“I ALWAYS knew it was difficult to get a driver’s licence without paying a bribe, but it was the amount of money required that came as a total shock to me,” says Stella Moyo, resident of Highfield in Harare.
Moyo’s driving school instructor told her she could not obtain a licence at the government’s Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) without paying a kickback of over $250.
“They simply fail you.”
According to Moyo, private driving school instructors work in cahoots with VID officers in negotiating the amount as well as facilitating the safe and foolproof exchange of the bribe money.
In Zimbabwe, before one can go for a driving test at the VID, they first go through a series of driver training usually at the many private driving schools across the country.
In Bindura, according to reports from residents, learner drivers are asked to part with an amount of no less than $150 while other towns like Masvingo and Chinhoyi, residents interviewed said the officials charge $150 as bribe.
The official driver’s licence fees totals $40.
After failing to raise the $250, Moyo went to another driving school where she was asked to part with $200.
“I still did not have $200 so I paid $140 and my instructor chipped in with the remainder and after the deal was sealed and I had my licence, he held onto my licence disc until I paid him off,” she said.
Transport Ministry permanent secretary Munesu Munodawafa confirmed the vice, but said his office had not received any complaints from the affected people hence they could not act upon it.
“As a ministry we have zero tolerance to corruption and we have fired 10 people in the last 12 months concerning corruption. Whenever we receive a specific case, we investigate, but where there are generalised cases, we cannot fire or discipline anyone,” Munodawafa said.
He added that it was queer how people are forced to pay bribes while at the VID there are large billboards that inform people to report any form of corruption and there are phone numbers there to call.
VID chief inspector, Johaness Pedzapasi said he was not aware of such cases and referred all questions to Munodawafa.
However, in February this year Pedzapasi appeared before a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development, admitting that corruption was rife in his department.
Munodawafa said after the Parliamentary hearing, there was a raft of changes, chief among the redeployment of VID inspectors after every three years.
Other measures, he said included the integration of testing depots to enable the exam to be carried out.
“Most VID premises have the hill start area, they showcase their ability to reverse and park in the premises meaning 80% of the test is now being done inside the premises, only 20% of the test is done on road, so how is one forced to pay a bribe for 20%?” he said.
Munodawafa pointed a finger at private school driving instructors, accusing them of swindling learner drivers under the guise of giving it to VID officials.
“As we speak we are investigating some driving school instructors.
We have also introduced the ballot box so that when people go for tests they would not know who will test them, all this is being done to end the alleged corruption at VID,” he said.
An instructor from Dee Tee Driving School in Kadoma, however, said instructors did not benefit. He said VID officials in that town charge $150.
“If we were getting so much money from aspiring drivers, do you think we would be as poor as we are? [It is] VID officials [who] are driving top-of-the-range cars,” he said.
Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) spokesperson, Ernest Muchena said they have not received reports from the public about the matter.
“We always tell people to let us know of such corrupt activities, but no one comes to our offices, or even sends us WhatsApp messages.
“Any instructor who asks for money from a learner has to be reported and we automatically deregister them,” said Muchena.
Transparency International Zimbabwe legal officer Danai Mabuto said she believed members of the public were complicit as they do not report the vice to authorities.
“We have learnt about corruption at VID through media reports as
no one has ever reported the matter to us. It takes two to tango so
we cannot only blame the VID officials as everyone in Zimbabwe knows that bribery is a crime,” Mabuto said.
While blaming government for lack of transparency, Mabuto urged the public not to be afraid to report as this was one of the many corruption cases they get reports on daily.
The Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association (BPRA) said it was aware of the matter.
BPRA’s information manager Zibusiso Dube said the thriving of corruption was a result of “the incompetence of government (that) is not keen on dealing with corruption in the country.”
Dube said his association will come up with a position paper calling for an investigation into operations at VID.
The paper will be submitted to government and Parliament.
An association of private driving schools and instructors’ representative in Harare alleged persecution by VID officials.
“Whenever you complain about corruption, you are harassed and your car is targeted so that none of your clients ever gets a licence,” he said.
He said the only solution they could suggest is direct confrontation with the VID officials in the presence of journalists, ministry officials, TSCZ and all the responsible people.
“We want confrontation because right now we can’t even let you publish our names for fear of victimisation. We will be targeted by the VID officials and they will make our lives and work difficult. These people are government employees and they are protected by the government, but we are not protected by anyone and we will end up losing what we already have,” he said.
Corruption has, in general, continued unabated in the country despite the setting up of an anti-corruption statutory commission to “investigate, expose and combat theft and abuse of power in the public and private sector”.
As result, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission has been touted as a toothless bulldog with no capacity to combat the vice.
Apart from that, Zimbabwe is a signatory to Southern African Development Community Protocol Against Corruption which was adopted in August 2001 to promote and strengthen the development, within each Member State, of mechanisms needed to prevent, detect, punish and eradicate corruption in the public and private sector.
Zimbabwe was ranked 156 out of 175 highly corrupt countries in
the 2014 Global Corruption Perception Index released by Transparency International which ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be.