May 4, 2016
I’d heard and read the stories since long before I left on this trip about the corrupt cops. They’ll find any reason to fine you. They want payment. A bribe. I’ve been told to refuse to pay. Wait them out. Ask for a receipt (this apparently is difficult for them to produce). Any number of ways to avoid paying for an unsubstantiated infraction.
None of that happened to me today. I was stopped by a police officer standing in the road. This has been very common. He was wearing a clean, crisp Malawi Police uniform. As were his two fellow officers: the man standing behind the radar gun on the side of the road, and the woman with the receipt book and pen. I had no doubt that they were real cops. I had no doubt I was speeding. The radar gun said 63 kph, in a 50kph zone (so, basically 39mph in a 30mph zone), and I believed it. I had no doubt that I was going to be fined, and that the fine was real and not just a bribe. The woman’s receipt book was full of similar receipts, all for the same amount, all made out more-or-less properly, with a carbon copy, with the offender’s name and violation (all excessive speed).
It’s a pretty efficient system actually: one cop calls out the speed, one cop puts his hand up and stops the vehicle, pointing it to the side of the road, where the third cop writes out the receipt and collects the fine. Production line. Much faster than the US system of one cop having to clock you, pull you over, write you the ticket, and then you have to spend a lot of time and effort to go pay the ticket. These three probably wrote five or six “tickets”, and collected the fines, in the time it would have taken a cop to write me a speeding ticket in the States.
I paid my 5000 kwachas (about $7.50) and I was on my way.
I’ve been told again today that it won’t be like this in Tanzania and Kenya. It won’t be civilized. It won’t be straightforward or honest. and it will be a hassle. Fun times ahead.