or my oddyssey through Pretoria
16.05.2010 - 18.05.2010 22 °C
In many ways things in South Africa work quite similar to how it is in Europe, rather organised let’s say compared to other African countries. Or maybe similar to how things were in Europe just BEFORE wide spread use of the internet and customer service orientation in public authorities speeded up a lot of processes. However, in South Africa you still get away with a lot and controls and checks, say if your car is not registered properly and the tax certificate is out of date, its likely you get away with it for a while because nobody will notice.
Let me tell you my story of the month. I bought my car a while ago now and still drive on the dealer’s registration because a) I’ve been quite busy and away a lot, b) the dealer assured me he can make the change easily himself when I hand the car in for a day and c) heard many stories from people that it is actually not that easy to get it all sorted and it needs a lot of documents…
So when I had some time at the start of the month after coming back from Germany, I decided to get it going. The dealer did the roadworthy test as promised and collected my passport and ID copy and gave it all to his office so they could do it. Over a week after no word from the dealer I phoned to find out that they couldn’t do it because a small thing from my side was missing. The oh –so-dreaded TRAFFIC REGISTRATION NUMBER. I had prayed they could pull some strings and somehow do it without it but they couldn’t. This is the thing I heard about from various people – the number you need to get from the Licensing Department to be able to register a car in your name. So colleagues told me to take all documentation and copies of that with me that I can find plus 2 pictures and to be prepared to wait…
I checked their opening hours online and via the ‘customer service hotline’ – 8am to 3pm and decided to get on the way across town just after lunch. Unfortunately there was another big accident (almost as usual on a busy day in Pretoria) on a motorway exit close to the office and after the first 500m took me over half an hour, I gave up and returned to the office. Lucky in a way because when I went to the Department at 8am the next morning, I saw a little sign saying ‘Traffic registration numbers only from 8-12am’. So I would have been to late anyway.
So I got into the surprisingly short queue with only 7 people or so in front of me. But this wasn’t an easy thing and each person took quite long at the one counter that was staffed (out of at least 6…). The closer I came to the front and overheard the conversations, I realised that there was also a form to complete that I didn’t have, yet. To save time, I asked a person at another counter that wasn’t open to give me one so I wouldn’t have to get it first and then queue again. Great, I thought! I had everything I thought– photos, (official) passport, visa, proof of residence, ID, driving license as well as copies of everything. And the form. I’ll be out here by 8.30 I thought… boy, was I wrong!
Form filled in I started listening to the other conversations in front of me again and realised that every single person was missing some sort of document and was turned away after loud, lengthy and quite patronising explanations from the young lady behind the counter. No discussion, no excuses! While still in the queue, I realised I was missing a ‘proof of purchase’ of the car, a receipt or the original car documents. Why you need to have that already in order to register a car (which requires all the original car documents anyway) I didn’t understand. But these were still at the dealer since he was gonna do the registration for me. Bugger! Anyway, I waited til it was my turn in the queue, showed everything and was told that I was missing the proof of purchase. As original, no fax, no email (‘Actually, we don’t even have a fax machine here’, the lady said). Fine. ‘ANYTHING ELSE?’ I asked, just to make sure. ‘No, just that’. Ok, I thought, not too bad. Around 9am I got out and phoned the dealer. Outside, the car park was full of people offering to make passport photos in a small cabin under a tree and the queue there was quite long as well. But these I had luckily. Johan, the dealer, had moved offices since I bought the car but organised his colleague at the old office to help me out with the receipt. So I drove across town to the dealer, picked everything up, got a copy and went straight back to the department. 9.50AM, back in the queue, 10.30 front of the queue. The lady behind the counter was a different one now. Still, almost everyone in front of me had been turned away because something was missing. The biggest problem seemed the proof of residence, which has to be a electricity or phone bill but if somebody doesn’t have that because they just rent a room or so, it gets messy… then you need to take the landlord with their passport and a letter stating that they rent to a police station or post office to get it officially certified (including the copies of course). Otherwise no traffic registration number, i.e. no car. Puh! Back to my case – I got to the front, again confident, this was it now. This time the lady looked and looked through everything, then asked why I wanted the traffic registration number. What??? Was that a trick question? I didn’t want to challenge my luck, so just said ‘because I bought a car and I want to register it.’ ‘Ok’, she said and kept looking through everything. ‘Do you work?’ was the next question. ‘Yes’, I said. And then, despite my ‘working’ passport that stated clearly what I do and where, she wanted to see a proof of employment. My heart fell. No, I didn’t have that and explained where in the passport she find all this information. That wouldn’t be sufficient for her management to approve it. They want a letter – no fax, no email. Same, same but different…
I left the department again at 11am, 1h til closing… it felt like in one of these reality TV treasure hunts. Off to another part of town to the office where I had to argue with the guards at the gate to let me in because the car park was full. They eventually did it, threatening to clamp my car, if I wouldn’t be out again after 10 minutes. No problem, I thought. And it just took me a good 10 minutes to get the letter I needed and then rushed back onto the road, getting annoyed with all the pre-World Cup road constructions that are still in full swing all over town. Back at the department at 11.55 and only one person in front of me in the queue. Everybody else from the morning had probably given up by that time… And that was it then – I handed in my document and eventually, with a friendly smile, the lady behind the counter gave me a little receipt with the date for collection of the traffic registration number on it. That was in 3 weeks time…Just for that number! Crazy…
So when I left and they closed the doors behind me, I was exhausted. And it was only midday. And I asked myself the question – how many days would this take you when you on public transport, if haven’t actually bought a car, yet (because some dealers require this number BEFORE they will actually sell you a car!)? So I was probably lucky after all?
Well, I only believe it when I have the number in my hands… let’s hope they don’t catch me with my expired registration in the meantime.
Sorry about the lack of pictures in this story - next time I go there I'll take my camera. :-)
Take care everyone!