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How to get through Zimbabwe's roadblocks this holiday

02 Dec 2016 at 14:26hrs | Views

Bad news for the many travellers who'll be heading Zimbabwe-wards this festive season: there will be more road-blocks.

Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo says the reason is to "weed out all unroadworthy vehicles," according to the Daily News.

That'll do little to calm the anxiety of holiday travellers and day-in-day-out Zimbabwe road users, who complain of demands for fines from police for a range of dizzying - and frequently changing - offences.

"We will increase the roadblocks during the festive season to ensure that we weed out all vehicles which are not roadworthy, all unlicensed drivers and overloaded vehicles," Chombo was quoted as saying.

So apart from not coming back to Zimbabwe, how do you deal with the roadblock issue in a way that'll cause you minimal stress?

Here are some ideas:

KEEP TO ALL TRAFFIC RULES: This is obvious. Don't speed (be careful near the Goromonzi turn-off just east of Harare where speed limits dip suddenly from 80 to 40 km/hour), don't overtake on a double line, do stop at every stop street. There's no excuse for breaking the rules of the road. You just make a traffic officer's job easy. Keep suitcases in the boot of your car if possible: there are claims that fines are being imposed for "overloading" if there's luggage in the back seat.

BONA-FIDE TOURISTS DRIVING NON-ZIMBABWEAN REGISTERED CARS are supposed to be spared some of the (copious) requirements (honeycomb tape along the back of your vehicle, reflective red tape on both sides of your warning triangles, the position of weight notifications on the side of your double-cab). This may not turn out to be the case in practice. Try to get hold of a RECENT copy of road traffic regulations (Google "downloadable traffic regulations Zimbabwe" for a list of sites you can get this from: also try the Dear ZRP group on FB).

INVEST IN A DASH-CAM: Some locals who've done this say they now have fewer problems with the traffic police. Having a dash cam may save you trouble if you are accused of jumping an amber light, for example, and you know you haven't. Warning: trying to film a Zimbabwe traffic cop with your smartphone is likely only to inflame the situation.

CHOOSE YOUR DRIVING TIMES WISELY: Because of roadblocks, some Zimbabweans prefer to travel only at night. Outside of Harare and other major cities, police tend to knock off roughly between the hours of 6 pm and 6 am. However, remember that rural roads do not have street lighting and there is a big danger of straying cattle. The Sunday Mail reported last week that a new stretch of fence between Bulawayo and Gweru, built to keep in cattle, was being pulled down in places by villagers. If you must travel in the dark, do so with this in mind.

BE COURTEOUS RATHER THAN HOSTILE: Accept it: you are not going to get away with no fines whatsoever. Budget for the odd 20 USD fine here and there (hopefully no more than that). Greet officers with politeness. There is a school of thought that says giving a lift to a policeman (for example, an officer who's ending his shift at a roadblock) may spare you fines along the way. Your call.

BOND NOTES? Police are supposed to be equipping their roadblocks soon with POS systems so you can swipe your fine payment. That's unlikely to happen before Christmas. If you are in Zimbabwe for any length and can accumulate some bond notes, now might be the time to use them to pay your fines since you won't be able to use them once you leave. Toll-gates are reported to be giving change in bond notes.

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