Is deceit in the Ghanaian’s DNA?

BY: Doreen Hammond
The writer
The writer

Over the weekend, I was at the market to get some stuff for the house. As I bargained to buy smoked fish from my regular supplier, I learnt something new which surprised me.

She told me that if I was able to get  the fish for a lesser price than what she was offering me, chances were that I would  be buying fish that had almost gone bad but made to look okay with additions of monosodium glutamate, colour,oil and other stuff before smoking! I was very surprised to hear that smoked fish too was being adulterated!

So in effect, even if you do not want such food additives in your food because of health reasons, you may be eating them?

I already know that some of our market women have been selling to us dried pepper ground together with the seed of pear as powdered pepper to increase the quantity and make more money. For the same reason, groundnut paste is mixed with konkonte, koobi is embalmed with formalin to preserve it for a longer time and make it unattractive to flies and palm oil is mixed with Sudan dye to make it look “more attractive”! Such danger to health and the long-term effect on us is anybody’s guess.

Due to such adulteration, Ghana has suffered a number of bans when it comes to the export of food but these nefarious activities seem to be going on in our markets where we buy our food.

For the love of money, the Ghanaian seems prepared to go to any heights, never minding the consequences. The Ghanaian seems to be so steeped in deceit and corruption at all places and happenings in our markets are a sure indicator.

When it comes to weights and measures, the Ghanaian does not feel comfortable with the use of the scales for obvious reasons though the scale is the internationally accepted tool for measurement. We are rather comfortable with the olonka, “a tin used to measure”, but we have still found a way out  to cheat with that. The tin has been deliberately knocked inside from the bottom  to decrease the volume it should hold. So you buy an olonka of gari and would be getting much lesser than you are paying for. And even when we use baskets, almost a third of the tomatoes in the basket is actually grass or paper.

At the butcher’s shop where they pretend to be using the scale, the weight has been so manipulated in such a manner that one kilogramme in the market is never the same at home or anywhere else, and even still not satisfied with the gains, the butcher has a way of dropping the meat on the scale slowly to further influence the weight.

In the villages, how our cocoa farmers are fleeced by buying agents is an open secret. The petrol filling station is another place of interest. Some of the fuel pumps have been so manipulated that a gallon is never a gallon but much less.

Buy a yard of fabric from the market and the seller will still cut it in a manner that tilts the cut to make what you get lesser, oftentimes your seamstress will tell you what you have is less than what you have paid for.

And the black polythene bag seems to be another saviour to some traders to hide their deceit. If you buy from the roadside, they quickly put, for instance the rotten tomatoes under the opaque bag and put a few good ones on the top and fasten it tight. You actually get to know what you have bought when you reach home.

The story is told of a customer who wanted to buy a black puppy. She was asked to come for one the next day which she did. A few days after, she was walking her dog when it started raining. She was surprised to watch the colour of the dog turning white! Apparently, the  original white fur of  the dog had been dyed black.

Reflecting over all these after the fish seller told me what is happening with our smoked fish made me wonder: Is this character the result of the economic hardships we find ourselves? Has it always been like this? Is religion shaping us positively? Or is deceit part of our DNA to the extent that we find it very natural to cheat ourselves to make money?

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