In the shallow

By Tariro Nyarirangwe

He stood outside the door and heard voices murmuring inside the room. It was hard to tellbe sure, but he could distinct four voices, arguing at a low volume.

“If he doesn’t confess, we have enough evidence for him to be behind bars,” said one of the female voices. A chill ran down his spine and his palms started to sweat. It had just been two months at this institution and his decision to leave Baker Tilly Corporation was about to cost him his life. He knocked on the door. There was a moment of silence before the female voice asked him to enter.

Ronald had spent the previous night looking at the ledgers, trying to balance the figures. Something was wrong. There was a huge deficit that he was struggling to account for. He had done everything by the book and knew that failing to account the deficit would cost him his job. After going over the figures for the fifteenth time, he decided to surrender to fate and submitted the statement of financial position. Without bothering to brush his teeth, he turned off the bedside lamp and threw his head on the pillow. It seemed like he had only slept for a minute before the irritating six a.m. alarm woke him up.

Ronald had been an auditor at Baker Tilly Corporation before he left his stable job for a higher paying post at Kashmir Private Limited Company. He worked as a finance assistant mainly focusing on procurement services. His workmates kept questioning how he got this position, and alluded to his relation to Mr. Mawera, the Human Resources manager. Working at Kashmir was difficult as his workmates openly showed dislike for him. At some point, Ronald overheard them gossiping in the next cubicle. “His presence is making it difficult for us to do our dealings properly. We should find a way to get rid of him,” one of the voices said. The offices were wooden cubicles without glasses hence you could only tell that someone was present if they stood up from their chairs. In this case, they had not seen him.

That morning, Ronald had woken up with a clouded consciousness. This was partly because of the lack of enough rest, but also due to the fact that his mind had been in turmoil the past month. For the most part, he was being asked by the procurement manager to handle purchases from a supply chain which involved a lot of middle men. He could not question much as the directives were coming from his superior, someone who had the power to fire him. Proof of payments would come late after asking for them for a long time, and his signature was seen on documents authorizing purchases at highly inflated prices. At times, his superior would just ask him to sign documents hurriedly, claiming that everything was behind time. He was drowning and did not know that he was slowly digging his grave.

That morning, he dressed up in brown chinos trousers and a navy blue shirt, quickly ate his millet porridge and caught a commuter omnibus to work. Over the comby radio was an interview for the minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs who assured the public that the judiciary was to make sure that all perpetrators of the law were brought to the book without fear or favor. This frightened him even more. He knew he had a case to answer but couldn’t think of a safe way to explain the mess without nailing himself to the cross. As he walked in late due to the morning traffic of the Harare central business district, Brad, his coworker, signaled to him that he was wanted in the CEO’s office. He had not even prepared himself for what was to come. Best case scenario, he was to lose his job, return to the rural areas since he won’t be able to afford the rent in town and try to grow maize for a living. Worst case, which was more likely, he was to go to jail for theft and spent his youthful years only to come out as an unmarried fifty-year-old looking forward to starting afresh.

The silence was tangible as Ronald walked into the room. After being asked to sit, the CEO looked at him and began to speak. “We have been noting huge discrepancies in the submitted balances over the past four months now. We brought you in to see if it was because of the incompetence or unfaithfulness of our hired finance assistants. Now that we have established that our procurement manager is being involved in unscrupulous dealings with the company funds, we kindly ask you to agree to bear witness in court for the charges that we are to lay against him. You will be put under witness protection and hence shouldn’t worry about anything.” Upon hearing this, Ronald was confused. He thought he had heard wrongly but knew at the same time that his ears had not deceived him. He made a sigh of relief, asked for a paper and started to write a testimonial of the time he has worked with Mr Banga, the procurement manager.

17 May, 2023