Police roadblocks are pretty common in Zimbabwe and can make road-tripping a time-consuming experience. It appears to me that some people suffer more than their fair share whilst others manage to dance through roadblocks most of the time without too much hassle. It got me thinking if some of this might not be related to different strategic approaches to ZRP roadblocks. I have never had much problems with them myself, so here are some strategies that I reckon may have helped me. They might be worth a try (if nothing else they are games you can play in your own mind):
Get in the right head space…. sounds a bit Zen but you are on holiday now, try see the journey as part of the holiday. Somehow the ZRP can sense if you are in a hurry or stressed. My rule is, as I cross Beitbridge, I switch to Africa time and try adjust my mindset accordingly. Best do it quickly because within 2km you will find your first roadblock.
Obey the laws….our website outlines the requirements in terms of paperwork and equipment, make sure you have everything and it is accessible. Observe and obey speed limits and the rules of the road.
Time your approach speed…. slow enough to be respectful, but fast enough to appear self-assured and preferably just fast enough to be difficult to stop. The optimum approach speed is difficult to judge but about 40km/h is generally about right. Often you will be waved through because you are halfway through anyway!
When you do get stopped:
Own the conversation….most Southern African languages have a greeting ritual of question and response, you can use this to your advantage. Stop the car, turn down the radio, wind down the window and greet the policeman first with a cheery but respectful “Good morning officer”. You have started the conversation politely and now the obligation is on them to respond to your greeting. When he/she does, ask another question, any question will do, I usually go with “Is this the right road to Cairo?”, this usually brings some humor to the situation and he will explain that you may be a little off track. Keep asking questions, “how far is Karoi”, “what condition is the road?” “hows the rainy season been?” . Nine times out of ten the whole thing degenerates into a friendly conversation and they will wave you off with a smile – it would be rude to end it any other way.
If the worst comes to the worst and you do end up being asked for a bribe, try play dumb and ignore the hints and keep chatting around the issue until they realize that you have plenty of time to talk and they will invariably wave you on your way eventually.