Unearthing driver’s licence acquisition scam

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Ranking among the most corrupt institutions or departments of the government in Zimbabwe are the Vehicle Inspectorate Department (VID) and the Passports Section of the Registrar General’s Office.

Besides the societal moral decay that the scam has visited upon the people of this country, consequences of the rot at these offices, especially the VID, include the loss of life.

The carnage on Zimbabwe’s roads has been attributed mostly to people that go behind the wheel without driving qualifications.

Police statistics of people that have been caught driving without drivers’ licences are staggering and the number of deaths that have been caused by unlicenced drivers is equally shocking.

NewsDay sought to establish how people get drivers’ licences without going through due processes and the outcome of the investigations could be a revelation of a nation pregnant with corruption and scandals.

Irregularities, according to our investigations, are two-pronged. Some are acquiring licences through corrupt officials in a scam involving driving schools, VID examiners and inspectors.

Others are doing so by buying fake licences produced by unscrupulous backyard dealers, taking advantage of modern technology, to come up with documents with striking similarities to originals.

A visit to driving schools by NewsDay, masquerading as clients requesting for speedy acquisition of a driver’s licence portrayed a sector unashamed to engage in a notorious syndicate.

All it requires is money for bribery to be shared by the school, VID officials and at times, middlemen.

“For $120 we can organise a provisional driver’s licence and to get a driver’s licence, we can talk of $150,” said one Kumbirai, owner of a small driving school with a fleet of four cars in Harare.

Kumbirai went on to reveal the stinking corruption at VID, saying after paying the agreed amount to get a provisional licence, the examiner would disregard whatever points one scores with and proceed to issue the document.

“Legally, one has to fail at most three out of 25 questions, but this counts for nothing once the examiner is paid,” said another driving school instructor, literally salivating at a potential windfall after NewsDay had expressed interest.

Once this stage is complete, said the instructor, all one needs to master is to successfully navigate through the drums at VID and once on the road, any other mistake counts for nothing and one gets a genuine licence.

However to get a fake one, the price is higher. When NewsDay visited the VID offices in Eastlea, Harare, hordes of “facilitators” swarmed this reporter, offering to assist in the acquisition of a licence in one way or the other, without going through the rigorous processes involved.

“Mwana waMdhara, organiza five kona chete, chitambi chinobuda in five days,” (My brother, just pay me $500, a licence will be processed in 5 days), said one of them, who identified himself as Stephen.

After expressing interest and marinating him in a lengthy discussion, Stephen eventually opened up, saying he was the fifth man in a chain of go-betweens.

“I don’t really know the manufacturer, my go-between does, but all I know is he stays in Highfield, near the blocks of flats which were recently commissioned by the President.”

However, efforts to locate the “manufacturing plant” were unsuccessful as the syndicate proved to be a closely guarded secret.

Fake licence scams have taken Zimbabwe by storm, heightening in the recent past when thousands of Zimbabweans based in South Africa stampeded to acquire personal documents urgently in a bid to beat the August 31 2011 deadline set by authorities in that country to regularise their stay there

In August last year, police in Masvingo smashed a syndicate believed to be duping prospective drivers of large sums of cash and recovered 30 fake class two drivers’ licences and (VID) date stamps.

Four members of the syndicate were arrested after they were found in possession of a booklet containing 26 fake class two drivers’ licences and VID date stamps.

Last week, another racket, believed to have issued out hundreds of fake licences was unearthed in Harare, after one beneficiary, a job seeker, Salam Usof Salam, allegedly proved incompetent.

National Traffic Police spokesperson Inspector Tigere Chigome said they were taking the scam seriously and would leave no stone unturned to bring culprits to book.

“We are thoroughly investigating this fake licence syndicate which we suspect involves thousands of motorists on our roads. We have intensified our checks in a bid to rid the roads of holders of fake drivers’ licences,” Chigome said.

Now with such scams and corruption, it need not be a surprise Zimbabwe has been turned into a country of accidents, in which innocent road users become sacrificial lambs.