hiring it out to clients who were already scheduled, I could not release it to her. I asked her how long she intended to use it then calculated the charges accordingly but she was reluctant to pay me. She had planned to use the truck all day, every day for free throughout the duration of the project.  In all this, she had not considered that the truck was in itself a business that was bringing in income. Harvest time was also a peak season for me as farmers required transport to the market. By lending her the truck, I would miss out on income which I could not forego unless she was willing to compensate me at the same rate.  I was not her only inconvenience. Her entire plan rested on the free use of other people’s resources. Naturally, the plan crumbled because no one was willing to lend their assets over a long time while losing much-needed income.

My advice to her was simple. As much as you can, use your own means. Indeed people are willing to invest in projects with potential and help a friend in need. However, this has to be within reason. Very few people will forego their income to support a prolonged experiment with little promise success.

Inadequate resources

Resources, whether financial, material or human, are important in helping us to fulfill our goals. For a myriad of reasons, you may find yourself under resourced. Perhaps the economy is not performing as well as projected and inflation has eroded your financial base, or you overlooked some costs that cannot be covered by your contingency funds, or perhaps a personal crisis has forced you to rearrange your priorities, or one of your partners is not as honest as you assumed. Anything is possible.

I know a man who planned well for his business, prepared in advance, quit his job and started working for his own company. Unfortunately, he entered a partnership with someone who had not planned so well for his life and the consequences were disastrous. Although their business should have been thriving, they had to file for bankruptcy within months. My friend had not realized that his partner was not only heavily indebted, but also had bad spending habits that were of great cost to the business. In no time at all, whatever profits the business should have been enjoying were absorbed by the partner’s debts. The two parted ways and my friend, who had lost everything he invested in the business, had to start from scratch. It took him some years to recover, during which he had to make major adjustments to his lifestyle and rebuild his credibility to regain his clients. He has since recovered and is running a successful business concern, this time on his own.

Whatever financial situation you find yourself in is no excuse to abandon your goals and sit on your laurels. Make adjustments and keep moving.

Not conducting regular reviews

How can you be confident that you are making progress if you do not conduct regular reviews? It is important to frequently look at how far you have come, what is working well, what has gone wrong and how best to address challenges along the way. Some recommend quarterly reviews. The frequency is entirely up to you. If you have not been evaluating yourself regularly, let today be the starting point. The timing is appropriate as it marks the end of the first quarter of this year.

Also, set milestones. This will help you to see whether or not you are making progress. Remember, it takes a number of spoonfuls over time to fill a bowl.

As you inch towards achieving your goals, celebrate the successes and face the challenges head on.

Now, keep moving

Whatever happens, don’t be discouraged. You may have lost three months, but you still have another nine and can make use of them. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve once you set your mind to it.

Focus on your goals, adapt your action plan, build on the lessons learnt and keep moving. In some cases, your action plan may require a minor change like waking up 30 minutes earlier than usual so you can exercise, or adjusting your budget so you can invest in further studies, or dropping sodas from your diet so you can lose some weight. However, in other cases, major changes that affect the lives of other people might be required, such as a family relocation to another country. Whatever the case, remember that the human race has evaded extinction because of our ability to adapt to change. Make the necessary changes knowing that they may cause some discomfort, but will not kill you. Invest in your dreams and if you cannot afford it, there are also plenty of free online resources that can help you to set goals, develop an action plan etc.

This April Fools’ Day, don’t be the fool, make time for honest reflection and chart your course towards making the rest of this year more productive!

“The Talk” That Proves Racism Is Alive

Drifting Through My Open Mind

*This is a blogpost I wrote earlier this year. Sadly it bears repeating…

unknown, via Twitter

“The police in New York City
They chased a boy right through the park
And in a case of mistaken identity
The put a bullet through his heart
Heart breakers with your forty four, I wanna tear your world apart”

-The Rolling Stones, Heartbreaker

*This is a blogpost I wrote earlier this year. Sadly it bears repeating…

Do you worry about what others think of you? I know I do. I worry about it too much. My worries are there because I want people to like me. But imagine if simply being you made others uncomfortable. Imagine if walking around in your skin caused fear. What if upon seeing you a person’s eyes enlarged, they backed away, they avoided eye contact or even turned and walked the other way.

