HOW TO: Bribe A Swazi Police Officer

Mallory Primm
  • print
  • make this is a favorite!

    6 other people called this a favorite

You’re driving down the road, when suddenly you see a familiar scene: blue and white police cars with pulsating blue lights, and a haphazard line of orange traffic cones. Police officers are standing in the road, motioning for cars to pull over. It’s the dreaded Swazi roadblock. As one friend explains, “Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, you think, ‘Oh, shit.’”

But since the norm in Swaziland is to barrel down the road 20 km/hr over the speed limit, with no seat belt on, chances are you have done something wrong, and you’re about to be charged for it. That means only one thing: It’s time to “negotiate your fee.”

They say that, in Swaziland, nothing gets done without a bribe, even if it’s legitimate. So the next time you find yourself at a roadblock, consider following this step-by-step guide to “negotiating your fee” with your friendly local police officer. It might not make you feel better about law enforcement, but it will probably help you avoid a delay, a ticket, and a hassle.

Step 1: Realize Why You’re Being Stopped

Police officers are likely to stop anyone and everyone, but you are especially likely to be pulled over if: (a) you drive a car made after 1995, or (b) you are white. The most common car in Swaziland is an early '90s Toyota Corolla with some sort of Christian paraphernalia hanging from the mirror. If you can’t find one of these old beaters to drive around, or if you’re white and can’t change the color of your skin, it's probably worth asking some of the locals for a side route. Most long-term Swazi residents, regardless of their skin color, learn shortcuts to avoid commonly road-blocked areas.

Step 2: Don’t Disagree with the Charges


Once you’ve pulled been over, an officer will approach your window and inform you of your offense.  Usually, it will be speeding, not wearing your seat belt, driving without a valid license, or incorrect registration.  It’s tough to argue against the charge because (a) the officer doesn’t care what you have to say, and (b) after weeks of driving these lawless roads, you probably have committed some sort of violation. So don’t argue; instead, respond with an understanding nod.

Step 3: Pull Out the Peanuts


It’s not uncommon to find yourself in a conversation that goes something like this:

Officer: License.
You: [eating peanuts]
Officer: Ah, I see you are eating peanuts.
You: Why, yes [crunch]. They are delicious. Do you eat peanuts?
Officer: I do.
You: Well then, have some! [Dumping peanuts into officer’s hands.] Please, take more!

With his hands full of peanuts, the officer may find it inconvenient to escort you to the commanding officer and will simply send you on your way. People I know have also used cigarettes, beer, and Kentucky Fried Chicken to win over an officer.

Step 4: Talk to the Boss

If you are treat-less, or if the first officer isn’t hungry, or if for whatever reason the he declines your offer, you will probably be asked to get out of your car and walk to the head officer, who will be seated comfortably in the back of a squad car. He will say something like, “It is a very high fee, are you sure you can pay it?” or, “Would you like to negotiate your fee?”

Bribery is illegal and has a bad connotation. An officer of the law would never want to be involved in bribery.  Negotiating a fee, however, is a different story. The officer will be hoping you say, “Why no. It is very high, is there another way?” He doesn’t want to write you a ticket any more than you want to receive it—he would much rather put your money toward his child’s college fund.

Step 5: Fork Over Two Twenties

The standard fee for just about every citable traffic offense in Swaziland is 60 emalangeni ($7.20). As with any negotiation, start low, expecting to pay about 40 emalangeni, or two-thirds of the cost of the ticket, when all is said and done. But don’t expect the officer to have change for a hundred. It’s best to carry small denomination bills to avoid having to fork over more than you want.

Step 6: Move Along


Once you’ve agreed on an acceptable amount, hand over your money, thank the officer for his kind and understanding nature, and return to your vehicle. You are now free to go back to speeding along the road.

If for some reason you are unable to negotiate your fee, pay the officer the full amount of the ticket and request a receipt for your payment. If he won’t give you a receipt, chances are he is just pocketing the money. Contesting a traffic violation in Swaziland is virtually unheard of, and unless you have time, money, and patience to spare, it is not recommended.

Future Prevention: Forge a Friendship

Many people avoid having to pay recurring bribes by simply building a rapport with their local officers. For example, my neighbor periodically brings an impala (which, ironically, has been illegally poached from a nearby nature reserve) to the police officers that patrol the road between the bar and his house. The officers always wave him through with a smile and a nod.

In Conclusion...

It’s hard to avoid being frustrated with officials who solicit bribes, but try not to vilify the individual police officer. In Swaziland, law enforcement agents are paid very little money, so roadblocks are seen as small-scale entrepreneurial endeavors to supplement their income. No single officer should be held accountable for corrupting law enforcement; it’s all part of a larger, corrupt system that is supported by willing motorists and conveniently ignored by people in power. At the same time, if you choose to bribe your officer, remember that you are supporting this system, and you shouldn’t be surprised if you get pulled over again in the future.

 

Comments

Posted on 5/27/2009 by

Adam DiClemente

Adam DiClemente

I will carry peanuts with me always. Thanks for the advice Mallory! OI!

Posted on 5/28/2009 by

Zach Brown

Zach Brown

If only peanuts worked in the US!

Posted on 5/30/2009 by

Chris Primm

Chris Primm

I think doughnuts might work here. Great story Mal!!

Posted on 5/30/2009 by

Marlane Lord

Marlane Lord

Interesting observations. Sounds like the author experienced this the hard way. Peanuts may possibly have more value than some currency...hopefully not the US though! Thanks, Ms. Primm.

Posted on 5/30/2009 by

Kim Leshin

Kim Leshin

The information and witty humor throught the article made it informative, educational and fun. Your life experience is amazing. Great Story

Posted on 5/30/2009 by

claudia velletri

claudia velletri

Very interesting and informative. We should be this lucky in the US to pay a paltry $7.20 for a traffic citation. At least one doesn't go to jail there. Keep up the good work.

Posted on 5/31/2009 by

Karen Primm

Karen Primm

Your article was well written and educational. I look forward to reading more of your work.

Posted on 6/01/2009 by

Karl Alan

Karl Alan

Great article on how to survive in a difficult environment. Look forward to more of your writings.

Posted on 6/02/2009 by

Julie Caravaggio

Julie Caravaggio

I appreciate your fun approach to such a corrupt situation. I know little about the Swazi culture, but feel like I was sitting next to you while you were handing over the peanuts! Now I have to hope my kids don't read your post and then try to negotiate with me when I tell them to clean their rooms! :) Write more!

Posted on 6/07/2009 by

Karen Ferri

Great story! Nice writing skills and great sense of humor! It is amazing what you are learning and experiencing in this far away land! Keep up the good work.

Posted on 6/11/2009 by

Nicolle OConnor

Nicolle OConnor

Love the article Malory, I look forward to reading your next one. I will ensure I carry a bucket of KFC at all times!

Posted on 6/12/2009 by

Helen Appleby

Helen Appleby

I wish my speeding tickets were only $7.20! But as a bag of peanuts is cheaper, I will take your experience to heart if I ever visit Swaziland!

Post a Comment

Related Story

I Finally Met A Swazi Guy Who Didn't Hit On Me

18 Aug 2009

 “Are you married?” the police officer asks, hiking up his trousers over his bulging gut. I don’t see how this ... read more

Related Photos
-->
Advertisements

Or login with Facebook:

Forgot your password? We can help you change it! Click Here

Not registered? Click here to create an account.