I had been wondering why all the cars, buses, matatus were going up that hill in one long line on the right-hand lane of the dual carriageway. Kumbe it was so that cops couldn’t spot their number-plates and flag them down for speeding. I pulled out to the left to overtake the dawdling queue and was promptly flagged down myself. The cop asked for my licence and I gave it to him, following which he informed me that I had been driving at 118 kph instead of 110 kph.
Naturally, there ensued what we shall call a warm discussion. Since it was very likely that I had been doing 118 kph earlier, and since I had been told that the evidence is incontrovertible (a photo of your car, superimposed with the illegal speed at which it has recently been travelling), I began by trying to tell the policeman that really 8kph above the limit was not that much. He asked me: “Wewe unataka tusimamishe watu wanaenda spidi ya ngapi?” (“At what speed would you prefer us to start flagging people down?”)
I advised myself to abandon this line of argument.
Pressing his point home, the policeman helpfully showed me the cash-bail receipt of an individual who’d been doing 114 kph instead of 110 kph. My sin began to look blacker and blacker. I comforted myself when I saw that there was a Subaru B4 driver who had been caught doing a rather nippy 144 kph.
Since I couldn’t convince the cop to let me off, I decided to bite the bullet. I believe if you’ve done wrong and the law catches you, then you should allow yourself to be dealt with as the law stipulates. One simple way of fighting corruption is by not being corrupt. Simple, I said. Not necessarily easy.
Now you see, for offences including traffic offences (different from crimes), one is supposed to be taken to court immediately, where the magistrate pronounces your judgement haraka-upess. Except it was the weekend. So courts were not in session. So I couldn’t be taken to court. So I was supposed to go to jail, until such time as the courts would open on Monday. Only that this could be avoided by paying bail. But bail was KES 5,000. Which I didn’t have.
“Huna kwa MPesa?”
Haya we ngojea hapo, tuite polisi mwenzetu kutoka Kabete (we were towards LIMURU), akupeleke ATM, utoe pesa, ukuje station, ulipe bail.
“Officer uko na licence yangu. Wacha nikimbie niwithdraw, halafu nilete Kabete.”
“Hapana! Licence zimejaa kwa station, hatuachiliangi watu namna hiyo siku hizi.”
And so it was that I had to wait until a policewoman came all the way from Kabete Police Station and was assigned to me to ensure that I paid bail. I had been rushing to meet my good friend and our lawyer over something, so I called ahead to let them know I’d be late. When the policewoman arrived, she was given my licence, and we got into the car and set off for the nearest ATM.
“Mbona umekasirika namna hiyo?” [Standard Police/Government procedure is to put you on the back foot and/or on the defensive and then take things from there]
“Hapana sijakasirika officer.” And truly I wasn’t annoyed.
“Sasa utalipa namna gani?”
“Nataka tu nikimbie kwa ATM ni-withdraw, halafu turudi Kabete.”
“ATM iko wapi?”
“Aiiii… huko ni mbali sana, mi siwezi enda mpaka huko. We fanya hivi, tukifika Kabete, uingie police station uache gari yako hapo kwa station. Panda matatu kutoka Kabete mpaka Westlands, utoe pesa halafu urudi Kabete Police Station ulipe bail ndio tukupatie gari yako we uende.”
“Hapana officer, Westlands sio mbali sana, na hatutachukua muda mrefu. Twende tu.”
“Uko na lunch?” [No doubt that while creating the problem, this was what the cunning female had been leading up to all along]
“Officer, kama ni lunch, wacha twende tu police station.”
“Haya basi, twende u-withdraw.”
At the Mobil opposite Njuguna’s I spotted a StanChart ATM, so I managed to withdraw a lot quicker than we had anticipated. Afterwards we went to the police station, I posted bail, they took down my phone number, receipted my payment, returned my driving licence, and advised me to be at Kibera Law Courts on Monday morning. Happily, considering the circumstances, I got to the meeting only 30 minutes late.
Next: In Court