Last summer I read a post by Questlove…

View original post 1,613 more words

Crossing the racial divide

“Can I touch your hair?” The little girl with long blonde hair and blue eyes asked shyly, interrupting a conversation between myself and two other black girls. She, too, was accompanied by two othe…

Source: Crossing the racial divide

Crossing the racial divide

multi-racial children
As children we celebrated our diversity, untainted by prejudice.

“Can I touch your hair?”

The little girl with long blonde hair and blue eyes asked shyly, interrupting a conversation between myself and two other black girls. She, too, was accompanied by two other girls, both brunettes. Their giggles gave the impression that they had discussed this earlier and the little one had been designated the group’s spokesperson.

We were round about the same age hence we had been placed in the same dormitory. I was eight years old then. All of us were new comers at the school. I was arranging my toiletries on my dressing table while my two newly found friends sat on one bed.  We were chatting, trying to get acquainted while adapting to our new environment.

One of my new friends nodded her consent, uncertain about why anyone would want to touch her hair! She was spotting a short natural afro, while our other friend had cornrows and I was nearly bald shaven.

The blonde girl advanced, stretched her hand and ploughed her little fingers into the afro, then withdrew her hand, still giggling. My friend in turn asked if she could feel the blond hair, to which the little girl consented. Unable to contain our curiosity, the rest of the girls joined in.

Delighted squeals followed as the children felt the diverse texture of each other’s hair and analyzed their differences. The conversation continued as more questions followed.

“Do you bleed when you’re hurt?”

“Yes,” my other friend replied.

“What colour is your blood?” one of the white girls asked.

“Red,” I replied.

“Oh, mine too!”

The ice broke!

A seemingly stupid conversation, yet it was real. This was a conversation among children who had been separated by years of racial prejudice and bigotry, suddenly interacting for the first time in post-independent Zimbabwe. Having been born during apartheid, this was the first time we were openly interacting, thanks to a change in Government policy that ended racial segregation in schools and other institutions. Although the policy had been in place for some years, I had been recently transferred to the boarding school and like my counterparts, was interacting across the racial divide for the first time.

Away from the discrimination and bigotry that had separated our nation for decades, we explored and learnt about each other in the privacy of the dormitory. Curious about our differences, we exchanged a myriad of questions and learnt what we had in common.

The question about the colour of our blood was somewhat definitive as it brought to the fore the basic fact that despite our differences, we were all human beings. From then on, the way we related changed. A new respect was born.

The bell rang, indicating that it was time to go downstairs for supper and interrupting our magical moment of exploration as we rushed down to join the queue. The conversation shifted to the mundane things that children talk about, like favourite food and colour.

As in any normal society, relationships were born, friendships were forged and bonds were formed – some temporary and others long term – as people discovered what they had in common and learnt to accommodate each other’s differences.

That was the blissful world of childhood.

The following day, we went to school and interacted with more people from other races including Indians, Chinese and Japanese among many others.

Life became an adventure, a journey of discovery, learning about other cultures and living together despite our obvious physical differences. Once we got over the curiosity of our initial meeting, we became one happy community.

We lived blissfully in harmony until we stepped out of the safety of the school into the rest of the world. A world tainted by prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination. A world characterized by bigotry. Not only did racial differences exist, but they were being constantly magnified and reinforced. There seemed to be an invisible hierarchy that automatically made some races more superior than others and we were all expected to fall in line and recognize that supposed superiority without question. Indeed, in this world, as in George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

It saddens me that most people perpetuate racial discrimination and are reluctant to change their views about people who are different from them, even when there is no compelling reason for their prejudice apart from a difference in appearance, culture and place of origin.

