Clinic Stories

Corruption

Corruption is a way of life in Tanzania. It is easy to feel ripped off when traveling in third world countries. Many countries have entry or exit taxes. Though the tax may be limited to or more expensive for Americans it is not necessarily corruption. It is charged to everyone under the same circumstances, a receipt is given and the money does not go to the individual collecting it. Closer to corruption is the constant police road blocks for tourist vehicles, cash payment required to pass. These happen every 20 miles or so and the drivers seethe at the humiliation and the negative message to visitors. Though they grumble to tourists, they are otherwise careful not to speak out. Complaining about the government is against the law.

Cab drivers, of course, are expert at inflating costs. In Costa Rica I needed a cab ride and gave the driver a printed map with directions and distances. Despite that, and my complaining that he was heading the wrong direction, the driver took me far out of the way while running up the fare. My luggage was in the back seat and since I did not trust the driver to take off before I retrieved my gear I left the front door open. Before I could close the front door a strong wind blew it closed and the mirror fell off and broke. In the end we both lost money.

Someone in my group that climbed Mount Kilimanjaro brought 35 sets of sweat pants, sweat shirts and tee shirts to donate to the staff of the travel agency. There is no doubt that they need it. The porters on the mountain are paid about $8.50 per day and are often dressed inadequately for the conditions. The clothes were confiscated on arrival with the accusation that they were being brought in for resale. In the end the owner of the agency was able to pay a $150 bribe to receive the clothing for his staff.

For our Kilimanjaro party of seven we were supposed to have a support staff of 26. This seemed to be excessive but the promise of tips from outsiders puts a lot of people in the mix. When we arrived the staff had grown to 40. When four of our group turned back after the third day our staff shrunk to 22. We had a dilemma – how much to tip? We had been given a guideline of so much per day for each job category, so we reasoned that the people who worked fewer days should not be tipped for the days they did not work. Though we were supporting many extra people, they did not see it that way. They refused to take us out until we paid more, a negotiation that took about two hours. In the end I paid twice what I was told to expect.

When I told a woman from India about my trip and the corruption, she told me she would never go back to India. The last time she visited with her family they had to pay a huge fee to get permission to leave. You can shear a sheep many times but you can only skin them once.

Back to Top