Every day something new turns up in Africa.

The Scenario: Leave the country on transfer. Return 9 years later. Try and renew your driver’s licence. Format has changed. You are no longer on the system. Get a new one!

No problem. Off to the aptly named Gallows’ Hill traffic office in Cape Town. After 60 minutes in a queue characterised by professionals who queue for mobile-phone toting ‘buppies’, you arrive at the counter:

“You will pay penalties because you did not convert before 2003. R400! go to 8 Dorp – and you will get the letter to say you can now get the new card” – I am told. Also, go over the road to a tent where you get 4 pictures – R220. A kindly soul in a black outfit told me that ‘8 Dorp’ was, in fact, 8 Dorp Street where the Western Cape Government Roads Infrastructure Department has its home.


[The Holy Grail – the back of the SA licence]

Off we go. At ‘8 Dorp’ we are greeted by the dark hue of the rainbow nation, upstairs at Room 100-4, we are greeted by the lighter colour of the rainbow but they all only speak Afrikaans (wasn’t that the language of the oppressor?)

No problem. Get a letter from your previous employer, come back and we’ll give you a letter for Gallows Hill. Penalties? Now its R440!

The letter arrives. We go back. Back to Gallows’ Hill.

60 minutes then the Enquiries counter. We get the magic green form. too much for one day. I’ll come back to-morrow. In the meantime, Madame has short-circuited everything and got her green form approved, paid her money and told to wait 6-8 weeks for her new card. Lucky soul.


[Even the Traffic Department has car guards!]

I return. I’m told go after lunch, it’s less busy. I do so. Green form in hand, plus the pictures, plus R440-00 and I have my eyes tested.

“Wait, sir”. Your licence is now classified as a ‘conversion’ – go around the corner and you’ll find a whitey (his words!)- he is the manager – he must sign your application”

Whitey signs and says to me: “Why penalties?” I explain. He crosses them out. “No penalties”. I return. Counter clerk says “No man! He’s given you the wrong code. Wait. 20 minutes. Clerk returns. Do fingerprints. “Go to cashier counter and pays your money”.

I approach a gentleman called Justice behind the counter. He taps on the computer. ‘Sir, wait a bit, you’re not on the computer’. 40 minutes. Justice returns.

“Sir, you move to fast for the system.” “Sorry”, I say, “what do I do now?” Justice giggles as only Justice can. “We fix it!”

20 minutes. I now have two ID numbers in the system. I have paid R25 penalty. I have a Temporary Driving Licence. I must wait the obligatory 6-8 weeks for my card.



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