In order to curb the theft and trafficking of stolen vehicles the Government of Zimbabwe directed that all Zimbabwean car owners change their old registration (number) plates to new digitised ones. Having just returned after 6 hours of administration and queuing to get my new number plates I’m sitting here thinking its no wonder Zimbabwe and other African countries are going backwards faster than forwards. The guy next to me smiled benignly and said, “You just have to be patient”. The trouble is we Zimbabweans are just too patient, which is why we’re stuck with an entrenched president and the highest rate of inflation in the world.
So my day included a long and dusty queue out at Southerton Police Station where I had to move my car onto a traffic island for a while to “queue more safely”. Then I was shunted between Rooms 2, 4 and 3 – in that order. I left my Hivos pen made of recycled car parts in the hands of the last official who was taking longer to tick his boxes because his ballpoint kept on bombing out. Then onto Rowan Martin Building where I sat on a hard bench for several hours shunting slowly to the front whilst wondering what to do with the brazen queue jumpers: attack them with the old metal number plates I was clutching, or ignore them.
Light relief came in the form of Norman the Municipal Policeman who intermittently marshalled the people gathered and grumpy on the bench. At one point he stared at me intently and asked me whether I use Bubble Bath. I was momentarily taken aback, say 5 seconds – this is Zimbabwe after all and anything goes – and said yes, thinking that he was going to ask me for a recommendation for what to buy his wife for Christmas. Instead he said he’d be right back and disappeared into a back room only to emerge a short while later clutching a 2-litre bottle of Fern Bubble Bath imported from Botswana. Unfortunately it looked more like dishwashing liquid than anything else.
Norman said that he was travelling to Francistown tomorrow night to pick up some more stuff to sell: fish, tinned beetroot and of course bubble bath because, “you know how things are here, we can’t survive like this, we have to do other things”.
Then another guy asked me if I had any cars to sell, even non-runners. I said nope but the one I’m driving will shortly be a non-runner. This of course was some light flirtation (on his part) because he soon moved on from cars to wanting my telephone number. Rather give me yours I said, being bold. So now I’ve got a yellowed piece of stationery – a Gross Mass Certificate from the Ministry of Transport – in my pocket, with Norman’s phone number on it.
As well as – you guessed it: Romeo’s.