IF YOU have been to Zimbabwe over the last decade, then you more than likely have paid a bribe for anything from getting your phone line fixed, obtain a driver’s licence, get a job, avoid a speeding ticket or simply to get a child enrolled at a school.
But now campaigners fed up with paying bribes so that people can do their jobs are fighting back on the internet, with the launch of a whistleblower website called ipaidabribe.org.zw.
“Report your encounter with corruption,” the website invites Zimbabweans on its home page.
Users can share their experiences with bribery, where it took place, how much they paid and in instances where they have documentary, video or photographic proof, this can also be uploaded on the website.
People reporting the corruption can do so anonymously, but the website’s founder says the anonymous contributions have the potential to shine a spotlight on a practice which pervades everyday life.
Tawanda Kembo, the founder of ipaidabribe.org.zw, says he was driven up the wall after an encounter with police officers at a roadblock.
His car didn’t have a fire extinguisher, a new requirement under the law for certain types of vehicles. But 90 percent of cars don’t have fire extinguishers.
He told New Zimbabwe.com: “The police officers were clearly looking for an offence. They told me the spot fine was US$20, but I didn’t have that much money on me. They just left me there to wait, while they waived other cars through.
“I knew I wasn’t going anywhere soon, so I paid the bribe and they let me go.”
Kembo says the experience left him with a feeling that he was “treated unfairly”, and he went on the internet to see if others had had similar experiences.
“I found a similar concept in Kenya which made it easier to report corruption online, and I got an idea to start a website specifically targeting Zimbabwe,” he said from Harare.
He maintains that he is not afraid of retribution from corrupt individuals whose practices may soon be read online by thousands of people around the world.
“I’m not afraid, it’s a good initiative. I think I will have more support than threats,” he said.
The website lists six major categories of frontline services where corruption is most rife: the police, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, the passport office, the Vehicle Inspection Department and municipal services.
Over time as more information is collected, Kembo said, statistical analysis will show the most corrupt city, government department and expose some specific individuals.
“The statistics collected from these reports will be used to argue for improving governance systems and procedures, tightening law enforcement and regulation thereby reducing the scope for corruption in obtaining services from the government and institutions such as ZESA, ZIMRA and others,” he said.
“This website is not just for reporting bribes. It can be used by people to let others know that you don’t always have to pay a bribe. We have to get out of the mentality that you have to pay a bribe to get out of a situation.
“We hope that people will not only use the website to report when they paid bribes, but also when they refused to pay bribes or when they didn't have to pay bribes. This will teach others that it's not always necessary to pay bribes.”
People can share their stories by physically entering them on the website, by e-mail or using the Twitter hash tag #IPaidABribeInZimbabwe.
Kembo said they were in talks with a major mobile phone company to come up with a solution that will allow people with no access to the internet to make instant reports from their mobile phones using SMS.
Zimbabwe ranks joint 154th out of 182 countries in the 2011 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index – putting it in the same zone with countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Laos and Papua New Guinea and Uganda.
CLICK HERE to post your own bribery experience
BIKER PAYS COPS A BRIBE