Dealing with the police in Tanzania is totally different than in Europe or the United States. In fact, it’s the same all over Africa. The famous expression “TIA – this is Africa” is definitely something which you can relate to any of the police encounters I had in Africa. Let me tell you one of the stories…
I am driving between Iringa and Dar es Salaam on the main road from the border of Malawi up to the biggest city in Tanzania. It is a long drive and it takes my full attention. There are potholes to avoid, donkeys and cows to swerve around and crazy bus drivers who try to overtake me by any means. Suddenly I spot the police in front of me; they are flagging me down. A short glance at my co driver Dave – we both know I have been going slightly too fast into this village… I pull to a stop to the right of the policeman who stopped me, get rid of my sun glasses (eye contact to the police is important) and roll down my window.
Me: Hello Officer! How are you?
Me: Going very well, thanks?
Officer: Woman driver in charge, hey? (Reading the sticker on the side of my truck)
Me: Yes, exactly! (giving him my best smile)
Officer: Madam, you have been speeding with 59km/h in a 50km/h zone!
Me: Sir, as soon as I saw the speed limit sign I was slowing down, but I am driving a big truck and it takes some time to slow down such a big vehicle.
Officer (opening the door): Madam, you are not supposed to wear flip-flops while driving. This can be dangerous!
Officer: You must pay a fine of 60.000 Tanzanian Shilling (approx. 35 US).
Me: Sir, let me speak to your boss, please.
(Going over to the big fat man sitting in his jeep the whole day collecting a lot of money)
Me: Hello Sir, how are you?
Officer 2: Good, how are you?
Me: Very well, thanks.
Officer 2: Can I see your driving license?
Me: Of course, Sir. Here you are. Do you like my photo?
Officer 2: Yes, you are very pretty.
Officer 2: You have to pay a fine of 60.000 Tanzanian Shilling.
Me: Sir, there is no way I am going to pay that. I was braking as soon as I saw the 50 km/h sign.
Officer 2: Then bring your man! I want to speak to the guy!
Me (laughing out loud): My friend, I am not going to call my man, I was driving, so you can talk to me!
Officer 2 (getting clearly bored of the conversation): Ok, this time I warn you, but next time I am going to punish you hard!
Me: Yes, Sir, next time you can punish me hard! Have a good day!
I am going back, smiling over my triumph. In fact, my co-driver and I have a bet running. The person who pays fewer fines and bribes by the time we arrive in Nairobi (coming up from Cape Town) wins. It goes without saying that as a woman driver you will always win this bet. I made it from Cape Town to Nairobi without paying anything. Most times they stop you for nothing and want to see your license to carry firewood or any other ridiculous paper work to get some money into their pockets. The funniest paper I have ever been asked for was a license to carry a bin… Oh Africa, I love you! Or shall I say: TIA – This is Africa?