I went through my first toll-gate the other day, Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at around lunch hour. On my way back from Kadoma CMED/VID (yes, I am still working on acquiring my driver’s license).
On the way out of town I did not witness the Zim-toll-gate experience because I was sleeping. A car is the most soothing place for me to fall asleep. It doesn’t take much, just the hum of the engine and the consistent wave-like pothole-dodging and I’m off to Sleepyland.
On the way back to Harare I was wide awake and chatty. We drove past acres upon acres of farmland that just lay dry and unused. There were feigned attempts at productivity here and there but the reality of the situation was blaringly obvious. I must say our dear Gov Gono’s land seemed to be semi-teeming with activity. Way to go, Gideon. If only you’d been that good with the Zim-kwacha…okay, okay, not right now.
We’re happily traveling along at a user-friendly 50kmph and then off to the left of the road I see mini-tents. In the space of about 100meters, I see about 4 or 5 mini-tents. I distinctly recall seeing one that had a big white ‘T’ in a blue circle and then another that had 60 written in the middle of a circle. As I was trying to process the sudden influx of roadside mini-tents, I suddenly see people in the middle of the road. I figured these people were important and were on ‘official’ business because of their clipboards and white, wide-brimmed canvas hats. Look, I don’t know who decides on the ‘officials’ wardrobe in this country but she needs to be fired! Nothing says “I’m on official business and take me seriously,” like a white wide-brim hat, a fluorescent yellow vest with a dangling ID…oh yes, and the clipboard!
The car I’m in slows down. It suddenly dawns on me – this is a toll chakuti-chakuti! Our driver, Doug, starts to dig around in his pocket for a dollar bill. In case you’re not aware, there are different amounts to be paid depending on the size of your vehicle. Our vehicle fell into the US$1 category. I wished I was on a motorcycle coz those guys get to go through for free! Blessed are ye who travel on 2 wheels, for ye shall not have to pay the toll!
Now from where I was sitting – in the passenger seat directly behind the driver – I couldn’t tell who of the wide-brims was going to accept the US$1 from our car. The place was crawling with wide-brims! Then a young lady with a good accent came to Doug’s window. (I’m an accent snob so I notice these things). The young lady was a ZIMRA official. (I’m not sure what ZIMRA stands for but I feel like they are people that I’m supposed to hate). The official young lady began to scrawl officially on a page of a receipt book. She asked Doug for the car’s license plate number. He obliged. She officially scrawled it down, officially ripped the page out of the receipt book, officially handed the piece of paper to Doug, officially took the 1 dollar bill and slipped it into her official-looking brown Postman Pat bag.
And then we were off again. That was my first-hand experience at a Zimbo toll what-what.
Now, I have a question: why, pray tell, does a country that is SMALLER than the STATE of Texas need tollgates? Tollbooths? Tollroads? (Will somebody, please tell me the correct terminology!!) Seriously, I’d like to know. Oh yes, and were we actually consulted about the toll-thingies? Or was the whole thing dreamed up in another ‘how to drain Zimboes of their last pennies’ meeting? (Psst, oi! These are the same meetings where they decided the price of the license disc for your car. Oh, and the ‘car-radio’ license prices!) Where is the money going? To the ZIMRA officials who will stand out in the Sub-Saharan heat in the middle of ‘Aww-Hell-No”? Or is it going to purchase a new fleet of vehicles for our government’s VIPs? Or will it actually go to maintaining the roadways? Have you been on the Bulawayo Road lately?!
What I witnessed at the toll-thingy on Tuesday was a perfect example of MINIMUM input for MAXIMUM exploitation! Little thought has been put into this – the long-term sustainability of the whole thing, its implications, the logistics. Seriously, how long will you have official-looking wide-brims handwriting EVERY SINGLE toll receipt? And security for the poor fools that have to do this at night? Need I mention that we have ZESA issues? And the elements? Mother Nature can be unforgiving.
Who comes up with these bright ideas? As long as ‘they’ can get money out of us for now, then it works for them doesn’t it? Never mind the mess that’ll need to be cleaned up in the future.