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Sisyphean torture at the border

Crossing into Zambia at the Kazangula Ferry took upwards of  2 hours. Not that there was a queue for the ferry because we literally drove in and on board. By contrast there was a truck queue of kms, where truckers can stand for up to 5 days (the ferry can only ship one truck at a time, but other vehicles, 3 or 4 at a time make up the load)– ever wondered what happened to your truck Mr Transport Owner? I estimate that the ferry can do 30 trucks one way on a good day. The ferry’s arced voyage across the 500m Zambezi takes only 10 minutes.

It is at the jumble of buildings on the Zambian side where the fun starts. On disembarkation you are assailed by “runners”, brokers who will ease your passage through the incomprehensible labyrinth of dusty offices, inscrutable officials and endless paperwork – for a fee, in US Dollars preferably. Even with the runner’s assistance, a shiny-headed Mr Jonathan who “fortuitously” also happened to be the chairman of the local motor vehicle insurance association, it took us these hours. Customs Import Permit, local road insurance (SA insurance although valid is not acceptable), passport control, customs, filling out logbook after logbook, to such an extent that I almost began to memorise my vehicle’s chassis number, etc. – we trooped behind our pied piper from office to container to office, a fee at each point. There was no obvious, discernible sequence to the process. I idly wondered about process analysis and workflow but decided that this train of thought was bringing me closer to thinking about work, so gave it up rapidly.

The whole operation, including runner fee, cost each couple USD96 (USD106 if you were towing a trailer). We are still unsure if and where we were had, but it seems to be in the kraal.

Clearly, the border post supports a micro economy of rent-seeking activity. The new bridge on which construction has commenced and the new border post will probably eliminate all these “jobs”. The bridge will forever destroy the “romance” of the ferry, but will hopefully encourage self-drive tourism to Zambia, which has much to offer. Our camp at Camp Nkwazi on the Zambezi some 20 k’s upstream from the Falls was the best of the whole safari, in terms of campsite quality and facilities.

On crossing into Zimbabwe,  at Kariba rather than Chirundu on local advice, we endured a longish process as well, on both sides, but the process was more obvious and handled by 3 quite efficient Zimbabwean officials (the vision statement pasted on the hot tent walls stated “To be a world-class immigration service”) who were dogged by poor network connections to their central computer system somewhere. Once again all fees were in US Dollars.

The most amusing part of this process was that of obtaining Interpol’s stamp on the vehicle gate pass. Interpol was revealed to be a rather rotund chap in a shiny leather jacket. Now, just before departure from home I had discovered to my surprise that the title of my vehicle of 14 years’ vintage, my beloved Hilux bakkie (old shape), is still held by my employer, the university. They gave me a letter confirming my ownership – the only problem is that it is in Afrikaans! Mr Interpol puzzled over this letter. “What language is this?” he grins. Says I: “Afrikaans”. “But why?” enquires he. “They’re bloody stupid” says I. Laughter all round. “What’s for lunch?” he asks half seriously. “Sandwiches”. Pause. “You can go” he grins.

By contrast, crossing in or out of Botswana or Namibia (Ramatlabama or Mohembo or Ngoma or Kazangula) is quick and painless.

 

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