For drivers: When in Zimbabwe, STOP for Mugabe's motorcade

Harare - Driving through the Zimbabwean capital Harare? There's one thing to remember, stop when President Robert Mugabe's motorcade goes past. Actually, stop well before it goes past.

Freeze at the first sound of sirens. Park at the side of the road. Do not advance, even if you think it will take you two seconds to make that quick right-hand turn.

Unsuspecting visitors to Harare will sometimes come across a lane of traffic obediently parked at the side of a normally busy road. No sign of a motorcade, nothing.

The careful those who don't want to run into complicated problems with the police and then the courts will do as everyone else is doing and pull to the side of the road immediately.

Because soon, you'll hear a siren, and then a motorcycle outrider and then finally you'll see the black limos and the open-backed vehicle with the helmeted soldiers inside.

In the third motorcade incident reported so far this month, a man driving a tipper truck in Harare on Saturday tried to be clever and make a quick turn at an intersection when the 92-year-old president's motorcade was about to fly past, according to a report in the privately-owned Newsday on Tuesday.

Negligent driving 

He was stopped by police officers in one of the (several) vehicles that follow Mugabe's limo in the motorcade. But when 29-year-old Joseph Chakanetsa was told to accompany police officers to the nearest station he apparently took fright and sped off in his truck, according to Newsday.

He was caught, eventually, and has already appeared in court to face charges of "intercepting" the motorcade.

There have been reports within the last decade of drivers being roughed up for not stopping in time to let the motorcade pass.

In an unusual incident last week, two police officers travelling in a private vehicle were arrested for not stopping for the motorcade.

On June 1, the state-owned Chronicle newspaper reported that a bus driver had collided with a motorcycle outrider accompanying Mugabe's motorcade on its way to the main Harare airport. The driver also sped away but was pursued, arrested and charged with "negligent driving".

Sadly, sometimes motorcade crashes are fatal. At least three people were killed in a string of crashes reported in 2012.

If you're visiting the Zimbabwean capital and wanting to avoid a run-in with the motorcade, remember that there are some roads that are more likely to be used by the president than others. The Hatfield road out to the airport is often used, given Mugabe's frequent foreign trips.

But so is the main Borrowdale road past Sam Levy's Shopping Centre, which, with its cafes and cinema, is popular with visitors and diplomats.

Mugabe and his wife have a house in Borrowdale Brooke.

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