I live in a country where one’s taxable income is not a standard measurement of their net worth. Everyone knows that cousin, former classmate or even workmate who earns a pity-worthy salary but lives your dream life. Not because their father left them a copious trust fund, or they have a chain of income generating businesses; but they know how to use his office to make the money that makes their salary a detail of his income.
During my internship, I worked in a place where I witnessed the transformation of one girl’s life in a couple of months. It started with a job well done, for which a satisfied client expresses gratitude in pecuniary terms. Shocked, this newbie I’ll call Tina received this token with apparent unease, her facial expression wondering;
“eh eh, did this guy just give me 50k for doing the job I am paid to do, is this even legal?”
Later that evening, Tina vaunted of her achievement before colleagues who sneered at her naiveté;
“Tsk! Kati 50k you think you’ve worked? Nga gundi bought a plot of land in Matuga last September before buying a Vitz in Feb!”
“You’re lying, that chick has been working for what, one year?
“Be there, and her salo is about Shs600,000, gross.”
“Waa...maybe she has a hajji?”
“Eh. You see me here but I used to make serious money in the earlier better days, but these days I only make like 200 a week.”
While these details may have been exaggerated, the soon-to-be-corrupt-employee must have gone back home that evening wallowing in dejection.
“Shs200,000 a week? And then she whines about this being a dry streak? Walayi I have to step up my game!”
Henceforth, the gratuities ceased to be tokens of appreciation and become rights; much like entitlements that could not be demanded overtly, but extorted cunningly. A few months down the road, I met Tina passing back and forth in office corridors when she stopped me;“Psst! has this Byamukama (not real name) guy been here?”
“Hmm...who is that?”
“Some sneaky man who owes me,” She looked around anxiously. “Now that I’ve seen his things through he’s starting to play games like he won’t need my help again.” Seeing this new Tina made me think no one is born corrupt, people just get sucked into it.