April 18, 2016

getting a driver's license

when i arrived, the general manager freaked out because i didn't have an international driver's license.  i wasn't expecting to be driving - and although my agreement included a car for business purposes... i'd assumed wrongly that would come with a driver.

a lot of time was wasted discussing what could be done about this as they insisted i must have a Tanzania license and this was not possible to get without a work permit, which was going to take months to get.

after about a week i tire of the discussion and the staff's ability to get anything done so take myself over to TRA [tanzania revenue authority] who issues driver's licenses.  what follows is the REAL STORY OF BRAVE AMERICAN GIRL IN TANZANIA.

as soon as i arrive TRA i am taken into a small room and sit across the desk from an older gentleman who appears to be in charge.  i chat with him for about 5 minutes, telling him what i want and asking respectfully how i can get it.  he says, ok.  i approve your license.  WOW I THOUGHT - that was really easy after listening for over a week to the staff about why it could not be done.  but wait....

so i fill out this form and take it to the police station.  the police, also very nice, seem to understand from the paper clutched in my hand what i need and they look me up in the computer and stamp their approval.  i go back out to the taxi and back to TRA.  my new friend, Charles, at the TRA takes my picture and fingerprints.  for a minute i hesitate because i really don't want to be in their database but then i remember they fingerprinted me at the airport for my visa and i'm already in the system.

so with the approval from the police and my information into the TRA system i get a payment voucher that has to be paid at the bank.  off to the bank i go to pay my 3000TZS [US$1.50].  it's the end of the day and the payment needs to post so i wait a day to go back to TRA.

i go back to the TRA the next day and instead of getting a license i get another payment voucher.  this one for 10000 TZS [yeah, i know a lot of zeros but still less than $5US].  so back to the bank.  

police that enter your information in computer
oh, i forgot to mention, the first time i went to the bank, i was given a number that was like 50 away from what the cashiers were actually serving.  being a muzinga [that's what a white person is called here] the bank doorman invited me to skip the line and go directly to the cashier.  i was okay with that but the cashier was not and as she chastized me first in swahili and then english and then chastized me for not understanding swahili, i just shrugged my shoulders as if i couldn't understand either.  her tone was clear enough so i knew my second time around i would not be moved to the front of the line.  instead, i took a number, left and went shopping for an hour, dropped some files at the printer next door and when i went back to the bank still had to wait 20 minutes before my number was called.

it was a few days before i went back to TRA and they just sent me along to the police station again for a second time.  i think the first was approval that i had no criminal background.  this the second time was for some different reason.  no one ever spoke english to me - i just showed them the paper work and they pointed where i needed to go...

then back to TRA to prove i'd been to the police station, one more payment voucher for the bank for 40,000 [$20US]. this time i can't be bothered to wait at the bank and i'm leaving for Dar so i send the finance girl to do it.

a week later with the final proof of payment in hand i go back to the TRA and my now friend Charles hands over my license.  i can't tell if he's happy i've jumped through all the hoops or if he's just happy to know i won't be coming back.

charles delivers my license to me

my best guess is that the process in the past has been so broken by corruption that the independent bank payment is required to insure the money goes to the government and not into the pockets of the TRA officials.  during my third trip to the TRA i was tired of the running to the bank and suggested that i just pay there for all the fees and quickly get my license but my attempt to bribe this low level official was rebuffed and i was sent to the 'purgatory' they call the bank.

ultimately, it doesn't matter what you hand the police when they pull you over.  before i had a tanzania license and was pulled over, i couldn't find my colorado drivers license.  instead i handed them my dive card - yeah - the card that says i'm a licensed scuba diver.  they didn't know the difference.

but now i'm legal.... 5 trips to the TRA, 3 trips to the bank and 2 trips to the police station.  i spent at least 15 hours taking care of this and that's the real crime as it takes away time from what i can contribute to the company.

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