On Safari To Find The Lesser Spotted Zambian Driving Licence

Written By: The Lowdown - Feb• 01•01

smallcover2001-02I first called at the Road Traffic Commission (RTC), and asked them what I had to do to get the licence. I presented them with my UK licence, my international licence, and my advanced driving licences. I was told that the licence would cost K 60, 000. Fair enough, but was then told that to be privileged to have a rare sighting of the licence I would have to take my driving test (another K30,000). I asked how long my UK licence would cover me for. The reply was 90 days from my first entry to Zambia. I then asked what vehicle I would need to do the test. I was told any vehicle, just come along and someone would take me out on the roads. As I have been in the country for more than 90 days I enquired how I would get the vehicle to the RTC to do the test, as my UK licence was no longer valid. I could not get an answer. Catch 22 situation. I decided that to continue to question would be futile so I said that I would make further enquires and departed.

I was told by my Zambian scout, guide and taxi driver that taking the test is not right, especially for someone who trains people to pass the advanced training test, and with thirty years of driving experience, so the search went on to another place. Deeper and deeper we delved into the bureaucratic maze.

The next place was a large hall, smaller but not unlike the Busanga Plain. My scout was with me so I felt safe and would not get lost. There were twenty or more counters with tribespeople sitting behind them, twiddling their thumbs. Was this a special ritual? Some had a small rectangular black object pressed to their ear, and were talking. I went to one counter and asked for the licence section. I was told to go to the third one from this one. I counted one, two, three, and found no one there. I went to the previous counter (the second from my first encounter). Had I found the right one? I said that I was on a mission to convert my UK licence to a Zambian licence. I was told this was the wrong place. I replied that I was told to come here (lying through my teeth). The assistant went to fetch another. I told the same story. I was then told that I could purchase a provisional licence. I did this to keep the peace, but they could not decipher my UK licence and gave me the wrong categories of entitlement. I pointed this out, corrected the error, paid my fee and left. Was I getting nearer to finding the illusive driving licence?

I then decided to delve further into the bureaucratic bush and told my safari guide to take me to the Central Police Station to see if they had records of sightings. At the Traffic Section I was told to go to the Police Headquarters. So off we went. At the HQ I was ushered to a small dark office. The shelves were covered with piles of paper. I was asked by one assistant what I wanted, whereby I told them the same story about being sent here (I was) to get a sighting of the Zambian driving licence and have my UK licence converted. I was told that this was the Interpol Office for checking cars’ validity when they enter the country. Wow, I am delving deep here, but enjoying this journey through the bureaucratic maze. Eventually they told me that I would have to go the RTC. The circle had finally closed and the catch 22 situation took hold. My quest failed this time, but I will continue on my journey to find the rarely sighted Zambian driving licence. Someone to whom I am more qualified than they are shall probably test me. Will I ever be legal on these roads? Watch this space.

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