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.