The Department of Road Traffic

Many people equate hell with places like the DMV (Department of Motor
Vehicles for my non-American readers). You know a place where time is
eternal, everybody thoroughly unhappy, and the staff are rude. Now, how
might you imagine the DMV in Africa? Seriously, think about it before
reading on.

Well first off the DMV in Malawi has a different name - everybody calls
it "Road Traffic". Not hard to spot the negative connotation. It is two
buildings inside a walled compound, with a sort of mechanic's pit
separating the two buildings. People are everywhere, most of whom are
trying to sell car accessories, shoes, and cell phone covers. Walking
into the inquiries office you might see a long queue of people and one
person working - the other 5 employees are buying children's clothes
through the window, eating their lunch or just staring off into space.
From the inquiries room you will be redirected somewhere else, even if
it is just back to the inquiries room. Perhaps you will be directed to
the other building, which means crossing over the testing zone. Every
few minutes an officially dressed person gets into a different car slams
on the gas then hits the brakes skidding through the dirt. Survival of
the test zone will get you into a new room where the employees are
either eating, sleeping, or negotiating a fair price for Nigerian
romance novels. After telling you that your papers are wrong, and you
telling them that they are right, you will be told to return in the
afternoon. Returning in the afternoon will result in apologies and a
promise to type your form into the computer right away. If you were to
watch the data entry process from the window near the mechanic's pit you
would see two people chatting away, one of whom uses a solitary finger
every 5 seconds or so to enter your data. You would decide to leave and
come back. Coming back later you would hear the word "mzungu" (white
person) a lot and then be asked to wait. While waiting you might get a
call from a friend telling you that the South African police are in town
randomly stopping cars and checking to see if they are stolen, as
apparently many cars here are. This might make you nervous. Eventually
the employee would meet you outside near the pit and ask for 5000
kwacha. You would give it, even if you are not sure this is the proper
procedure, and she would disappear returning soon with a registration
printout. You would sigh with relief and drive home hoping to avoid the
South African roadblock.

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