Brothers in the sun

10 07 2012

“Do you have a letter?” the tax official at ZIMRA (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) asked.

“What letter?” I replied.

“There’s a notice on the door” he waved vaguely in the direction of the entrance. “You need a letter from your company authorizing you to collect the ITF263” he continued.

“But I am the director!” I exclaimed.

“Well in that case we need to see your CR14 and your ID”.

I got up more than a little perplexed. I’d been to Kurima House in Harare to get an ITF263 (tax clearance form) and never been asked for company documents (the CR14 lists the names and addresses of a company’s directors) but I’d never won an argument with a tax official so there was not a lot to do except go and get it back at my house. I checked on the door on the way out and there was indeed a notice listing the requirement for a letter for a non-company official to collect the ITF263 but nothing else.

Arriving back at the tax office this afternoon the tax official banged on the office window as a walked past and told me to come directly inside ahead of the queue. Given the length of the queue I didn’t think that was a bad idea. I went to the next free desk and nobody there was interested in my CR14!  Just less than an hour later, with just 5 minutes left on the parking ticket that I’d bought, I was back at my truck with the precious green document and feeling more than a little pleased with myself. All the tax payments had been in order and though I had to visit a few other offices in the interim I was now clear to import raw materials for the next 6 months.

I was waiting for the traffic to move behind me so that I could reverse when the man with albinism appeared at my window. Blacks with albinism are easily spotted in this country of a black majority and while once they were shunned they have become much more accepted in the last 10 years or so. He held up a container of sunblock and said “Can you help me please sir, I need some money to buy some more of this?”

I paused a moment and then reached down into the foot well of the passenger seat and retrieved the ¾ full bottle of factor 30 sunblock that I keep in the pickup and handed to him. Fully expecting him to be disappointed at not getting cash to spend as he liked I was pleasantly taken aback at his obvious delight. I gently remonstrated him for not wearing a hat but he explained that he’d washed it that morning and it was still wet.  I’d once given my cap to an albinistic girl in the Zambezi Valley when paragliding there but unlike her this man did seem to be looking after his skin. The poor girl whom I gave my cap to was pathologically shy and was obviously taking the brunt of the teasing of the other kids.

I thought it a smart move approaching a white man who’d very likely be sympathetic and know what sunblock was. Blacks do of course get sunburnt but nothing like the extent that we whites do in this tropical climate. What the man who’d approached did not know was that I was a soft target on another front – my mother died of malignant melanoma in 1992, a high price for living in the tropics.

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