Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bureaucracy inaction

Good news, legion of fans. I know all four of you have been on the edge of your computer chairs waiting for news of Tonka the Land Rover's gearbox.
Last night, while foolishly in the company of our 22-year-old ("I'm nearly 23") friend Jane (whose epitaph will one day read "only one drink, I promise"), Mrs Blog and I received the news we'd been waiting for... the gearbox had finally cleared customs in South Africa and arrived at the mechanic's garage in White River.
To recap... Mr and Mrs Blog live in Australia. Land Rover lives in Zimbabwe (usually). Series III Land Rover gearboxes live in the UK. Land Rover mechanic (at least one who knows how to tighten a nut beyond hand-tight) lives in White River, South Africa. Aussies buy gearbox sight-unseen with credit card in UK, fly to Zimbabwe, drive Land Rover to South Africa and, supposedly, gear box is delivered to mechanic and fitted.

It looks even more ridiculous writing it down. Counting travel costs, accommodation, and alcohol to drown sorrows at every turn, this must be the most expensive gearbox in the history of automotive madness.

Anyway, it was, at one stage looking too good to be true. We survived our nightmarish trip from Zimbabwe to South Africa in low-range 4x4 and the gearbox arrived at Johannesburg airport the day before we crossed the border.

However... and there is alwys an however in Africa... we arrived in the midst of a public service strike, and to news that the mechanic would have to apply for an import permit to import a gearbox. Of course, he couldn't apply for a permit or get it processed because of the public service strike.

Patience and money solve most problems in Africa. A customs clearance agent was duly paid (I won't got into details), but then the international air freight company, whose name has three letters (and it's not DHL) reckoned that we had not paid for freight from Johannesburg to White River and wanted to charge us R4000 (about AUD$700) for a three-hour drive. This was, gentle reader, f*ing bullshit.

"Pig's diddle," I said to the mechanic. Or words to that effect. They came back with another plan (I still love the whole 'making a plan' thing) and found a courier who would ship the gearbox for R300. Reluctantly, we paid.

So, 33 days after it arrived at Oliver R Tambo International Airport (the airport formerly known as Jan Smuts), we received the text while talking in Swahili with Jane. "Gearbox has arrived".

The other people in the pub would have thought we'd just won the lottery.

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