Thieves of Lusaka

Magda & Vince MacAskill, with Sheila Earle

Magda & Vince MacAskill, with Sheila Earle

Friends in Maun, Botswana, agreed to look after our home there, including half the dog population and the cats. Sheila and three dogs joined me in Lusaka, Zambia, where the company, Basil Read Construction, rented a house for us in the same compound as Vince MacAskill and his wife Magda. Sheila and Magda got on quite well, but Magda became awed of Sheila’s take-no-shit approach to life.

Phoning me last year (2014) to tell me that Vince had passed away, she recalled Sheila pursuing a thief down Chachacha Road with the whip, a sambok, which she kept behind the seat of her Nissan 1400 bakkie. Thieves were wont to snatch any loose items off the open back of trucks, resulting in the creation of a new career: the bakkie-boy.

The bakkie-boy was employed to sit on the back to guard the contents.

With my Land Rover out of commission after an accident, I was given the use of a Company Hi-Lux with a driver and canopy on the back. The bakkie-boy was inside guarding only the spare wheel. The company driver sat in the cab to await my return from making some company purchases at a hardware shop, also in Chachacha Rd.

Abruptly, I was called into the street with the panicky news that my briefcase had been stolen from the seat in the cab. This contained my wallet, passport, Zambian, South African and Botswana driver’s licences, and my South African I. D. Booklet.

What a nightmare!

This was how it was worked. One gang member banged on the back door of the canopy and continued to do so despite the bakkie-boy angrily waving him away, insuring the attention also of the driver. While the driver was peering backwards to the commotion there, another gang member threw a ball of burning paper under the engine, then he tapped on the driver’s window to get his attention back and pointed out the smoke pouring from the bonnet of the bakkie.

Of course the driver leaped out to investigate, whereupon the briefcase was easily lifted and the thieves melted into the crowd…

It’s like a punch in the solar plexus. Of course it was not so much the money, and I was grateful that there was little enough in my wallet, but the replacement of all those documents. The affidavits, the queues at all the various government buildings and the South African Consulate, starting off with the police to report the theft.

The hardware store owner was an Indian fellow, as a lot of Lusaka traders were. He told me not to go rushing off to the cops just yet as there was a possibility that the thieves would return the case and wallet, sans cash, of course. I was very sceptical, I must admit, but less than an hour later one of his shop assistants brought me the case with all the documents in it except the wallet! It had been thrown over their material yard wall!

My relief was immense.

“The police only make a fuss when it is a tourist that is robbed,” the Indian told me, “so the thieves have learned that if they return the documents quickly, the tourist probably won’t even report it! They have no use for the passports and stuff, anyway.”

About peterjearle

Writer of thriller novels. 4 Published: 'Purgatory Road', 'The Barros Pawns', and the Detective Dice Modise Series:'Hunter's Venom' and 'Medicinal Purposed Only', all from Southern Africa.
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