9 tips to avoid paying bribes when travelling in Africa

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I’m usually a stickler for rules. The last proper argument I’ve had with my best friend was over what I called selfish idiots watering their gardens during the restricted usage times. I told her I was looking to report them because we are in a drought you see; she flipped on me.

I am a law-abiding citizen, I pay my fines and I even had an etag (until the president wanted a R 4 billion jet). I’m on a daily prompt challenge; I have no illusions that I will not make it seven days a week, but I can aim for five. Today is breaking the law. With me it always involves traffic fines, what else can it be. Traffic cops to me are the worst in the law enforcement scale. They basically set traps for good law-abiding people like me to get more money from them. So I innocently mentioned we got two fines in Botswana on our way to Kasane in my Chobe River post. What I did not mention was how my best friend was driving 110km/hr in an 80km/hr zone. She got out and I know she never wants to complain even when she is being wronged or robbed and gets upset if I put up a fight because it’s too stressful for her. I realised tickets were being written so I casually got out of the car and followed her to the police van and learned that we were being fined P 750. Not paying it would have meant neither my car nor her license were going to be free to be in Botswana in future because there would be a warrant. So I set my youth to good use.

“That’s almost like all our trip’s pocket-money sir. We won’t be able to explore our beautiful neighbouring country nicely now. Ah, but what can we say, you said she was going 110, the law is the law right.”

Three tips in that line:

  1. Respect. Note the sir (I used Ntate –  equivalent of father)
  2. Flattery. Beautiful country was used purposefully.
  3. Acknowledge fault. Don’t accuse him of being wrong, ever!

Then a gust of wind from nowhere came and the ticket flew out of the van into the road. I praised Jesus silently in my heart. Then he recovered it, I’d hoped the passing cars were going to send it flying. Then he got it and started at it.

4. This is more of divine intervention. It broke the process. This one only the Man upstairs can grant if He wishes, so be nice to beggars.

“So what do you girls do?”

I looked at my friend, and I begged with my eyes to say LIE. Do not mention engineering.

5. Humility is key.

“We work in trains she said.” I exhaled in relief. “Yes we drive trains.” I added quickly.

That fascinated them. “Trains?” They asked. “Don’t they just use computers.”

6. I don’t encourage lying as a general rule, but if you must, make it believable.

“mmhh, no. They require people. SA is not so high-tech.”

“Ok. So what do they call you?”

I had no idea what train drivers are officially called and I was just going to go with a simple ‘train driver’ when my friend jumped in and said, ” train operator.” In fairness, she works for a rail company, although far from driving trains.

7. Keep them engaged for as long as possible. This makes it awkward for them to proceed to give you a ticket after you’ve shown the your nieces and nephews’ pictures.

I was starting to lose hope and think we’ll just be given a ticket with a smile but a ticket nonetheless when he said, “you girls must travel safe and slow down.”My friend was not understanding and lingered to get a full understanding whilst I was already thanking them and wishing them a blessed new year. P 750 saved. Phew!

8. Accept (get-away free or fine)and move along as quickly as possible. Remember things can always get worse.

9. Playing dumb and obvious grovelling can pay off as well. I was once stopped for a routine check and my licence disk had expired by over two months. I begged and announced my sainthood and law-abidance, and what etolls was doing to my budget and that I also have to deal with Nkandla on top of it all. The officer was slightly amused and let me go. And truth be told it was an honest mistake, I really thought it was a 3 months grace period not three weeks. I know.

So that’s’ me hoping to inspire some badassery in all of you my friends because why part with your hard saved trip savings if you get off with a friendly warning. What works for you?

Me, the open road, my Figo and my Canon

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  1. You lived to tell the tale ๐Ÿ™‚ Nice story — well, it’s over now, so you won’t feel bad about me saying it’s a nice story? Thanks for sharing

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