I’m perfectly comfortable paying the Malian road tax, since the Malian Government does such an incredibly awesome job of repairing and maintaining the transportation infrastructure in our region…. 🙂 The rebuilt highway between Bougouni and Sikasso is the result. They actually requested the Chinese to rebuild the highway. They asked the Chinese to freely donate the machinery, the managers, the expertise, and all the paving expenses, and the Chinese agreed (securing some secret mineral and land rights in the process). That is our vignette coffers NOT at work.
I really do wish to pay my motorcycle “road tax” by procuring my “vignette” card. Each region in Mali requires owners of motorcycles, cars and trucks to pay this road tax into the state coffers. So we must go to the government offices of our region and buy a vignette that you must keep on you at all times. This means I have to carry my driver’s licence, gray card ( registration), insurance paper, and a vignette, at all times.
I tried to pay for my vignette four times since my arrival, arriving only to find either a completely empty office, or an office full of people unable to locate the one man responsible for issuing vignettes.
I tried once again this morning. Again, I arrived at his vacant desk , again the others sitting at desks in the office went looking for the gentleman in charge, and they actually found him this morning. Great!
Well, the news is not really that wonderful. The man arrived chewing a mouth full of attieke (grated cassava) and standing over his desk, he asked me what I wanted, as pieces of attieke fell out of his mouth on to the papers on his desk.
What do I want? Seriously? I want a vignette, Mr Man-in-charge-of-selling-Vignettes.
He informed me, bits of attieke falling out of his mouth as he talked, that they did not actually have any Vignettes in the office. “Try again in a few weeks, and we “might” have a few from Bamako.”, he replied.
We internationals refer to this as “WAWA” (West Africa Wins Again).
Driving without a vignette is something I can get hassled over if I am stopped by the police. I am responsible to have it. However, they are not responsible for providing the service. It’s probably fallout from the Coup D’Etat over a year ago.
I also still do not have a licence plate on my motorbike after three years. Not an issue in Mali, as long as I have my grey card to prove the bike is registered and the plate is ordered, you can drive for years without a plate. Friends of mine waited seven years for their licence plates. The only issue for me is that it makes it impossible for me to cross the border with the bike, and I do work near the Burkina Faso border.
Before leaving Mali in March 2013, I was told that something must be wrong, both the plate numbers before and after mine arrived, but my plate number has not. They were afraid that my plate number was jumped over when making plates. So the gentleman in charge took a photocopy of my Gray Card saying he would personally look into the situation in Bamako, the next time he is there.
I returned to Sikasso this week, seven months later, and still no plate. My friend Pierre checked at the office about a month ago, and they took yet another photocopy of my papers. I’m not holding my breath.
The most interesting conversation I heard was in January 2013. I had already checked on my plate in December 2012, and in January 2013 they said to come back in a month. Before I left the office, a friend of the man in charge arrived for the same reason.I overheard the gentleman explain to his friend that it will be some time before any plates arrive. “The new Managing Director in Bamako is blowing the department’s money”, he said. “The printing shop in Bamako does not even have ANY of the needed supplies to make licence plates right now. The shelves are empty” Once I heard that, I realized that there was not any reason for me return the following month.
What about insurance? I know I am the only guy in the whole city of Sikasso who pays insurance for his moto. Trucks and cars, yes, but no one buys insurance for their motorcycles, except me.
Maybe I could get by without it too, but it is the law, and if you leave loopholes, a drunk or drugged up soldier or policeman will have the means to give you trouble. I actually went to eight different insurance offices in Sikasso, half of which told me that I do not need moto insurance, they never heard of it. The other four insurance offices said that their company does sell moto insurance, but they have never sold a policy, and do not have any insurance slips to give me anyway.
A Malian friend of mine was guiding me to each of these insurance offices, and after a exhausting and fruitless stop at them all (and one flat tire thrown in there), he happened to see his friend, the Chief of Police of Sikasso. He asked the Chief of Police where we can get moto insurance, and even he did not know where we can purchase it. He offhandedly indicated to try a certain place, but we had already been there. This indicates to me that even the Chief of Police does not have moto insurance. But I do.
I finally found L’Assurance Bleu, and they sold me a moto insurance policy. The good news is that I now live directly across the terrace from “L’Assurance Bleu”. The manager is my neighbor now. Getting my moto insurance renewed is now much less painless as a result, and he has the moto insurance slips on site for me…. but only for me.