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Behind the Counter Anecdotes

Site of the former Rhodesian/Zimbabwe/Federal Customs & Excise Departments

Amusing anecdotes contributed by members

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The Black North, an interesting article written by John Glynn for the New Zealand Association of the BSAP. (Added November 16, 2018)

The article can be viewed by clicking here.

Chirundu Circa 1965 (Thanks to Keith Vaughan - added September 2014)

Chirundu circa 1965 was an interesting place. As a single man amongst many others we had out trials and tribulations. The club at the Chirundu Sugar Estate had its moments.  Through an alcoholic haze, I recall that we tossed some poor game warden into the deep end of the swimming pool handcuffed to a bar stool and with a leg in plaster during his bachelor party. A number of innocent reprobates including John Barnes, Tony Robinson, John Clifton et al, stood waiting for him to reappear. After a while it seemed politic to jump in and help him. He survived.

I think that was possibly the same night that Greg Germanis stuck his finger on the dart board, and challenged John or Tony to hit it. Never was a dart thrown with such accuracy, despite the inebriated state of all involved.

Anyway, I deviate. One of the challenges that presented it living in Chirundu was the lack of a butchers shop. The mess was granted a licence to shoot a certain quantity of Impala and wild pig, and no opportunity was missed to do so. Whilst the diet could have done with a little variation, our cook, a two toed Batonga, was a master at skinning and dissecting animals in a couple of minutes. This proved a real benefit when the mess was next door to the Member in Charge of the BSAP. His ability to skin an animal was unfortunately not matched by his culinary prowess. As time passed, it became clear that members of the two toed Batonga tribe had no place for a desert on their menus. This being the case, it was agreed that the simplest possible desert we could explain to him was banana and custard. He seemed to take this on board, and some two weeks later, proudly announced that he had made the said desert, and would be serving it that evening. Anticipation was high, and sure enough at the appointed time, the cook proudly produced his masterpiece.  This was swiftly set upon by the 5 or 6 members present. To our dismay, when tasting the first spoon, it became clear that whilst the basis of the dish was custard, something had gone amiss with the banana. It was at the point in our lives that we learned that the Batonga tribe as a whole did not differentiate between fruit and vegetables, and considered all fresh produce to be equal. Hence, when the cook discovered that we had no bananas, he seized upon the nearest fresh item, and grated up raw potato.  This almost reached the same low as Tony Robinson sitting and watching us eat a curry one fine summer’s night, but not joining in with us. When prompted as to the reason, he admitted that since we had run out of fresh meat, he had gone out a shot a baboon which the cook had minced. He stopped his explanation at this point, as he being hotly pursued by a group of extremely angry customs officers.

One of the pleasures in our life was a trip to the Makuti Motel. Situated at the top of the escarpment overlooking the Zambezi valley, it was managed at the time by Joey Jowett and her husband, who I knew from my misspent youth in the thriving metropolis of Raffingora.  (Somewhere out in the sticks past Banket.).

Whilst it was a pleasure to visit such a civilised establishment, the trip had its hazards. In point of fact, my speedy transfer to Chirundu was not due to my offending Ted Levy as some speculated, but rather the fact that two of the staff had driven off the escarpment on their way back from the Makuti Motel.

The reason for this rambling anecdote is as follows.  After one particularly heavy night at the Makuti Motel, Tony Robinson, John Barnes, Brian Dyke and I were returning to the mess in Chirundu. As it natural we were in a slightly camouflaged Morris Minor, with no doors. Halfway back to the mess, a very large and tasty looking Impala was impaled in the headlights of the vehicle. We slowed to a stop no more than a few metres away, and after a hushed discussion John suggested that he would take the large spanner which was in the car, skirt around the headlights, and then stun the Impala with a mighty blow.  (As you will gather from this, we had no weapons with us.). It actually worked amazingly well, John moved stealthily round outside the reach of the headlights, and struck a mighty blow at the Impala.  Now we are not sure what alerted the Impala to its impending fate, but as John struck at it, it moved sufficiently so that it received a glancing blow to the head. With a single leap it made its escape. To our horror, it leapt straight into the front seat of the car. Since the Impala was equipped with sharp horns and hooves, an immediate mass evacuation took place, both man and beast, resulting in three very confused customs officers and a slightly stunned Impala, which exited the scene at full speed. 

I have worked in many places since then, but have yet to find one where I could use the excuse that whilst walking to the border post from the mess at 05.45 hrs to start a shift, I was delayed for 20 minutes by a few hundred Buffs crossing the road.

Apart from the fact that UDI had changed the whole complexion of the place

THE BURNT EGG INCIDENT (Thanks to Nigel Reid - added May 2007)


It seems that the perpetrator that resides in the States has an affinity for these oval things.


In 1971 being a poor and easily influenced cadet I was coerced into assisting a slightly richer EO who was made very poor because he had a fancy orange Cheetah with twin weeber carbs that drank that scarce Rhodesian/Zimbabwean commodity. An interesting source of top ups was available in the form of dregs of petrol left in the new cars which were parked on the sides of the roads down to the Zambezi waiting to be moved by Duly’s in Zambia and having no love for our neighbour at that stage there seemed to be little wrong in this. 


One quiet Sunday afternoon I was assisting said EO to remove certain dregs from these cars using device commonly known as a “Jonja pipe “ .The transfer tank better known as a galvanised iron bucket was full for the second time when there was a sighting of the Dulys van making its way onto the bridge from the Zambian side. Needless to say to avoid a potentially embarrassing situation we beat a hasty retreat but I was placed in charge of the nearly full receptacle. The only place to put it was to hold it on the floor between my legs in the passenger seat. 


When one potentially embarrassed EO and his twin weebers meet; the result is substantial acceleration which is fine till one has to change gear. Shall we say the result is a certain slip and slop when a bucket of liquid is involved. The slop part of this ended up in my lap which as we say in Aussie is “no worries mate” except when the liquid is a highly volatile substance. An initially cool sensation rapidly lights the fires and in no time at all the EO was being urged to make his weebers work harder.


Fortunately being in a position of authority it was not necessary to fill in  a TIP and we were sufficiently well known for the guard to open the boom in advance in response to our wild gesticulations of which mine were probably the most convincing. A long hall up to the messes is made very short with hard working weebers which probably used up the first bucket in the process. 


We arrived at the mess and taking care to avoid smokers I ran the tap water for the bath and remember thinking there must be some way to improve the water pressure.


I am happy to report that no permanent damage was done although there was little sympathy from my mess mates and the perpetrator disappeared rapidly presumably to retrieve the remainder of the bucket.  


This will henceforth be known as the burnt egg incident.