Efforts such as the proclamation of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on annually on 21 March[1] since 2001 have not brought about much change. While the objectives of this day are noble and it is a good initial step towards addressing a global problem, I believe it will take more than that to transform deep-seated mindsets.

Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream[2] of equality and a country where people would

More than 50 years after Dr. King made his famous speech, his dream is yet to be realised.

“not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” His dream was for America, but mine is for the entire world. Regardless of our differences in the geographical boundaries, more than 50 years after he made his famous speech, that dream is still yet to be realized.

Although the expression of racism in my time is less brutal than it was in Dr. King’s time, it is still vicious in its subtlety, as it seeks ways to evade the legal frameworks and policies that have been introduced in efforts to curtail it.

I wish more people would cross the racial divide and come over to the world equality and respect, a world that celebrates rather than resents our differences; A world that appreciates rather than despises our diverse cultures; A world that recognizes that we all have something to offer, regardless of our appearance; Above all, a world that recognizes that we are all human beings with equal rights, regardless of the diversity of our pigmentation and hair texture.

I hope this dream comes true during my lifetime…

Photo credits: Children and Dr. King

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Victims or accomplices of African corruption?

Are we victims or accomplices of Africa’s burgeoning corruption? African economies are bleeding and corruption is endemic. The figures are staggering! More than US$1 trillion lost through corruptio…

Source: Victims or accomplices of African corruption?

Victims or accomplices of African corruption?

Are we victims or accomplices of Africa’s burgeoning corruption?

African economies are bleeding and corruption is endemic. The figures are staggering! More than US$1 trillion lost through corruption over decades, while about 75 million people in sub-Saharan Africa admitted to having paid a bribe in 2015.

Every corrupt act – no matter how insignificant or harmless – counts and contributes to the scourge, but how do we stem the culture?

Read more about recent encounters with Africa’s burgeoning corruption in everyday life.

It started off as an insignificant discussion.

“Your bag is overweight ma’am,’’ the attendant told me.

True, I had observed that it was overweight by 1 kilogram and I was willing to move stuff from that bag to another one that weighed less to reduce the weight. The new rule is that the bags should not exceed 23Kgs each. Mine was 24Kgs and I saw it because I was watching the scale. I asked him where I could rearrange my luggage as I could not see any free space in the crowded airport.

“Your bag is very overweight, it is 25Kg. You’ll have to do something because we’re doing you a favour,” he said. The “something” expected of me was obviously not repacking because my bags were quickly whisked away while he looked at me pointedly.

He didn’t extend his hand to receive anything from me so I figured he hadn’t meant that “something” was a bribe for letting the overweight bag through. “Phew!” I sighed with relief, thinking I had wiggled my way out of a corrupt act. I politely thanked him and happily completed the immigration processes, meanwhile mentally patting myself on the back for successfully evading paying a bribe.

I was still mentally congratulating myself and feeling proud of my minor accomplishment as I settled down in the departure lounge, when one of the employees in a different uniform approached me.

“Sister. I was sent to you by George*. I understand you have something for him,” he said. Unsure of how much he knew and what they could do to me, I hastily handed him the equivalent of US$1.50.

He gladly went his way, while I remained with a sour taste in my mouth. Was I a victim of corruption or an accomplice? The amount was nominal, but for me it was not about the money, rather it was about the principle. I felt violated. What would he have done if I had claimed not to have any money on me? Given that they had an effective internal follow up mechanism, which other airport staff were part of the syndicate.

I finally eased my conscience by telling myself that it was just a tip that he deserved for lifting my heavy luggage. After all, I would have paid someone the same amount for that service. However, the fact remains, the young man extracted money from me, against my will for a service he imposed on me and I felt powerless to do anything about it.

I asked myself many questions. How many people does he do this to on a daily basis and how much does he make? What happens to those who do not cooperate? Has anyone ever reported the matter to higher authorities and if so what action was taken?

