“This is not my usual blog material. And, having been absent from my blog for quite a few weeks now, I ought to have done better. However, I cannot help but write on this issue.
Some things are downright embarrassing, and they embarrass an entire nation. Three out of every four times when I’m flying out of Zambia, the immigration forms are entry forms, and when I’m returning home the immigration forms in the arrival hall are exit forms. Am I to understand that no one in the entire Ministry of Home Affairs knows that entry means coming in and exit means going out?
Okay, let us assume that three out of every four times, the ministry runs out of exit forms just when I’m leaving and then also runs out of entry forms just when I’m coming back. Queer coincidence? I know. But let us grant it to them. You need to give a guy a chance even if it’s a dumb excuse. Here is my question: Doesn’t the entire Ministry of Home Affairs have the courtesy to put up an explanation and an apology so that visitors know that they have run out of the correct forms? There is no such notice anywhere on the tables.
Every so often a worried international visitor in the arrivals hall makes his way through many exit forms and in despair walks up to me, asking, “Excuse me sir, is that an entry form you have in your hands? Where can I find them? I seem to be seeing exit forms only.” I always smile back and give an assuring answer, “Those are the rightforms. In Zambia, your entry is an exit, your arrival is your departure. You are exiting the civilised world.” And when the visitor looks at me with a perplexed look on his face, I conclude by saying, “Welcome to Zambia–The Real Africa!” and show him my filled-in exit form.
If any of you have friends working for the Zambian department of immigration, or for the Zambian Ministry of Home Affairs, please feel free to show this to them. If they need help, when I return, I can come and show them how to print a simple A4-size polite notice and apology, which they can put out on the tables whenever they run out of the right forms. And if His Excellency the President, Michael Chilufya Sata, can pass one of his frequent presidential directives, that the Minister of Finance gives me some tax relief for this kind favour, I can even laminate the notices for the Government of the Republic of Zambia. Batusebululeko insoni, mwebantu! [Let them save us from embarrassment, you people!]”