July 15, 2008 GMT
Chaos & Confusion in Customs


The idea of corruption is to make as much money out of the muzungus (white foreigners) as possible. However, in our case it all backfired on the KRA (Kenyan Revenue Authority). Eventually, essentially, they disorganized their way out of money. We paid a maximum of $11.00 on 'special taxes' which started out as about $150.00.

We arrived back at JJ's feeling elated after talking to James from Suzuki South Cape Town (www.suzukisouth.co.za), about the second new shock absorber arriving in the new week only to find a telephone message suggesting that, indeed, the first shock (that had gone missing) was found and awaiting collection in customs at the cargo terminal of the Nairobi Airport.

With a rapidity verging on hysteria we hired a taxi, collected our relevant documents and headed for X-press Parcel service. There we were entertained by Yvonne with the required 'release' documents and the news that their office had unsuccessfully attempted to pry the shock from the clutches of the Customs Office.

We bolted to the Cargo Terminal and after several approaches at various office blocks which invariably shoveled us to other locations we found the Cargo Import section of Kenya Airways.

Happy birthday Jules
Esther, Jules & Jurgen

Leaving the taxi we were immediately surrounded by well dressed and often fully suited hawkers tempting, in typical African fashion, these muzungus with assistance.

We needed no help. Hell! How hard could it be as we confidently entered the building.

Facing a row of empty counters in an equally empty and spacious office, we quickly came to the conclusion that this is now where we needed to be.

A cry from one of the hawkers "No over here, there is nothing there". Promptly and with as much dignity as we could muster we changed direction, meeting a scruffy security guard at the gated compound. Entering and henceforth being directed to a small typically over furnished office where a young lady with a bureaucratic halo about her informed us that we needed to discuss our case with Mr Chacha in the big green building to our right.

Apparently the Toyota factory has trained Chimpanzees for this Job
Grant and Mike work on Duf

We went to the big green building and with due African efficiency we were directed to Mr Chacha's office.

Uncomfortably we stood awaiting our turn whilst the ever persistent hawkers (yes they had increased in number) helped us immensely by pointing at Mr Chacha's closed office door.

Meanwhile his receptionist in the waiting room, for we assume she was the receptionist, possibly mistress, flicked nonchalantly through the pages of a local non-gender specific women's magazine. She seemed otherwise to have no other particular purpose.

Eventually we approached Mr Chacha's door, knocking respectfully before entering. There stood a man of wide girth, astoundingly important and decked out in pinstripes.

We braced, maintained our presence, stepping in and sitting at his enormous imposing desk.

With charisma Mr Chacha moved towards his seat and sat. Yet another receptionist (or mistress) stepped in and thrust important looking documents upon his desk.

A jovial conversation ensued in Kiswahili, whilst we sat waiting patiently with angelic smiles.

Eventually Mr Chacha turned his attention to us and thereby we approached our subject presenting our 'less' important paperwork, including a craftily composed letter from James stating our parcel was a warranty claim, thereby exempt from duty.

"Warranty means nothing in Kenya " he espoused.

We insisted, stating clearly that the shock was of little commercial value, in fact we were unaware of the price ($900.00 as a matter of fact).

Mr Chacha insisted as he flicks through documents "What is this 50 written here"

"Must be 50 Rand," we reply "as the parcel is from South Africa ."

"How much is 50 Rand then?" he questioned

Quickly and politely we point to his calculator, which he pushes towards us. Fifty Rand calculated to US dollars then to Kenyan Shillings equated to about 450K/=.

He stares at the figure "This is a very small amount, however, in Kenya, you must pay duty unless you wish the process to be a long and tiresome affair, just a small amount, any amount is fine."

Suddenly all air of professionalism leaves the room and with that the KRA vision statement upon his wall comes into view with gracious words of transparency.

Poor Tent

With a flourish he waves his hand.

"Just a small amount, lets calculate the value of the shock absorber at 1000K/="

Mr Chacha makes his rapid fire calculations and informs us we should pay no more that 700K/= in duty. Ok, 11 bucks is not too bad to pay and have the shock in our hands today.

As he signs the papers, roughly scrawling the 1000K/= on the corner of the documents he details the procedure we need to follow. Back to the warehouse, then to the bank, back to the warehouse again, and that is that... no more.

Like caricatures of vultures the hawkers were waiting for us as we exited Mr Chachas office. Hounding us for their assistance. Miraculously, politely and firmly we managed to dissuade them.

Back to the cluttered bubble wrap filled package office. We were pushed from desk to desk until a disinterested middle aged woman came to our aid. It seemed rather a tiresome affair for her. And we pondered at her being in our place instead.

On the phone....... again

Reading Mr Chachas notes she dutifully calculates our required payment at 10,000K/=.

"Mr Chacha said it should not be more than 700K/=" we cried panic stricken.

"Oh, my mistake" she notes "I thought it read 100,000 not 1,000."

"Easy mistake" we placate, laughing nervously.

Recalculating, the figure came out to 550K/=, much better.

She orders a young man at a computer terminal to print out an invoice to be paid at the bank.

The young man asks to see our agent. "There is no agent" we state "The agent sent us". As happens the banks will not accept invoices without an agents stamp on them.

Great.... options to solve this problem were:

A) Go back to X-press package for agent stamp - 1/2 hour each way plus stopping time;

B) Find an agent at the warehouse who would stamp papers for fee of, possibly, 200- 1000K/=;

C) Pay 'John Doe', who appeared as if on cue, 500K/= for a stamp.

Choosing Option C) as the easiest and most convenient as the afternoon was racing away from us.

With all papers (stamped) in hand our driver takes us away from the cargo terminal to Arrivals, where the banks are. Stand in line and wait... perusing the invoice we were surprised that the amount to be paid was now 250K/=.

We looked at the invoice total, looked at each other and shrugged.

Back to the cargo office, receipt in hand and finally they hand over our shock absorber, no questions asked.

Shock in Hand

Interestingly not one person asked for proof of identification through out the whole process.

We sign out of security and our driver Mauro takes us back to JJ's within a respectable 1 hour even though it was peak hour traffic in Nairobi , we were expecting at least 2 hours. Well worth the money!

The following day, closer inspection of the reconditioned shocker proved that the non-standard heavy duty spring fitted in Cape Town, had distorted the shocker, thereby causing early failure. We decided to fit the original standard spring and shock, as was intended, on the bike.

After due work, completed by Grant, and packing we were out of Nairobi , for us a loathsome city and heading north to Isiolo and the infamous A2 - Isiolo to Moyale rough road.

We would like to thank James Bower and the team at Suzuki South, Cape Town, for their outstanding assistance and service. James organised for a shock absorber to be dismantled from a new show room bike and then when that shocker went missing, thanks to Kenyan Airlines, he fast tracked a factory shocker from Japan. Delivery took only 10 working days including the loss and recovery of the first shock absorber. Great stuff Suzuki!!

Piggy awaiting Surgery

Posted by Grant Guerin at July 15, 2008 02:07 PM GMT

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