It dawned on me recently that my government granted permission to drive on these here chaotic roads of ours had run its course and duly expired. It was also a rude reminder about just how quickly 3 years can fly by, and in the grander scheme of things, 9 years, as this was my 3rd set of 3 years as a bonafide driver, having learned how to drive in a friend’s Toyota Kikumi while on campus.
I will have you know that nothing about this car was automated. Sometimes we had to get out the car to turn on the lights, so it was important that you never picked up a girl in those transitional hours between day and night, lest you became the subject of campus gossip. Driving it was was so challenging, that one had no need to go to the gym after a brief 5 minute drive the night before, from MUBS to the famous Al-Zawadi of the day.
Anyway, back to my driving permit: the first time I applied for one, it involved a myriad of complexities. The proverbial back and forth, sign here, sign there, pay this one, pay the other one a little more, go to the doctor, check your eyes, then your ears, get a haircut (luckily I had started balding so I skipped that one), go to URA, see the police, go to Face Technologies, then back to the Police et cetera, et cetera.
Because I hoped to circumvent the bulk of these processes, I did the Ugandan thing and paid someone who would in turn pay other people to oil the machine and make things move faster (please note that I was young and stupid then and have not engaged in bribery of any sorts since. I am now an upstanding citizen of remarkable character…well until the day there is one pack of nsenene left and I am the 3rd in line. Rest assured I will bribe my way to that pack). So the said broker managed to reduce the timelines considerably (to one month) but at a hefty cost to the broke campuser that I was back then, not that much has changed anyway. One month down the road and I had my first ever driving permit and was ready to hit the streets, become one of those people in “my cars” that taxi drivers loathed and of course get the privilege of abusing these menaces to society: boda boda cyclists!
Fast forward to 3 years later, my permit was expired and I had to go through the process of renewal. Even if it was considerably shorter than the initial application process, it was a bother nevertheless. I still had to run here and run there, do this, do that and still pay a guy to help out.
This same process was repeated 3 years later but this time I had little to no concern for what was involved. Many thanks to my older sister who manages to make us all look older than her (she found the fountain of youth and refused to disclose its location) for her help but mostly for her contacts. I won’t bore you about the next one, because I was bored enough for the both of us.
Now to the latest episode of this driving permit series. I decided to test the system and have a walk through the process, jump the hurdles and do the time. No phone calls, no favours, no errand guy. I was determined to parade the failed system before the court of public opinion and sentence it to a lifetime of disdain and a tirade of online verbal cacophony (yes I am a social media protestor: TOGIKWATAKO).
To my surprise, there was hardly anything amiss. I literally got my permit in 3 easy steps. I paid the URA fees online from the comfort of my home on a Saturday, presented the payment in Kyambogo on Monday, made another payment and signed only 1 form in a process that took no more than 20 mins (it could have been shorter but I insisted on taking a new picture so that I could show off my newly acquired beard, perhaps the only hair on my otherwise barren head) I was then asked to pick up my permit in 5 working days, which I swiftly did, another process that took only 5 minutes.
Friends, forgive me for making this come off as a rather wordy and long winded endorsement for the system that is championed by the Ministry of Works and managed by a few other partners (Face Technologies, URA and the banking system) but I will give credit where it is due.
It is not every day that something works in this banana republic. Whoever is involved in this new and efficient way of working, I appreciate you and commend your efforts. And for those that are still holding custodianship over ineffective, archaic and simply obsolete systems in Uganda, please pick a leaf but feel free to pick the whole tree too.
Now off I go to abuse taxi drivers, boda boda men and those annoying humans that hoot at you half a second after the lights turn green. I have a new permit and i have earned my right.