Part 2 of a 3-part series. Read Part 1.

As I was saying…I came full-circle.

I started my epic journey at the Randburg Licensing Department, at 11:00 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, only to learn that Randburg only accepts traffic register number applications on Wednesdays from 7:30 to 10:00 a.m. (I need to get a traffic register number before I can register my car.)

Thursday morning I went to the Langlaagte Licensing Department, only to learn that the power was out.

Friday morning I went to the Roodepoort Licensing Department, only to learn that traffic register number applications are closed until February at that office.

Which brings me back to Randburg.

Randburg Licensing Department. Wednesday, December 18.

I drag myself to Randburg at 7:45 a.m. the following Wednesday. The office doors are closed and a long line snakes through the courtyard. I make eye contact with a frustrated-looking guy in the line.

Me: What’s happening?

Frustrated guy: The office is closed. It’s supposedly opening at 9:30.

Me: Why?

Frustrated guy shakes his head. He doesn’t know.

I leave and go to the ATM. I get back at 8:00. The line hasn’t moved. I join it.


Randburg Licensing Department. Inexplicably closed.

I eventually learn, from the man behind me, that the office is closed because of a union meeting. Many of the other people in line were waiting here yesterday as well. Yesterday, “the system was down”.

We wait patiently until 9:30. (Actually not everyone waits patiently. Several people have given up and left, including the guy in front of me. All the better for the rest of us.) The doors open and the line moves quickly.

I reach the “Help Desk” before 10:00. There’s still time to apply for a traffic register number!

Me: Hi. I need to apply for a traffic register number.

Licensing lady: Sorry. Applications are closed until January 16th.

[Hahahahaha. Ha.]

Me: Why?

Licensing lady: The person who does that is on leave.

Me: Where should I go then?

Licensing lady: Where do you live?

Me: Melville.

Licensing lady: If you live in Melville you can’t get a traffic register number here anyway. You have to go to the office closest to your area. Which is Langlaagte.

The horror.

I really, really do not want to go back to Langlaagte. I would rather stab myself in the eye with an icepick.

I drive home, silently raging. I try to call Langlaagte, hoping (irrationally) that someone will pick up and tell me that the power is still out and there’s no point in coming. No answer.

Langlaagte Licensing Department. Wednesday, December 18.

I stall until about 1:00 p.m., then I drive to Langlaagte. I park and approach the metal jaws at the Langlaagte office entrance. The security guard rests his hand on the gate and looks at me expectantly. I must state my intentions before he will let me in.

Me: I need to apply for a traffic register number.

Security guard: No. Not today.

Me: WHY? This is my fifth time trying to do this.

Security guard: You must go to Roodepoort.

Me: I WENT to Roodepoort already. They told me to come here.

Security guard: Fine. Go in. You’ll see.

I march through the metal jaws and go to the “Help Desk”. The lady there looks nice. I plaster a smile onto my face.

Me: Hello, how are you?

Licensing lady (smiling): I’m fine.

Me: I need to apply for a traffic register number.

Licensing lady (no longer smiling, half-shouting): No. You must come on Tuesday or Thursday. And only in the morning!

South African vehicle licensing people, for whatever reason, really do not like to give out traffic register numbers. They will do anything in their power to thwart my efforts to get a traffic register number.

I become enraged and unmanageable. I babble angry nonsense. The licensing lady realizes that I am ready to fight her to the death.

Licensing lady: Please go to the back. Speak to the manager.

Me: Who is the manager?

Licensing lady: Welma.

I go to the back of the building and find Welma, sitting sullenly behind another dirty glass window.

Welma: Can I help you?

Me: I need to apply for a traffic register number.

Welma: Go to Window 11. Speak to Kagiso.

I see a sign next to Welma’s office that says: “Traffic Register Numbers: Tuesday and Thursday only, 7:30-10:00 a.m.” Today is Wednesday. Nonetheless, Welma has gotten my hopes up. Maybe Kagiso will help me.

I wander back out to the front, in search of Window 11.


The Langlaagte waiting area. Inside the belly of the beast.


Window 11.

I endure the pushing and shoving, willing my brain to pretend I am somewhere else. Finally, it is my turn.

Me: Hello, are you Kagiso?

Kagiso: Yes.

Me: Hi, Kagiso. I need to apply for a traffic register number.

Kagiso takes my papers and actually looks at them. This is progress — none of the other licensing people have bothered to look at my papers. I feel a spark of hope.

Kagiso: Come back on Tuesday.


Me: Tuesday? That’s Christmas Eve. Are you sure you’ll be here?

[I don’t ask Kagiso why he can’t help me tomorrow, which is Thursday. Why bother?]

Kagiso: Yes, I’ll be here. Come before 10:00.

Me: Do I have all the right papers?

Kagiso (shuffling my papers): Yes.

Me: Okay. Thanks.

What are the odds that Kagiso will be here on Christmas Eve? My spark of hope is extinguished.

I trudge through the Langlaagte refugee camp, back to my cute new car. Actually, it’s not really my car yet. Not until I get a traffic register number. And let’s face it. I am never going to get a traffic register number. Like, ever.

To be continued.

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