Jacob Ngarivhume, Opinion
Over the past few days, I have decided to join a fledgling business partnership, Zimgrains, which seems to be doing well in Zimbabwe on one of the groundnut sourcing trips from the Chikore region to the Chikore region.
It was a Thursday and their goal was to go back the next day, a Friday, to start preparing the product with the goal of delivering 5 tonnes next Monday. It was a tight business plan.
They hired a 10 ton truck and the driver was a happy young man named John. We left Harare at 7am for Chikore.
Moyo, as the founder of the company, was on the road to make sure everything was running smoothly. In order to cut costs, he left his car behind and decided to use the 10-tonne truck only with his buying team.
At 10:00 a.m. we were arrested at the Marondera police block. John was informed that his truck had a manipulated third license plate. We were asked to go to the Marondera traffic police camp.
The arrest squads simply asked us to return to the block and not return to the room for “talks” until 4:00 p.m. They laid out the procedure for John, which was basically booking the truck, checking the registration of the vehicle, checking if the truck was stolen or ever used in an armed robbery.
When he was cleared, John was asked to repair the third license plate and recover the truck. We expected it to take days!
As they left, John and Moyo started talking on the phone. When the officer in charge of the station returned to the office at 5:00 p.m., the truck was released to pay a fine of 2000 rtg and then released.
The ordeal wasn’t over yet, it took another 2 hours for a drunk cop to see John. At 8 p.m. we leave the station. Moyo was clearly concerned about the weather.
We arrived in Chikore just before midnight, so late there was nothing to do. At 4am the next morning the nuts were purchased and loaded. It lasted all day and evening. The team finished this hard work at 4 am.
We leave Saturday at 5am. The return trip seemed smooth until a double VID taxi signaled John to stop near the Zimre exit.
Without getting to where John left off, they expected John to do next what is usually done. At that time, neither of us had much money on us.
John asked for money and I gave him the last 3 US I had with me. John left and returned after a few minutes. He reported to us that they refused to accept 3US$. They said it was too little, make US10 or at least US5 if too dry. Honestly, John hadn’t.
I asked John what his crime was and he said the lady didn’t say anything, she just asked for money.
In no time, the smartly dressed young woman arrived at the truck for the first time since the whole incident and asked for John’s driver’s license. When she got it, she just said we’d meet at VID Eastlea. She returned to her car.
I was pissed off and got out of the truck, ran up to her and introduced myself. I asked her what the crime of the truck was and she said no. We just want to weigh the truck to confirm if the weight is not over 10 tons. If not, you will collect your driver’s license and car from VID. I asked her name and she refused.
I then took photos of her vehicle, including herself. We went to VID Eastlea. It was noon when we were first arrested.
When we arrived at the VID weighbridge, the weight of the truck was 8.5 tons, well below the 10 tons for which it had been designed.
Just when John was about to collect his driver’s license from the lead inspector who weighed the car, the arresting officers arrived and informed the inspector and John that they were confiscating his car for further inspection, even though his car had passed the weight test.
John tried to persuade them and they made him realize that his refusal to pay them at least $5 in Zimre was costing him something. When he offered to pay the 10US they said they couldn’t take it now because they were scared of this guy and referred me.
John and Moyo were devastated. The truck has been impounded and all the paperwork has been completed. The process was explained to us.
After seizing the truck, they wanted to have John bring the registration book and then take it to the pit for inspection on Monday. After the inspection, they will ask John to troubleshoot the vehicle while holding the truck and the cargo. If the truck passes the re-inspection, then it is released.
I asked Moyo and John if I could call the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission officials and we could try to set a trap. They said no. They were of the opinion that nothing would come of it. They felt so helpless and are aware of all the corruption on the streets of Zimbabwe.
So I decided to confront the head of the VID. I asked for it and no one was very helpful until I walked to the office on my own. I asked him if it was okay for our truck to be impounded for one thing and when it’s over it is impounded for inspection. He said yes it was possible.
I then confronted him about the procedure of having to inspect the car on Monday when the vehicle clearly had a load to deliver and it was still 1pm, why wait until Monday.
He assured me that the truck can also go through the demonstration without registration. He would ask us to bring the book later.
We joined the line to the stand for inspection, I called my colleague to bring me some money for possible fines.
We hadn’t taken a bath all this time, hadn’t eaten anything, we looked more like homeless people.
When it was our turn we went to the pit to inspect, after an interminable time the inspector came out with his report. The truck had no major defects!
We were ordered to pay fines of 2000 rtgs to the VID, we were then told to go to Harare Central Police to pay further fines to the police. I had asked my colleague to come, so we rushed to the central police station, where we waited two hours to pay the fines. It was still 3000 RTG.
We came back to VID and the release process started slowly. The rescue workers were obviously upset that we got out the same day we were arrested.
By the time we left the VID offices for Avondale, where Moyo processes nuts, it was 5 p.m. Moyo was pressed for time. He thanked me for confronting the boss of the VID on duty that day.
I went home to take a bath, freshen up and have a good meal. I was hurt, that’s what it means to live in a country where corruption has destroyed the fabric of the nation. Hardworking citizens take a turn to go about their business.
It is a crime to be a citizen. Criminals prey on citizens and steal their hard-earned money.
We must fight until we are free. Citizens must stand up with one voice and enough days are enough.
- Jacob Ngarivhume is the leader of Transform Zimbabwe party. He writes in the piece in his personal capacity.