Bush policing not on

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  • Willie Stadler
    Willie StadlerParticipant

    Our group of three vehicles was on tour in Botswana in May this year, and we had an incident on our way back from Baines’ Baobabs to Maun. When coming through Gweta the previous day, we noticed a small road sign outside town giving the speed limit as 80 km/h, so we assumed that speed limit was still the same and stuck to it.

    About 10km from Motopi, a man jumped out of a bush on the right hand side, about 25 metres from the road. He ran towards us, waving, as a hitch-hiker would do. He had no uniform on. Our friend in front passed in his Land Cruiser Station Wagon, and then realised it could be a traffic officer and slowed to a stop. Because we were still looking at this strange figure, our Fortuner hit the Land Cruiser from behind.

    Suddenly, a traffic vehicle appeared out of the bush, and the guy who had been waving us down equally-suddenly had on a uniform. Both my vehicle’s airbags deployed, but the seatbelts caused the most harm. My wife fractured her knee (operated on later in PE) and broke five ribs, while I injured two ribs and the airbag hit me on the nose, causing a lot of bleeding. Our friend’s wife in the front vehicle got bleeding on the brain, which was also operated on later.

    The speed cop was now full of courage. He stopped a mediumsized tour bus and insisted that the driver take me and my wife to the hospital in Maun about 110km away. Then he left the other two vehicles without a word and drove off towards Gweta.

    We were discharged from the Provincial Hospital the same day and stayed over at a lodge to organise things. I don’t even want to describe the drama of the next three days. In short, at the police station they insisted that I go back to Gweta, to make a statement to the police there about the accident. I asked how I should get there, as my vehicle was a wreck.

    After much consultation, it was arranged that Sergeant Kobote, who was in charge of the case, would come to Maun from Gweta the next day so that we could file the report.

    According to citizens of Botswana, the law states that a traffic officer, his vehicle and the camera must be visible. In our case, they were not visible. We managed to arrange an appointment with the Maun police commander to complain about these things, and about the way this traffic officer, who had not been wearing his uniform, had tried to stop us by waving instead of showing a stop sign.

    He promised to attend to the matter. After three days of negotiations with Safair, the airport manager got permission for us to fly back with my wife’s leg cradled. My vehicle was written off and I left it at a transport business, after having arranged for my son to come from South Africa to collect it.

    That was not the end of the story. Three weeks later, my son went back to collect my wreckage. Suddenly, between Gweta and the turn-off to Baines Baobabs, a man jumped out of a bush about 20 metres from the road and came running towards him, waving a jacket. He stopped and went with the man to his camera. A traffic vehicle then appeared out of the bush.

    My son confirmed that it was his vehicle on the camera and that he had been travelling at 90 instead of 80. The officer named a fine amount in Pula, and said that he would fetch his receipt book. My son mentioned to him that he had come to fetch his father’s vehicle which had been in an accident a few weeks earlier on the same road. Oh, said the officer; he had been the official involved in the accident, and my son could go.

    So, it is clear that the head of police in Maun had done nothing about this bush occupant operating in the district of Gweta. I want to warn visitors to Botswana to be aware of this bush occupant about whom I have some questions, including some about his receipt book, and a few others about his compliance with Botswana’s traffic laws.

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