There I was, minding my own business on a Monday morning when my phone rang with an unknown number. Who could it be? I thought. When I answered, I heard a woman laughing very loudly on the other end. I was about to hang up but then said, to be nice, “Hello?” Then the woman’s voice got very stern and informed me that she was a Lusaka Police Officer and that I needed to come to the Central Police Station and pay my latest speeding ticket and that I had exceeded the grace period of 7 days to pay. She then quickly told me what room to go to, and as I was trying to explain why I hadn’t come in the office she hung up. So, I called her back and asked again what room I was suppose to go to, since I didn’t get it the first time, and I explained that the Traffic Officer on duty who pulled me over never gave me an actual paper ticket or a carbon copy of the information she took from me. So, I wasn’t sure how I was suppose to go in and pay a speeding ticket that I had actually never been given technically. The Officer quickly acknowledged my question and said, “Just come down and pay the ticket today.” Click.
So, I went down to Central Police (oh joy). There was absolutely no parking in the parking lot, and even if there was there was no way to pull into the parking lot because of all the traffic blocking the entrance. So, I parked at the gas station across the street. When I had walked over to CP, I went to the front desk and asked where I should go to pay my ticket. The officer at the desk then starting to joke around with me and used wild hand motions and asked me if the reason I was there to pay a ticket was because I was driving recklessly. Wow, hilarious. I then calmly told him that I was not driving reckless or fast, but the reason I was there was because of an unjust speeding ticket (more on that later). He then said in a serious tone that I needed to go to E14 Traffic, second floor. CP was probably a nice building…when it was built back in the 50’s or 60’s. But after 50 years or so of no renovations and little or no upkeep it’s looking pretty rough and pretty dirty. So I went up to the second floor and found “Traffic”. The hallway was poorly lit, and the walls were covered in dirt. There was a chair in the hallway next to the bench outside of E14. I looked at the chair and then at the bench and decided the bench looked safer to sit on. This was a good choice, because when I went to rest my arm on the chair the seat fell through and almost hit the ground.
The Officer in E14 then called me into the office. The office was jammed with three desks, a bunch of file cabinets, papers and some extra chairs for us guilty ones to sit on. I was amazed, looking at the array of file cabinets and papers, that my ticket had actually made it here and that I was called to come in and pay. I turned sideways and maneuvered my way in the tight office over to the far desk and sat down. The female officer who’s desk I was at was very nice and asked me how my day was going. Oh great! I love coming to pay a speeding ticket, I thought. The other female officer at the other desk was not so nice and wanted to know why I had exceeded the grace period to pay my ticket. The third officer in the room was listening to the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy on a very beat up scratchy radio and was paying me no mind. I started to explain again that I was given no ticket when I was pulled over and was confused how I could come in and pay a ticket that I was never actually issued. Somehow, they both agreed with me, which really surprised me. But they still said I needed to come in and pay. I also explained that I was pulled over on Kafue Road. (They both started to laugh when I said this – gee, I wonder why.) I said that last Saturday as I was driving into Lusaka, two cars were passing me and the Police Officer with the radar gun on the side of road tried to stop them by walking out in front of their speeding cars and holding up his white glove. But they had ignored him and sped by. By this point I had slowed down very slow because the officer was standing in the middle of the road. He looked at the speeding cars getting smaller in the distance and turned back to me and then motioned for me to pull over! I asked the officers how that was fair that I should be pulled over just because the two others cars refused to stop. They then told me a tale of how they were sure the officer had recorded their license plate numbers and that they would track those law breakers down and throw them into cells (jail cells that is). The nice officer was actually somewhat honest and basically said that since they didn’t stop they had to pull someone over, and since I was there they pulled me over. Thanks – that makes me feel a lot better! Realizing that I was not getting anywhere and that the not-so-nice officer’s attention was already focused on intimidating the guilty guy in front of her desk, I signed my Admission of Guilt Form, The Criminal Procedure Code, THE PEOPLE versus DEREK S DEARTH. I paid my K180,000 ($36) and left.
Getting pulled over for speeding here can be pretty maddening, since there is so much corruption and even the officers agree that there is. But, unfortunately, that’s the way it is, and you can’t really do much about it except blog about it and pray for grace. 🙂
I personally wouldn’t want to be in your shoes!!! However, it sounds like you may have found a glimmer of hope for ministering to the police in Zambia in the future. God bless you for all you do! Jan Hurtman
oh Derek, sorry…that’s rough. but funny :). i can totally picture this! you handled it really well, especially having to deal with level upon level of frustration and corruption. good news is, at least they now have the money to fix that chair in the hall…which I’m sure they will do ;).