I wondered how many of us cooperate against our will because we aren’t willing to put up a fight or make a scene. How many of us pay quietly because the amount required is inconsequential, not realizing that we are feeding a mammoth beast that is bleeding economies on this continent. In the final analysis, the tiny droplet feeds into a huge global picture.

While it is difficult to quantify how much Africa loses annually to corruption, estimated figures – which are probably on the conservative side – are staggering. According to past reports, Africa lost between $1.2 trillion and $1.4 trillion in illicit financial flows between 1980 and 2009—roughly equal to the continent’s current gross domestic product, and surpassing money received from outside over the same period. See more on:

Clearly the culture of corruption is deeply entrenched and people try to earn what they can within their sphere of influence. On the other hand, we perpetuate corruption whenever we cooperate, regardless of whether we do so willingly or reluctantly.

I am not sure what I could or would have done differently faced with similar circumstances. So far I have successfully eluded paying bribes, no matter how small, although sometimes I have paid the bigger price for refusing to cooperate.

I was reminded of an incident not so long ago, when I was claiming a tax rebate at another African airport after shopping as if it was my last chance in a lifetime. I was expecting a decent of money back given what I had spent. When I got to the counter where calculations are done, I cheerfully greeted the lady behind the counter. As I waited for the calculations, we joked and engaged in friendly chatter, which her colleagues also joined in. I had taken an instant liking to her as she resembled my sister in law so I must have exuded an air of being comfortable around her since she looked like family. She seemed to take rather long to calculate the sum due to me. In fact, it appeared as though she was playing around with a piece of paper, much to my chagrin as my flight was already checking in.

She placed a note on the counter before me with a scribbled request to allow her to add more receipts to my claim so I could get a bigger cheque and split the cash with her. My total claim was worth a few hundred US dollars, but her deal was worth at least $10,000. A red flag immediately went up in my mind. I shook my head, with a deliberate stern expression on my face to indicate not only my refusal, but my disapproval too.

The atmosphere in the room immediately changed, as though someone had put the air conditioner on at very low temperature. The whole team in the room became very icy, which told me they were all in this together. All friendly banter and chatter ceased immediately.

My sister-in-law’s look alike sullenly handed me my approved receipts and the authorization form with the total amount. In my rush to get to the cheque written and cashed before catching my flight, I did not inspect the form until I was in the queue to collect my money.

Stunned! I realized that to punish me, my sister-in-law’s look alike had removed all the receipts worth huge amounts, and left the insignificant ones so I was queuing for a pittance, less than 10 per cent of what was due to me. I was incensed but looking at the time and the length of the queue, I just cashed what I had and moved on. I figured she would try to entice someone else with that deal, my receipts adding a few more hundreds to the total amount.

Unfortunately, I had combined receipts with a colleague’s as his claim on its own was not worth the process. When I shared my story with him, he sympathized and demanded the full amount of his claim. There were costs attached to the process and a commission charged for changing the currency to US$ but he refused to share any of the costs. His avarice would not let him compromise. So, in the final analysis, I lost to the lady and my colleague, but was glad that I had played my part against corruption no matter how small.

Looking at the two situations, I wondered what had changed. Why had I refused to participate in a huge deal but brushed aside a nominal amount? I guess the circumstances were different. The ladies at the airport didn’t have an accomplice waiting to stalk me on the other side. As a result, the fear factor was eliminated. The ladies were more civil and asked for permission, which the man at the other airport did not. I guess the corrupt elements in our society are becoming more daring and assertive.

Whatever the situation, the truth is we all abhor corruption, from a moral and financial perspective, yet we sometimes find ourselves caught up in situations that force us to be reluctant accomplices. We are all cognizant of its impact and know that every amount, no matter how small, contributes to the larger problem – like drops of water in the ocean.

