What to do if you’re a Zimbabwean who’s had their identity documents stolen

From driving licences to passport applications to reporting crime, the inefficiency of the South African civil service is certain to have plagued any citizen on at least one occasion. But what happens if you’re not South African? The resultant chaos can only be described as the stuff of legend. MUHAMMED ISMAIL BULBULIA explains.

No one likes being robbed – even if you don’t experience a traumatic attack, there is rage at the theft, worry at the financial consequences, and sheer helplessness in the face of all the administration you need to do, hindered by an absurdist bureaucracy.

Picture this: you’re a Zimbabwean living in South Africa who’s had your car and all your documents stolen. In the case of Facebook user Nigel Branken’s friend Charles, this actually happened.


Here’s what to do if you’re a foreign national who’s had your car and identity documents stolen. We’re not saying it will help but, technically, these are the hoops you’ll need to jump through to report the theft of your car. Read on, and weep.

1. Go to the police, obviously. Get told by the police that they will not start investigating the theft until you provide the very same registration documents that were stolen, less obviously.

2. Get referred by police to the vehicle licensing department.

3. Have the licensing department inform you that a copy of your registration documents will not be issued unless you provide them with your passport which, again, has been stolen.

4. Sigh deeply. Do the “Woosah” calming technique from Bad Boys 2 to lower your blood pressure.


5. Provide the licensing department with a certified copy and affidavit of your passport.

6. The licensing department will now tell you that the certified copy is not good enough and they require your original passport.

7. This means that you will have to travel back to Zimbabwe somehow (without documents), apply for a birth certificate, wait seven days, apply for an ID, wait some more, apply for a passport and wait even more. Then make your way back to South Africa, return to the licensing department and apply for the documents, pray for efficiency and, finally, return to the police station to open a case so that police can begin their investigation.

8. Alternatively, wonder if you are living in a cruel rendition of Groundhog Day. Whatever you do, try to keep your head from exploding out of sheer frustration at the stupidity of it all.

– Featured image: By Newtown Graffiti via Flickr; gif via kinetic scribe.