The scam

10 01 2014

We have our share of scams in Zimbabwe. Some are more clever than others.

The man at the gate said “they” were charging $1 to go through the shortcut to the light industrial sites where I was going. It was “for the people maintaining the road”.  This sounded plausible enough; the roads are in an appalling state in Harare at the moment. They always degrade in the rains and are patched up when they should really be resurfaced. The city council has no money to do this so enterprising individuals patch up the potholes and put up signs such as “Voluntary work – Pliz help” in the hope that passing motorists will drop them a dollar or two.

When I looked a bit dubious he pointed to an old sign that listed a tobacco company as the legal owner of the industrial complex through which the road ran and said “It’s private property now”. I was a bit sceptical about that but it’s not a part of town that I frequent. Anyway, it was a lot shorter than going around along some very bad stretches of road and if the road had actually been maintained… I handed over a dollar. He picked up his cellphone, appeared to dial and said “One car coming through”.

Half way through the premises I started to think I’d been had. It was all run down, the road although not bad was not maintained and there was no tobacco company present. Nobody checked that my vehicle was “permitted” at the other gate. I was seething. I realized that he hadn’t actually dialed anyone, he had got through to the “other person” far too quickly and my vehicle hadn’t been identified either.

By the time I’d finished my business I was seriously considering revenge. Demanding my money back and if not getting it removing the gate with the front of my Land Cruiser (which is reinforced to deal with bush and goats). Or something more subtle like making a video with my cellphone and promising to pass it on to the police.

Oh what the hell. It was only a dollar and I got a story out of it. But it still stings to get had even if you have been naive.

In praise of parking patrols

20 02 2013
Is this the new face of normal in Kaguvi Street?

Is this the new face of normal in Kaguvi Street?

This is the notorious Kaguvi Street in the Kopje area of Harare. Once a street of touts, (well STILL a street of touts but less so) by-the-kerb car repairs, potholes and garbage. I occasionally used to drive up it just for entertainment – just how much of a traffic snarl-up it was or whom was repairing what and how many people wanted to sell me stolen bearings. I was once accused of being a racist because I didn’t want to buy some bearings.

Hello boss.
You want some bearings?
But they are very cheap.
No, I don’t need bearings.
But you haven’t hears how cheap they are!
But these are very good bearings, boss.
Sell them to someone else.
How many bearings do you want?
Fuck off! (Hitting brakes for driver in front stopping to chat to a mate)
You are a racist!
Well then, let’s go and discuss that with the police as racism is illegal in Zimbabwe (and they might be interested in the source of your bearings).

Tout moves off to search for easier prey.

But today it is relatively calm and no-one is doing running repairs and only one tout greets me because he apparently “knows me” but curiously doesn’t know my name. And the reason? Those Day-glo reflective vests in the picture are traffic wardens (there is one right in the centre of the picture). They have portable receipt machines and for $1 you get an hour’s parking and much less traffic that actually flows. The street is still filthy and the potholes are still there but I might actually come back for shopping! Harare City Council got this one right, now let’s see if they can follow through and clean it up.