I lost my wallet about 5 weeks ago. Stupid really. I think I left it on top of the Land Cruiser and drove off. It’s not the first time I’ve done this but in the past it’s been walking sticks or a diary or two and I usually got them back though I wouldn’t have been too upset at losing a diary. But losing my wallet, now that’s a different matter. Driver’s licence, ID card not to mention money. I really didn’t expect to get the money or the wallet back but I was hoping to get the driver’s licence and ID. Of course I drove along the route to the microlight club but nobody waved me down and yes, they do all know me around here. I had to dig out my old driver’s licence – my very first with me looking the 16 years. It’s a bit tatty and broken in half but nothing a bit of new laminating couldn’t fix and it’s passed the test with the police a few times now albeit with a fair bit of amusement at my evident youth.
Replacing an ID card is more of a challenge. The Makombe Building is where it all happens along with the passport office on Herbert Chitepo Road just on the edge of the Harare CBD. I don’t have fond memories of the place. I cased the joint on a couple of occasions when I had to visit a surgeon whose rooms are opposite it. It was as bad as I’d feared; chaotic. A seething mass of people and touts. Not somewhere I’d willingly go and spend a few hours. I should explain that ID cards are essential in Zimbabwe. Started by the Rhodesian government they were the concept was embraced by the Zimbabwean one to the extent that it is a legal requirement to carry some sort of identification. A passport will do but of course nobody wants to carry one of those. I don’t really mind and they are quite useful in ensuring that I get parcels at the post office that are mine – or ensuring that nobody else gets my parcels.
The official at the sub-office at Mount Pleasant shopping centre suggested I try the Market Square office in the Kopje area of town. I drove past and just kept on going. Dante would have been impressed; queues of people with glazed, hopeless, bovine looks, rubbish, touts and minibuses. There had to be a better way.
Shelton knew a friend who’d replaced his lost card at a sub-branch of the National Registration department at KG6 barracks and there were few if any queues. The last time I’d been at KG6 was when I’d been caught with an untidy trunk at an army inspection and had to do a day of filing when I should have been on R&R. It seemed like a good opportunity to see what it was like now.
The military policeman at the barracks gate stopped me and asked what I wanted. I was at the wrong gate but he offered to get the ID card for me (for a fee no doubt). This rather defeated the object of the trip and I didn’t see how I could get another card without being there myself so I politely refused.
There was precious little going on inside the building. The room I was sent to had sheets of very large ID card negatives on the table and piles of very old computer printouts on the shelves. A strange unidentifiable piece of apparatus lay on the floor. An older man looked at my passport and birth certificate and shuffled over to a computer terminal. Brushing aside debris he pulled out the keyboard and typed in my ID details. It was all there, this was looking really promising. Sadly the official said I had to go to the Makombe building as they couldn’t replace ID cards on these premises. Catching the horrified look on my face he said he’d give me a letter to speed things up so duly armed I set off for the Makombe Building on Herbert Chitepo Road.
I was lucky to find a car park close to the gate. Locking the car and nodding to the car “attendant” who promised to look after my vehicle I made my way to the entrance. I paused, took in the chaotic scene and taking a deep breath resigned myself to my fate.
Two hours and six offices later I had my new ID card. I’d been fully digitised, avoided two marriage proposals (no thanks, I don’t need help to spend my money) and hopefully got a bit of business. I’d gleaned that the new offices next door that had been vacant for the last 6 years or so were not about to be occupied anytime soon and the authorities were instead refurbishing “this dump”. With the exception of the photocopier operator I’d confirmed that most Zimbabweans are friendly and have a sense of humour. But I knew that already.