Our experience in avoiding corruption on a self drive road trip in South Africa…
On the second day of our three week self drive road trip in South Africa, we drive to Kruger via the Panorama Route which is in the greater Kruger area. The area between God’s Window and the Bourke’s Luck Potholes is very quiet, when suddenly we see a man in uniform jump out onto the road with a handmade cardboard sign saying ‘Stop’. My first reaction is we are getting car jacked, but my calm husband stops as there really isn’t any option other than to run the man over. Among my initial panic I also notice a ‘proper’ police car parked in the bushes on the side of the road so I am thinking it probably isn’t going to unfold as badly as I’m expecting. The officer walks up to the driver side and says to my husband “why are you going so fast suh?” “I didn’t think I wasn’t going that fast,” replies my husband and after some banter about what the limit was and how fast the officer alleges we are going (without radar camera proof) and inspecting my husband’s Australian driver’s licence, the policeman pulls out a laminated schedule of what the fine is per limit defaults.
“Okay give us the fine and we’ll pay it at the next police station” says my husband. “You have to pay it at Graskop” the officer replies. He’d been looking in the car and saw all our luggage, knew full well we weren’t going to back track all the way back to Graskop to pay the fine and tried to take advantage of the situation by stating we can pay him cash instead. “200 rand” as he points to the correct amount for our apparent misdemeanor.
I enter the conversation by stating we have only just arrived in the country and further lied by telling him we had no cash yet and only have a credit card, knowing full well mobile EFTPOS facilities are nonexistent in this situation. The officer is losing the battle but in a last ditch attempt tells us we can pay half in cash and then we can go. We reiterate that we have no cash whatsoever and the officer concedes he is getting nowhere and tells us we can go and to enjoy our holiday!
What to do do if you encounter corruption on South African Roads
Unfortunately, police corruption on South African roads is not confined to this area so the following advice will serve you well in other popular tourist destinations such as the Garden Route. If you are pulled over for a traffic law infringement (real or fictitious), then it is strictly illegal to pay cash to a traffic officer or to any other official on the roadside. Traffic officials must issue you with an official fine, which states the date, time and nature of the offence. Traffic fines must be paid at a police station or magistrate’s court only, where a receipt must be issued. Pay your fine at the police station or magistrate’s court in the specific town where the fine was issued. You can also pay your car rental company to pay the fine for you, at an additional fee.
Road tolls, where applicable, must be paid at official toll plazas only. Call the rental car company before hand and ensure your vehicle won’t have a logo sticker on them otherwsie you’re sure to be a target. If you see or experience police corruption on South African roads during your stay then please report it by calling the Police 24 hour hotline on 082 451 7044. Know what your rights area and you can be sure to avoid corruption on your self drive road trip in South Africa.