Ethics, in general, is broad. There are numerous unethical business practices worldwide. Business ethics is a vast field. Some time back, we covered 3 myths on business ethics you must be wary of. There are some essential things to learn from that article. The other time I also shared 8 business behaviours that Zimbabweans hate the most. Some of the areas we touched on did incline towards business ethics. Today let us take a different route by discussing some of the normalized but unethical business practices in Zimbabwe. Normalized by businesses, even customers.

Exploiting Employees

Salaries – The Major Issue

We can spend the whole of next year just discussing this area. In Zimbabwe, many employees claim to be exploited. The most common complaint is being underpaid. It can be worsened by salaries typically coming late. The exchange rate used for the salaries is way less than the one used to generate the revenue. This means that most employees are getting less than what they are entitled to on paper. Working conditions are primarily inhumane. Many workers put in shifts of 12 or more hours. Yet the salaries never quite reflect those long hours.

Inhumane Working Conditions

I have also seen widespread cases where workers finish off late and no transport is provided. In other cases, workers may have to come in the early morning with no transport provided. Many people have been attacked (even murdered) by robbers due to these situations. Some workers are made to work in hazardous environments with little or no protective clothing. I could go on and on but these are some of the examples of employee exploitation in Zimbabwe. It has become so normalized that even some exploited can defend themselves against being exploited.

Giving Misleading Information

Misleading Marketing And Branding

This is yet another area that can take months to cover, given its broadness. Businesses can mislead people in their marketing messaging or general branding. Recently we saw the banning of STC30 products. Remember the other time when quails trended in Zimbabwe? These are examples of the use of marketing that is misleading.

Misleading Branding

This also reminds me of the ever-growing field of product imitations. It thrives on misleading consumers that they are genuine products. I have seen many businesses giving out false or exaggerated business milestones. This is often done to paint a picture of being a formidable business. For instance, a business can say they have served 100000 clients when it is nowhere near that.

Falsification Of Details Or Reports

Falsifying reports have also become commonplace for most businesses in Zimbabwe. I know of a big company some time back that would produce two sets of payslips. One set was the paltry salaries they would give workers. The other set was the one with high salaries and is what was given to external auditors. This would give a false impression that workers were well-paid. There have been allegations that businesses influence and secretly finance the release of articles to cover up their malpractices.

Overpricing products or services is another one. A business can lie justifying the high prices. At times those lies relate to what the products or services can do. There are many examples of how some businesses in Zimbabwe give misleading information. It is all unethical!

Anti-Competition Gimmicks

A number of established businesses have the financial muscle to make things happen. You find that some of them use that muscle to cut corners. For instance, they pay regulators (applicable to their business operations), to look the other way. Yet those regulators will be breathing fire on other players in the same line of business. I have seen businesses paying ZIMRA officials to nab other businesses for things they themselves are guilty of. (I am reminded of tax evasion – a normalized abnormality amongst many Zimbabwean businesses). This leads to some businesses having an unfair advantage over their competitors. Monopolies are also at play here. Rigging when it comes to tenders is also rife. The creation of artificial situations to fix prices has been normalized as well. For instance, a business dominant in a particular market can withhold products to create artificial shortages.

Let me use a somewhat unrelated but illustrative example. Have you ever noticed what happens to motorists at roadblocks? An unlicensed driver illegally ferrying people with a vehicle that is not road-worthy can easily pass through. Some have even vowed they would never get a driver’s license. Yet if you want to enter the passenger service vehicles space legally, it is intense. It is costly, and the processes are grossly tiring. The point is regulators are mainly for sale, creating an uneven operating field for businesses. Business competition is needed, but it should not be done unethically.

Environmental Pollution

This issue breaks my heart, especially regarding agriculture, mining and manufacturing businesses. Often times I have heard people wondering why the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) exists. Go to many farm produce markets across Zimbabwe and see their vicinity. Dirt everywhere! Go to sites of many mining operations in Zimbabwe. The environmental degradation there is appalling. I know a peri-urban town where some houses collapsed due to unchecked chrome mining. Gold mining is leading to water sources being polluted, e.g. by mercury and cyanide. There are many manufacturing businesses improperly managing or disposing of waste.

This is altogether a depressing subject to talk about. In Zimbabwe, it is sad that the rot majorly stems from corruption. As in, corruption has become so normalized that anything goes. Rick Warren once said, “A lie does not become truth, wrong does not become right and evil does not become good, just because a majority accepts it”. Running your business ethically makes a difference and makes Zimbabwe a better place. It all starts with you.