Another report, estimates that nearly 75 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa paid a bribe in 2015 alone for reasons that varied from escaping punishment by the police or courts, to getting access to desperately needed basic services. Read more:

While we may not always have the upper hand or succeed in resisting corruption, there is something we can do. We can each take a stand against corrupt practices and refuse to participate. We may not always succeed, but our efforts will be recognized – at least by ourselves for trying. As much as possible, we can play our part by refusing to participate – even if it sometimes costs us as in my second incident. We can also express our disapproval so that our moral standpoint is clear. As much as we can, we should report such incidents to the relevant authorities.

I am convinced that our collective efforts will one day pay off. Just as each corrupt act contributes to the trillions lost, the inverse is true – each refusal to participate also contributes towards discouraging perpetrators and serves as a reminder that there is a section of society that prefers to do things the right way. I imagine it also plays a part in preventing the loss of billions of dollars.

So let’s all play our part. Together we can make a difference!

*Name changed to protect his identity – and mine lest a member of his syndicate remembers!

Don’t African Presidents Have a Retirement Age?

President Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Gabriel Mugabe just turned 92 years old and plans to run in the country’s next election.  Uganda’s 71 year old Yoweri Kaguta Museveni just won a controversial election. Both are old men who really ought to hand over to the baton to the next crop of leaders, yet they insist on clinging to power. 

In a continent where constitutions are changed and maximum terms of office are extended to accommodate sitting presidents, perhaps placing an age limit could help flush out leaders who have overstayed and outlived their relevance. 

The question of a retirement age for African leaders, first raised in the post below in 2008, still begs an answer. This is particularly so in a context where an electorate may suffer because the incumbent is blessed with longevity. 

What’s your take? Do you think setting a retirement age for presidents is the way to go for Africa?

Don’t African Presidents Have a Retirement Age? First published in 2008, coincidentally in February on: 

On 10 November 2008, we woke up to the sad news that Miriam Makeba, a.k.a Mama Africa, had died of a heart attack during a performing visit to the Naples in Italy. She was 76.

On sharing this sad news with a colleague, his insensitive response was “Why was she still singing at the age of 76?” My immediate retort was “(Robert) Mugabe still wants to govern the country at 84, and at least Makeba was entertaining people, not implementing policies that were causing suffering and pain – if anything, she had more of a right to maintain her job!”

That got me thinking about retirement. Apparently, Mama Africa had begun talking about retiring. Clearly, she had also scaled down her activities so we can safely say she was undergoing some transition towards retirement. Makeba left a legacy after an illustrious career.

On the other hand, I could not help but wonder if African presidents have an official retirement age. In most countries, the retirement age for civil servants is 65. I imagine the same applies to the private sector. This must be governed by the assumption that after a certain age, the human brain begins to deteriorate and general health plummets. Besides, people generally need to rest from all the years of toiling and enjoy the fruits of their labour in the comfort of their homes, surrounded by their grand children and loved ones. At least, that is the way life used to be – or so we were taught during our growing years.

Bearing in mind that national presidents are civil servants, surely, they should not be exempted from such rules – afterall, the stakes are higher! There is a vast difference between the retirement of an old man who is working in a small printing company and one who is running a government. Yet, what we see is the opposite – some old men have no desire to rest and still feel they have a lot to offer the nation – even if evidence on the ground testifies to the contrary. The list of African presidents who remained in power long after the acceptable retirement age and subsequently caused untold suffering is quite long. Examples abound, including Malawi’s Kamuzu Banda and the then Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo)’s Mobutu Sese Seko. I thought it might be interesting to do a survey on the ages of sitting African presidents. But then again, even if an age limit was imposed, who would enforce it anyway?

I could not help but wonder, though. Why is it so difficult for people to let go? Is power that sweet? Why should the will of an individual prevail over that of a nation? Are some people more important than others?

True, George Orwell in his “Animal Farm,” did say “some animals are more equal than others,” but it would be comforting if that had just remained a mere sentence in a book of fiction. Sadly, that is the reality that characterises the politics in our beloved continent.

First published on Pulsewire in February 2009 on


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