11 October 2011

Mystory "Welcome to Zambia" (Mar-2003)

African border crossings are not for the fainthearted.

The official looks at the Temporary Import Permit for our vehicle and asks “What are you bringing into Zambia?”. Indeed, I did not yet fill in the part where one must declare goods that are being brought in. Quite a dilemma what to write down, as the box is only one centimeter high and a few more wide, while our car is packed up to capacity including a large cupboard on the roof rack, and our sturdy bush trailer carrying many more of our valued possessions. Chairs and a couch protrude skywards.

In Zimbabwe we got fined by road traffic police for 'dangerous overloading', although in comparison with some of the really overloaded buses traveling our African roads we thought our loading was quite acceptable.

Here we are, at the border of Zambia, changing home and country. After a period of two good and challenging years in Zimbabwe - with Zimbabweans capably taking over all our tasks - it is time to move on. Zambia is the virtual option we choose. Virtual, as there are no promises, no dwelling place, no upkeep, just a vision: let's eradicate malaria.

Without a work-permit, or even proof we are wanted 'in country', we just got a 30 days tourist visa stamped in our passports. Subsequently we settled payment for road tax, car insurance, and what not, for our Zimbabwe registered car, and now the last hurdle is in front of us: getting all our stuff through.

So we chat; Explaining our situation, that we are about to move country, are invited to come to Macha and see, and that we take quite some stuff along. “Please note down what you bring in, in this box, which exists for that purpose, Sir”. “Thank you”, I say, take up a pen, and write down in large letters “Everything needed to fill an empty house”. The customs official looks up, nods and smiles, and applies the appropriate stamp to the document. We go back to our car.

The gate to Zambia is still closed, awaiting of inspection of documents and goods. Not much movement, as not many travel between Zimbabwe and Zambia these days. We drive to the gate and wait. Although it is hot, purposefully an official walks to the car and we hand him the pile of documents upon his request. He inspects them carefully.

Unexpectedly the border post erupts with noise and running people. Big baboons invade the area, pinching goods from piled bags on the sidewalk. People react, trying to chase the scary looking animals away. An other person tries to jump the line and makes a run for the person entry gate to Zambia. Our official hastily hands me the documents and vanishes, making a bee-line for the gate to halt the fleeting person. We wait.

An other border official arrives at the scene, oblivious to the commotion and walks to our car. “Have your papers been inspected?”. “Yes, Sir, they are.”, I reply. “Welcome to Zambia!'. He opens the gate, and off we go, into a new era.