I do not own a car, so I typically walk everywhere, take a combi, or occasionally use a taxi if I’m travelling a long distance. Many people here walk, so this is not uncommon. Last week I was walking to the store to purchase my groceries. As I was walking along I saw a man driving by, practically turned all the way around in his seat to look at me. Again, this is not uncommon. I’ve asked other lekogwa about this, but few seem to report this phenomenon. Apparently I am special.
However, this time I was a little bit too special. As the driver was looking at me, he swerved into oncoming traffic and hit a car coming in the opposite direction. You know how you are supposed to check to make sure everyone in an accident is ok? That is the moral thing to do, right? In Africa that is generally a bad idea. No one here drives particularly fast, so both drivers were fine. But as I was getting ready to continue on to the store the police arrived and insisted on taking statements from all of us. That’s when the trouble started.
The police wrote up the traffic report stating that “a white woman walking along Shashe Road caused a traffic accident.” Excuse me? I most certainly did not. How is it my fault? Mr. Mmanokowa claimed I distracted him. I didn’t yell anything obscene, run across the street right in front of his car or take my shirt off. But that was how the traffic report was written.
After the accident I was required to go to court to determine whether or not I was guilty and if I should pay a fine. Are you kidding me?!?!?! I do have to say that court was quite an education. After a lot of back and forth the judge finally decided I was innocent and let me go. I’m not sure who in the end was found guilty or what kind of fine he had to pay, but I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible before they changed their minds.
I should mention however, that as I was sitting in court waiting for my trial a man was being tried for murder. He was found guilty and made to pay a 400 Pula fine. That is equivalent to about $50. Nope, I did not misinterpret the sentencing or the penalty. Though I certainly didn’t understand how murder would only cost you $50.
I started asking around about murder and the “low cost” penalty. Apparently this is the standard practice. Someone told me that in South Africa you have to pay about 250 Rand a month for a television license. Inspectors randomly show up at people’s houses and if they find you have an illegal television you have to pay a 1,250 Rand fine. However, the penalty for murder if you are found guilty is only 500 Rand. In other words, don’t bother getting a television license and don’t worry about getting caught and having to pay the fine. If the Inspector turns up, just kill him and pay the equivalent of two months of television licensing for the murder charge. Yet again, TIA!