‘For sale: Zim driver’s licence, no testing required’

By IAfrica
In Zimbabwe
Mar 6th, 2014

TRAFFIC JAMTraffic Friday Gerald Maguranyanga
IN much of the world, road traffic safety issues are treated, acceptably so, as a matter of life-and-death. A fool-proof system, with ample checks-and-balances, is what leads to one suitably acquiring a driver’s licence. It means that any aspiring driver routinely invests quite a bit of honest, dedicated work and is subjected to fine scrutiny. When satisfied on competence, the licensing authority may issue a deserved, full driver’s licence. Brown envelopes exchanging hands under the table to grease the process are an abomination.

Sadly, in Zimbabwe, our profoundly corrupted driver training and licensing system is so permissive, it is safe to conclude that many licences were ill-acquired without subjection to the obligatory examination. Consequently, the proficiency of anyone behind the wheel is not guaranteed.

Needless to say, it is enormously vital that each driver is competently taught to be safe for self and other road users. See, as Zimbabwe’s Highway Code (our road traffic rule book) matter-of-factly pronounces . . . “a vehicle is a good means of transport but a dangerous weapon in the hands of reckless people.” An unlicensed driver is evidently in the class of the reckless, and easily, a potential mass-murderer.

I like the Highway Code’s stressing, very early-on, in the little book, the indispensable need for a driver’s licence.
“You must be in possession of a Zimbabwean or other recognised driver’s licence (for you to drive legally). If you hold no recognised licence, you may take out a learner driver’s licence which allows you to drive on public roads to gain experience before undergoing the test for your full driver’s licence. The learner’s licence is only issued after you have passed a test on the rules of the road and the traffic signs and signals…” Aha, well-said but comparing that ideal to the existing reality on the ground, we need to re-articulate that!

“You must be in possession of a Zimbabwean or other recognised driver’s licence. If you hold no recognised licence, you may corruptly purchase a learner driver’s licence which allows one to drive on public roads to gain experience before undergoing the same fraudulent process to acquire your full driver’s licence… dishonestly evading the requisite test on the rules of the road and the traffic signs and signals . . . ”In Zimbabwe, it is legendary that if you cannot be bothered to endure the learning and testing system, and can afford it, corruptly purchasing a licence is the way out. It is hassle-free and as easy as eating sadza!”

The licensing corruption involves a sordid network of persons that includes crooked driving school instructors and VID examiners. It is always said if an aspiring driver is not willing to play ball, testing conditions are roughened, making it impossible to pass, even with multiple attempts.
In other words, resolute inducement for a candidate to bribe the examiner rears the same ugly head whichever way you turn. Many unwilling participants are reluctantly swallowed up by the controlling bribe-taking system, consequently discharging unsafe drivers. Surely, that helps to explain the burdensome carnage Zimbabwe endures.

An unidentified commentator, not content with those that blame poor roads and the police for the plenty accidents, strongly expresses these sentiments:  “Zimbabweans are an amazing lot when it comes to the blame game. A motor vehicle is driven by a human being first and foremost, it does not drive itself. So the human being, the driver, is responsible for what his vehicle does on the road.

There are laws that govern the driving of the motor vehicle by an individual as well as the use of the road when driving. To begin with, the law requires that one has to obtain a certificate of competence (driver’s licence) before driving a vehicle. How often do we hear that people drive vehicles without this fundamental requirement, especially kombi drivers? If one has not cut corners, by the time they are issued with the certificate of competence they would be in a position to competently handle a vehicle . . .”

In a few words, improperly licensed drivers cause many accidents. Not the bad roads; not the weather, nor the poor police.
A few decades back (I have been around quite a bit!), the perception, which is fact for a lot of people, was always that the VID was a decadent organisation.

In fact, the strong view was always that the VID was, by a mile, the most-corrupt organisation in Zimbabwe.
Why? Everyone believed and probably still does, that it is actually unproblematic buying a licence at the VID, without any testing at all!
Figures up to as much as $500 are thrown about as the cost of a licence, particularly if one wants a heavy truck or bus driver’s licence. It is a scary thought that a whole bus or heavy truck can be driven via such false pretences!

Authorities must affirm, loudly-and-clearly, that licence-less driving is intolerable and heavily punishable, not by a fine, but a clearly deterrent custodial sentence.

Last year, dozens of fake kombi drivers were exposed; many were sentenced to custodial sentences up to one year long. But, is that enough deterrence for a wrongdoing which may have deadly consequences? In the same vein, even though it takes two to tango, in my view, the official taking the bribe exhibits higher moral blameworthiness and must suffer severe penalties that should include an immediate loss of their job and benefits, and a fast-tracking of their prosecution.

Zimbabwe suffers much as a result of such corruption. Unhappily, the authorities seemingly drag their feet in prosecuting such malaise. To their credit, the only government arm that apparently deals swiftly and harshly with proven cases of internal corruption is the Zimbabwe Republic Police.

I advise the new Minister of Transport to fully digitalise the licensing process. The existing metal ID is an Iron Age relic unfit for today. Please second your officers to study other effective, incorruptible systems worldwide. Our driver training and testing should be user-friendly and proficient to curtail corruption.

The Commissioner General of Police is encouraged to relentlessly crack down, 24/7, on unlicensed drivers, particularly the rebellious kombi drivers, till they fully-comply with licensing requirements. The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport has, sadly, been too quiet for my liking, in spite of fast-moving events on the ground. It’s a Friday; please keep the driving ‘happy, happy!’

Gerald Maguranyanga moderates Road Safety Africa, on www.facebook.com/RoadSafetyAfrica, an interactive community page that solicits ideas to curb road traffic accidents in Zimbabwe and Africa. Feedback: WhatsApp only: +263 772 205 300; email: gmaguranyanga@yahoo.com

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