You may have seen the video by now. You know the one where City Parking officials (or hired workers in City Council work suits) get into a fight with people on the streets of Harare. It is a warzone on the streets and like the Shona say, ‘hazvipere mushe’ (It won’t end well).
Harare City Council, like most institutions in Zimbabwe, believes that its job is to catch citizens breaking the law or by-laws. Those offences carry with them fines and this is what they are really about – collecting fines.
We have seen this with the police, especially traffic cops. They don’t really care how unroadworthy a vehicle is as long as the driver pays up and shuts up. It is ridiculous but ‘it is the way’ in these parts.
Harare City Council is on a quest to fundraise and has turned the heat up on Harare motorists. They are not messing about and have been clamping cars left, right and centre.
Any infraction and a motorist will have to pay up. Even when a motorist failed to locate the parking attendant and so left a car parked but without paying for the parking.
Nigel Chanakira, the Kingdom Bank founder, found out the hard way when he zipped up to attend a meeting without paying for parking first. He says he failed to see the parking attendant and I guess he probably figured, ‘we’ll work it out when I get back.’
He came back to a clamped car and found out that working it out would involve US$132 leaving his pocket and going straight into the City’s piggy bank. Fun stuff.
The City Council says it “recently enlisted the services of City Parking to help us enforce the City’s by-laws….So far they have remitted US$90 million in a matter of just a short time, just two weeks and US$60,000 in hard currency.”
Update: As many have pointed out, the City Council official likely meant ZW$90 million, not US$90 million. The math doesn’t add up for it to be US$90 million in just 2 weeks. They can’t possibly have clamped 682,000 cars and collected $132 from each in just two weeks.
That would mean they collected US$90,000 + US$60,000 = US$150,000 in 2 weeks. It’s still a lot. That’s an average of 81 cars paying the $132 a day.
It’s not a secret with the City, this whole exercise, being unreasonable and everything, is about fundraising. They claim that they are raising these funds so that they can improve service delivery. So, essentially, taxing by-law breakers to serve the greater public.
You will have to decide if you believe them. Whatever the case, time shall tell. However, you don’t have to be a victim, you can make sure you don’t fall afoul of the soldiers in orange and blue work suits.
How to not fall victim
Follow the rules of the road.
It sounds like an insult but let’s be frank, Hararians do not care about the rules of the road. I have seen people just stop in the middle of the road to have conversations, people are dropped off at traffic lights and many other infractions have gone unpunished for years.
That’s not going to fly at the moment, so just follow the rules and you won’t have to pay the crazy US$132.
Now, when it comes to parking. You have to find the parking attendant as soon as you exit your car. You may be in a rush and it can be annoying trying to find an attendant on the crowded streets but you better do that if you would prefer your USD stay in your pocket.
It’s better to over-estimate how much time you’re gonna need and pay for that than to save a buck, have your meeting drag on and come back to a clamped car.
Or you could remember that you have a smartphone in your pocket, or even a feature phone and just pay for parking using EcoCash. You don’t even need data or airtime to do this. You just dial *192# to register and pay for parking using EcoCash.
I understand that many of us these days hardly ever have money in our EcoCash wallets, instead, we move around with USD cash. It can be annoying to have to locate an EcoCash agent and load the account before venturing into town. However, you might want to do that.
If you pay for parking this way, you will have a record of when you paid and will be able to get out of any clamping shenanigans without dropping a cool $132.
You could also download the City Parking app. About the app they say it,
provides users(motorists) a convenient means of paying for their parking in cities. The App allows a motorist to provide duration for parking and pay for just the time selected. The app maintains virtual tickets that can be verified by law enforcement agents electronically. It is possible for one to top up if the ticket expires from wherever.
Be warned though, the app has a rating of 2.4/5 on the Play Store, with plenty of 1-star reviews. iOS users, you’re out of luck on this one, stick to the EcoCash option. One Android app reviewer painted this picture.
I was clamped when i had paid using the app. I am not happy at all. It seems the app is not synchronized with the platform used by city parking marshalls who are in the streets. I had to go to the city parking offices to get the clamping ticket cleared and this took almost 2 hours. Such an inconvenience.
This user ended up not having to pay the fine but they lost 2 hours of their life. That’s no good, so keep it in mind. Tech could betray you.