Funny Moments from Maputo: Cop Stops

Living in the Developing World: Funny Moments from Maputo

A nice, sunny day in Maputo, as some kids watch a man bring his boat to shore, and my puppy tries to bite his ankles.


Throughout the day and most of the evenings, in various parts of Maputo, cops station themselves by the road with radar detectors to catch every car’s speed. Usually, the protocol that follows after you’ve been caught speeding is a long-winded, albeit strangely friendly negotiation of ‘please please don’t give me a ticket’; to which the cop says ‘ok, then what can you do for me’; followed by some numbers that go back and forth, peppered with high pitched “eeeesssh” s from you, indicating the numbers are so large you will go into bankruptcy, and “aaaaahh, noo” s from the cop who shakes his head, smilingly, indicating that the amount is perfectly reasonable. It ends with them asking, ‘what can you do for me’, and you have to give them a low number–and keep insisting until they eventually agree.

Sometimes, however, even if you’ve done nothing wrong, the cops will stop you randomly, just to see if you have all your papers. If you are missing any necessary documents for the car or they are expired, the cop smiles like it’s Christmas, and the above negotiation begins.

If you do have everything in order, they might ask you for a ‘refreshment’ anyway, but if you say ‘aaahh, sorry, next time’ enough, they usually let you go without too much fuss.

Because these cop stops are so annoying, my husband and I, along with a handful of other cars coming home, normally take a detour through a back dirt road to come home on Saturday nights.

But this weekend, the detour didn’t help: The cops figured out people were taking it–and were victoriously waiting to stop all of the cars that were coming through, their expressions like a chess novice who has just seen a check. We didn’t get hassled by them though, because we had all of our things, and were following all the rules.

It was then that we realized: We, along with many other normal people just coming home from a night out, have been purposely driving through a dark, broken-down alleyway…to avoid the police.


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