I am in Tanzania. I’m keeping a very low profile in my village. As is the case, time is running–fast. Faster than I would like it to. I have been detained (at a local secondary school for taking pictures without permission), questioned (at a local dispensary for again taking pictures of the surrounding environment), and asked to tell who I was twice for minding my business. In a one week time living in a rural village in Tanzania, I have been asked to bribe the traffic police officials more than 5 times. If this is not indicative of how corrupt officials are in this country, then, I do not know what is. With my outside eyes, it is quite fascinating to see how things-run over here.
Here is a snap-shot of a conversation I had with a traffic officer somewhere in Morogoro.
Traffic officer: Can I check your motorcycle sir?
Me: Go right ahead sir.
Traffic officer: You are missing one important document sir.
Me: What document? If I may ask.
Traffic Officer: You don’t have insurance sir.
Me: Let me check to make sure that I really don’t have it. I looked on some pockets and fished out an insurance card. Here is an insurance card officer.
Traffic officer: Let me continue to inspect your motorcycle and when I am finished, I will let you go sir.
Me: Take your time.
Traffic officer: The rear indicator light is not working.
Traffic officer: It is a Tshs 32,000.00 (~$20) offence sir.
Me: Write me the ticket.
Traffic officer: Do you understand it is 32,000Tshs?
Me: Yes, just write a ticket. I will go to the police station pay for it.
Traffic Officer: You know you can just pay me a little amount of money and you can go on with your day.
Me: Yes I know. I just want to pay the fine and then, I will fix my rear indicator light officer.
Traffic officer: Can I see your driving license?
Me: Yes officer—here it is.
Traffic officer: Reading my driving license….mmmh! Just give me 10000Tshs and I will let you go. No problems.
Me: I would rather pay the fine officer—just write me the ticket.
Traffic officer: Just find me some money in your pockets.
Me: I don’t have any money with me. I can go pay the fine at the police station if you write the ticket though.
Traffic officer: See me later. You can go now. I became a nuisance to him. He was not able to stop others while I was standing there recording our conversation. In addition, he was not able to ask for bribes from the other motorists he stopped before he stopped me.
Me: Where is the ticket?
Traffic officer: I ‘m not going to write you one. Just see me when you come back.
Me: Thank you officer….and I left him standing there. He has not gotten any money out of me. I was very proud of myself.