Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Swaziland Bureaucracy Aug 7 & 8

On Tuesday and Wednesday (8/7 & 8/8) I experienced a bit of Swaziland Bureaucracy. The automobile I purchased was available for me to pick up in Mbabane. Mbabane is the administrative capital of Swaziland and at least the downtown area has a much different look and feel than Manzini does. The second steward, Absalom, drove me to the immigration office to start the process of getting a work visa. The government buildings are big, old, and crowded. There are people waiting in lines everywhere and there are stacks and stacks of paper work everywhere, including in the hallways. In someways it wasn't much different than the US, except I couldn't get over feeling how easy it would be for someone to get "lost" in the system with all the stacks of paper. There aren't computers in the government offices or the police stations. We then went to the American Embassy to try and get help with the visa and pick up my automobile. Absalom was impressed and irritated at the same time with all the security we Americans have. He tried to object to some of the screening and taking away of cell phones, cameras, etc. I told him I was used to it and he was amazed.

After a second trip to Mbabane and the embassy I was able to take possession of the automobile. Then the registration process began on Wednesday. I can't really say it was more than it would be in Texas or California, except that you go from one place to another to get all the different pieces accomplished. The car has been donated (so to speak) to SAMVIM-St Paul's Methodist church. That was the best and only way to attempt to register it (since I don't have Swazi papers). In reality, I would be donating it when I leave anyway, because I'm sure it can be used for travel to and from the schools.

After paying a fee to get the proper forms at the revenue office, I had to take it to the police station to verify that the chassis number matched the documentation from the previous owner. This step is to prevent theft. The interesting thing was that someone wrote the chassis number incorrectly for the previous owners so we had to drive to another government office in Mbabane where they just gave us a form with the corrected number on it - per our word. Amazing. I did suggest we try taking it to the Mbabane police dept instead of driving all the way back to Manzini just to drive back to Mbabane. We were told we could do that, although the thought of asking the question seemed to be a bit bold for our young assistant/guide.

The auto wouldn't pass inspection though until I got two front tires and a wheel alignment. They really test cars being registered in Swaziland. There was a machine to test the tires, the brakes and the alignment. I doubt most of the automobiles on Texas roads would pass this inspection. The wheel alignment can't be done until I replace the tire rods (done) and the tire end racks which have to be ordered from Honda in Japan because evidently the car is a direct import from Japan. It will probably take at least 3 - 4 weeks just to get the parts. So I am probably at a standstill in this process and will be without a vehicle for who knows how long.

Thank God that the church (really the secretary) sent a young man named Fanele (I kept thinking of him as the "Fonz") to guide me through all this. He even knew some about cars so was very helpful.

Everyone we encountered (except the people in the Manzini police station) was very helpful and gracious. It really turned out to be a great day even though we will have to do it all again. I am now very comfortable driving from Manzini to Mbabane and around the government offices. I know where two police stations are and I didn't run a single person, auto or cow off the road! Glory hallelujah!

Today was definitely a day where we experienced God's presence through his many angels that helped us throughout the day. There were many blessings today for which I am very grateful.

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