Poisoning your boss and other ways to climb the career ladder

We spent a couple of hours driving with some of Claudia's Malawian colleagues this weekend. As we were driving, we passed three people dressed in grass skirts and wooden masks with machetes in their hands running towards a village. Wilson and Temwa (Temwa is a frequent contributor to the my blog's comments!) explained that these were Nyao, members of a secret society. They worship their ancestors, do a lot of graveyard rituals, and force people to give them money otherwise they will be beaten. This got us onto the topic of curses and the evil eye which exist in similar forms in most traditional cultures all over the world. They told us that many workplaces are full of fear of such things, particularly in government offices. They explained that most government positions and promotions are the result of either appointment or seniority and rarely the result of performance. Hence a common way to climb the career ladder is to try and get rid of the person above you. Some people visit traditional "doctors" and get curses placed on their superiors, while others bypass these old fashioned ways and simply murder them. They buy rat poison in the market and then bribe people to add it to the tea of their intended victim. I thought that these might just be stories, but both Temwa and Wilson knew people who had such things happen to them, or who had narrowly avoided a poisoning because the tea-maker's conscience got to them. Wilson and Temwa were proud to say that such things don't happen at OIBM. They said that people are too busy, and besides you get ahead at OIBM by working hard, not because your boss dies. At OIBM if you set your tea down on your desk and then leave the room you can drink it when you return. Not so at the electric company, ministry of agriculture, and even schools!

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