Where there is a way to graft, a comrade will exploit it
“A subsequent probe at Natis has revealed what is believed to be a syndicate that operates by issuing learner’s and driving licences to applicants against payment, but without them being subjected to any written or physical testing.”
A while back, a young man with a seemingly valid driver’s license applied for a job as driver at the Economist. I know this individual from way back, so his application was considered in a favourable light.
One of our drivers was asked to take the applicant for a test drive to assess his skill behind the wheel. Less than 15 minutes later, the company car returned, but the applicant was no longer driving! Instead, at some point during the test drive, our own driver relieved the new applicant from behind the wheel and took over. Our driver was visibly shaken.
I delved somewhat deeper into this. It turned out that the first near-calamity happened at the first crossing closest to our offices. This is less than 300 yards away. From there it was one near-miss after another, until eventually our driver had enough.
When I asked the guy sporting the brand new license how he ever managed to obtain it, he was recalcitrant. But since I know many of his family members, the story came out eventually, even if it was via his uncle. It transpired that he had paid N$2,400 through a connection who had set him up with another connection, who again put him in touch with the “right” people at Natis in Windhoek, and voilà, after said funds were transferred to said individual as a cash payment, two day later he collected his driver’s license.
When we tested him it was patently obvious he did not have any driving skills other than a very rudimentary ability to start the engine and getting the car to go forward.
The story does not end there. Since I know his uncle very well, I pushed the issue again at a later meeting. I then learned that every aspiring taxi driver in Katutura knows of this “service” and the uncle knew of dozens of people who have made use of it. Often, job-seeking hopefuls are peeved when they have similar experiences at private companies, asking themselves the question why they have paid all this money for the license when it fails to automatically open doors of opportunity for a new job. After all, is the position of driver not a popular appointment, and does not every company employ at least one driver? It must be a lucrative investment to get a permanent job for only N$2400, but then the scheme must produce positive results.
My source claims there must be hundreds of taxi drivers operating in and out of Katutura on fake driver’s licences. Unfortunately I am in no position to verify these claims, but I can state unequivocally that it is certainly a popular notion at grassroot levels that many taxi drivers operate without legal licenses. It is one of those many “urban legends”, the truth of which is difficult to establish, but which nonetheless is widely believed by just about everybody.
The quote at the top comes from an Anti-Corruption Commission press release announcing the arrest of several people on suspicion of fraud with the issuing of driver’s licences. What bugs me is why is it necessary for the ACC to start investigating a blatant crime only now, when the ordinary people who suffer most under illegal drivers have known for so long, that graft is the order of the day when someone has failed to obtain a driver’s licence through legal channels and procedures. That investigation should have been conducted by the Namibian Police years ago.
In a week from now, the whole of Windhoek will up and out again, either to the coast or to the north. Thousands of commuters and holidaymakers will take to the roads. Important people in high places will launch all sorts of Road Safety Campaigns. All to no avail, in my mind, as long as the fundamental flaw in the system are not addressed.
After the Easter weekend, we will again be horrified when we see the crash statistics and hear about the many people maimed and killed. If you think I am exaggerating, do two simple tests and decide for yourself.
Test One: In Windhoek, pick a particular taxi, any taxi, and just follow it for two minutes. In that very short time, I guarantee you, you will have witnessed at least five traffic infringements, from minor to very serious.
Test Two: The next time you drive between Windhoek and Okahandja, pick any Iveco that passes you doing at least 140 km/h and see how many more blatant incidents of complete disregard for road safety you can spot before it disappears from your vision. I bet, there will be several.
“The ACC is appealing to anyone who has credible information regarding the mentioned scam to report the same to ACC.” Impressive!