There is a general sentiment pervasive amongst Zimbabweans that local businesses offer horrible services that are not fit for purpose. We see it all the time in social media posts, when a business makes a post promoting a product that post is mobbed by disgruntled customers whining and complaining about how horrible that promoted service or a related service offered by the business is. All you need to do is look at posts made by companies like Econet, Ecocash, Steward Bank and other institutions who make regular posts on social media to see what I am talking about.

This post looks innocuous enough but you still have negative sentiments below it

The above is a relatively tame example of what I am talking about. You really should take a look at Ecocash and Steward Bank posts to see what I am talking about. It is not limited to social media only, lest you derisively dismiss this as a social media thing that has no bearing in real life. Even in general conversation with your peers you hear the negativity with some using remnant terms from our colonial past to mock the service they get. Words and phrases like “mabhoi” (boy was a racist term used by whites to refer to fully grown black men) are liberally thrown around to describe service by businesses in Zimbabwe.

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Service is not as horrible as you have been led to believe

The thing is Zimbabwean business service is not as horrible as you have been led to believe. All this negative sentiment you see is all down to negativity bias. It is human nature to latch on to negative news, commiserate and amplify it beyond facts. No one cares for example that our under-equipped and overworked nurses and doctors at public hospitals safely deliver babies on a daily basis to no pomp and funfare. They do not even get a pat on the back and you will never really get to hear about such heroics. It is when there is a costly mistake that you get breaking news articles and they garner headlines. Something like a mother on the verge of delivering their baby being turned away and being forced to give birth outside the maternity hospital ought to do it.

It is not just that negative sentiments and news travels faster than good news. There is also the fact that negative events tend to stay longer in our memory. It could be a product of evolution meant to protect us. I am not sure but we sure like to remember all the wrongs someone has done to us or others. Nurses, registrars at passport and national ID offices and police officers used to be uncouth and shout at people all the time. That is, according to my experience with nurses and passport staff, no longer the case. However, you still hear and read jokes about how people who work there like to hurl abuse at hapless members of the public seeking service even though it has not happened in a long time.

The last time I wanted to collect my wife’s and child’s birth certificates I was warmly welcomed. There was really no corruption at all. I was told to wait in line and before the hour had passed I had been warmly served. I was told to come and collect the birth certificates the following day at 10:00 AM. I arrived at 09:50 and was out by 10:15 with the birth certificates in hand. No bribes no or insults were traded just normal everyday conversation. In fact, that is the experience that most people get. Nobody gets to talk about it. I can attest to receiving the same very positive and caring service at Harare Hospital. Everybody focuses on what is wrong, and there are always plenty of things that are wrong, and the resultant impression is that there is nothing good.

Talking of Ecocash, Econet and Liquid Home as examples. I rarely use Ecocash these days but those that do rarely experience any issues. You send money and it goes where it needs to go. When that happens you do not go on a rooftop and tell everyone you were able to send money using Ecocash. Same thing with Econet, when you successfully make a call, receive an SMS or use their Private WiFi bundles you don’t rant about this on social media or tell anyone who cares to listen. I have used Liquid Home (under various incarnations) for over 15 years since they had dial-up as their main service. 99% of the time it works. During that 99%, there is zero temptation to go on their page and praise their service. It’s on the day you have problems and go into a fit of rage that you show up there and you will be in no mood to mood to take prisoners.

The overall conclusion is you and everyone else managing to convince yourselves, thanks to this negativity bias, that Ecocash is useless. Econet offers trash service and only an idiot bothers to get Liquid Home service. When you go to the national registrar’s office you actually expect to be shouted at. None of these assertions is really true. All these entities offer decent service.