I HATE visiting government offices because of the unpleasant encounters I always have with front office staff and senior government officials.
Petty officialdom, and crass rudeness are some of the experiences I have had when dealing with government officials.
I am not the only one; other members of the public have had similar experiences too.
Last week, I went to the Home Affairs offices to get an identification document for my daughter.
The experience was a carbon copy of most of my encounters with this office over the past three decades.
Nothing has changed. The mantra of a “new dispensation” has not yet arrived at the passport offices.
In fact, I was convinced I was going to meet the rude and officious former Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede in the Makombe Building corridors.
As we moved from one office to another, I found myself wondering what President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s “new dispensation” means.
What values and principles drive the so-called “new dispensation”? What is the big vision for this “new dispensation”?
I have a vague recollection of pronouncements of Zimbabwe being a middle-income country in the near future.
But I am clear about the chasm between these political platitudes and the reality on the ground.
But I digress.
We were treated with disdain and rank rudeness by the majority of the staff in charge of processing the documents.
It was as if smiling and politeness were illegal in these dirty and stinking offices and corridors.
I told my daughter that poor salaries and unhygienic working conditions might explain the way they treated us.
As a Gen-Z, my daughter was not impressed by the pushing, shoving and rudeness and she would have none of it.
Her revulsion at the filth, abuse and rudeness gave me hope.
Perhaps her generation will change this country by living a new set of values of love, compassion, courtesy, efficiency and politeness.
By extension, my generation may perhaps be forgiven for our collective acts of commission and omission which led to Zimbabwe’s rapid decline.
We would have done well to have raised the generation that puts right our grave errors.
But before then, the introduction of rudimentary technology might help at the Makombe offices in the processing of applications for identity documents.
Why not have online submission of application forms instead of having the staff filling in forms for the public as they wait?
Why not introduce shifts so that staff members do not take lunch breaks at the same time while the public waits and wastes precious productive hours?
Clean offices might be a good start to ensuring civil treatment of members of the public.
There were moments of humour though. One lady with face mask under her chin was turning away anyone without a mask.
We were grateful to the lady who was smiling generously as she completed our forms; she didn’t have a mask.
And, the gentleman who showed us where to go while facing and walking in the opposite direction gave us some comic relief.
The excitement of receiving an identity document after a long wait, sometimes lasting days or even weeks, was palpable for parents and all at the Makombe complex.
The identity document is vital for so many things in everyday life.
It is no exaggeration these documents are a source of dignity and respect, the same virtues that staff at Home Affairs ministry strip off citizens through their uncongenial conduct.
- Trevor Ncube is the chairman of Alpha Media Holdings and host of the In Conversation with Trevor show