3 Fallacies and 1 Home Truth about self-drive in Zimbabwe

Ant Bown, ManaPools.com • 6 April 2019

For many, Zimbabwe remains the final frontier for Self-Drive. With Botswana and Namibia approaching capacity, Zimbabwe presents a diverse and wild alternative for the more adventurous. There are some specific challenges that remain. My view is that most self-drivers over-estimate the severity of these challenges and are put off far too easily.

FALLACY 1: Let's start with safety and security, a question I am often asked regards self-driving in Zim. In short, Zim does not have a problem with violent crime like some of our more-visited neighbours. Sure, there is petty theft (don’t leave cash or cellphones lying around) but hijackings and gun violence are rare. Despite (or maybe because of) the economic challenges, the fabric of Zim society remains intact and most people have respect for each other and common human decency.

The cops were a problem 18 months ago when they were trying to raise fine revenue by enforcing ridiculous regulations. Under the new dispensation, they are back to directing traffic and giving public transport drivers a hard time about their un-roadworthy vehicles and reckless driving. Fact is, the average cop’s heart was never really in it when they were ordered to extort funds from motorists in the past.  The average Zimbo is much more happy solving problems than causing them.

Hard fact – Zimbabwe’s homicide rate is one sixth of South Africa’s and one third of Botswana & Namibia’s.

FALLACY 2: Lets get this straight, FUEL DOES NOT COST US$3.32 PER LITRE! This is just inaccurate journalism. Either the writers do not understand mathematics, or they are just looking for sensationalist headlines. This fallacy was created by the original official insistence that government -issued local currency was 1:1 with the USD when in fact it trades at 4-4,5/USD on the black (real) market. The resultant official Z$3.32/l fuel price cannot be said to be equal to USD 3.32/l and is actually around USD 0.73/l, making it the cheapest in the region by some way!

This naturally results in excess demand and thus rather some impressive fuel queues. Unless you are an under-employed amateur fuel trader, don’t waste your time in a 2km fuel queue trying to buy a tank of the cheapest fuel in Africa. For people who have hard forex, fuel hovers between US$1.00 and US$1.20 per litre and you can buy coupons meaning you don’t have to stand in a long queue. If you are still not convinced, don’t worry, we can help you get coupons and fuel from Harare and Kariba and for goodness sake, don’t cancel your trip because of financially illiterate journalist’s opinions.

FALLACY 3: Food is horrendously priced and the supermarket shelves are bare. Same cause as fallacy 2….imported food is approx 30% more expensive than neighboring South Africa but supermarkets are still full of stuff you don’t need (my local Spar has about 10 types of cooking oil) and local brands remain affordable and more than good enough.

These 3 common misconceptions go a long way in explaining why Zim remains an undiscovered Self-Drive gem where you can have wild Africa to yourself in safety.

There is however, one under-rated risk to visiting Zim in my opinion:

THE ONE HOME TRUTH : The standard of driving in Zim really is poor! The proliferation of cheap imported 2nd hand vehicles and aforementioned cheap fuel means may people are first-time motorists who have never sat in the back of their parents car as children hearing critical analysis of other motorists’ driving technique. These new drivers do not yet understand their own mortality. Speed, poor maintenance and no insurance are a potent combination. You need to be aware of this, maintain following distance and assume all other road users are complete idiots. Try think ahead for everyone else and take it easy on the speed.

Hopefully, my explanation of these 3 Fallacies and one Home Truth will help you better understand the true risks in Self-Driving unexplored beautiful Zimbabwe and make a quality decision.

Please do contact us at ManaPools.com if you need assistance planning your trip or with 4×4 Rentals and Campsite & Kariba Ferry Bookings.

Comments (1)

Great article thank you. What has been the impact of Idai on fuel availability?

Karen Stevenson9 April 2019
Hi Karen. We at Manapools.com and Selfdivezim.com currently have vehicle and drivers in Chimanimani helping with the relief effort. Our drivers report that fuel is widely available in those regions at the controlled price. I suspect Government is prioritising fuel distribution to the cyclone areas at the controlled price. Despite this, Coupon Fuel (paid for in US$ at 1.38 per litre) remains freely available in Harare, unaffected by Idai. No queues if you fill up at a coupon depot e.g. Puma in Avondale. Ant Bown (ManaPools.com and Selfdrivezim.com).

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