Am writing to you with regards to an incident that I and my brother encountered while passing through Zambia. I and my brother who has been based in South Africa for more than 10 years now have always wanted to travel in southern Africa by road. We therefore started our bus journey in Tanzania. We arrived at Nakonde border post at 10.am on 2011-01-07, where all passengers were ordered to disembark the bus we were traveling on. We were lead to the passport control office where two officers (one male and one female) were in charge of our group. While in line I started noticing that many of the passengers were putting money in their passports before giving it to the officers. When it was our turn we handed in our passports without putting any money in them, the female officer checked our passports, put them aside and told us to wait.
When they were done with the other passengers they came back to us, telling us that we had to pay an entry fee of 100$ to pass through Zambia. Some passengers who had not put enough money in their passports were forced to top up before given clearance by the officers to board the bus again. I tried to tell them that we were just passing through and didn´t intend to spend any time in Zambia since it was not part of our plan. I even told them that the visa in my passport gave me clearance to pass through Zambia and my brother who was traveling on his south African passport didn’t need to pay any fees either, all in vain. I then pleaded with the officers to let both of us through for 140$ since that was the only money we had on us. The officers vehemently refused our offer and made it clear that non of us was going to cross into Zambia without paying the required amount. Since I had some appointments in Johannesburg before flying back to Sweden I had to pay the required amount and continue my journey while my brother had to wait for help from some of our friends in Tanzania.
Back on the bus, a passenger told me that soliciting money from passengers has always been a common practice at Nakonde border post and the government of Zambia was very much aware of it but has never cared to intervene. The border officers can therefore extract money from anyone passing through with lots of confidence and impunity.
I have been to countries in Africa like Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana to name a few but never encountered the level of arrogance and abuse of authority that I witnessed at Nakonde border post. My brother made it to Johannesburg a day after me, he was tired and furious but in good health.
Now that I have revealed this to you, I would kindly like to know if the government of Zambia is aware of the problem what it intends to do about it? An Irish philosopher once said evil usually prevails when good men/ women fail to act. Abuse of authority and corruption is the evil prevailing at Nakonde border post and it´s up to you Zambians to do something about it. More action and less lip services is what is required to extricate Nakonde border post from the vice.
Thomas O Larsson