Something to smile about
I was travelling from Zomba back to Blantyre last week when our vehicle was signaled to stop by a road traffic directorate examiner at Namadidi Turn-off.
A few tests were conducted on the vehicle before a faulty head lump was detected.
The car vehicle examiner produced a smartphone-size gadget from his pocket, punched in the registration number and, behold, details of the car showed. Using scroll-down menus, the officer printed a ticket.
He asked the driver to make a payment at the bank within a week.
My tech instincts aroused, I wanted to know from the enforcing officer what would happen if the bill was not paid on time. He smiled and calmly said that the amount would start to attract interest.
He continued to educate me that his gadget enables him to connect to the road traffic server.
Once a ticket is issued, details are added to the vehicle portfolio on the system. When the certificate of fitness for the vehicle expires, the computer system at Road Traffic Department or at any of its agents would refuse to process the transaction until the bill plus interest was cleared.
The man in uniform was kind enough to explain that the system is self-policing; next time the vehicle is stopped by another or the same officer, the gadget would show that it was nursing an unpaid ticket.
The officer would then go ahead and impound the vehicle to force the owner to settle the bill at the bank.
As I talked to the road traffic examiner, I noticed that our driver showed signs of uneasiness. While we drove away, I wanted to know why he was so nervous. In a relieved state, he told me that road traffic examiners mean business and are not corrupt when on patrol.
I wanted to know who he was making comparisons with and he simply asked me to hold on as he would soon demonstrate. As we approached Thondwe, a road traffic police officer waved us to stop.
The driver and the traffic policeman started to chat and asked for a ‘drink’ to which the driver showed him the ticket that was issued by the road traffic examiner. He let us go grudgingly.
As we drove away, the driver wanted to know if I had noticed the difference between the two law enforcing officers. He told me that the road traffic police officers are not equipped with any technology and cannot log into the road traffic system.
Road traffic police officers issue manual tickets and demand cash payments on the spot. With a nutty grin on his face, he added that most police traffic officers are there more to line up their pockets than that of government account number one.
And I wondered why two officers from two governments departments on the same mission work in isolation; one using Stone Age tools while the other uses today’s Facebook technology.