Sunday, August 30, 2009


After the gruesome experiences during the night, we might have dozed off for a few minutes before the house servant knocked at the back door. I was startled into wakefulness and realized that it was broad daylight already. I felt as if waking up from a nightmare into reality and the happenings of the night were just a bad dream. However, a shooting pain on my left shoulder where the intruder's iron bar had fallen, reminded me that the robbery was real.

I opened the kitchen door and found Richard, my servant, standing there. A large window-grill was lying not too far. "So, they left it here", was the first thing he said. A thought of doubt flashed through my muddled brain. What was he talking about and who were "they"? Did he already know about the robbery? Then why didn't he come to my assistance when the siren screamed its head off unless.....? My thoughts trailed off.

It was past seven in the morning. I decided to go to the local police station and report the matter. The sleepy policeman at the counter wrote down the F.I.R. When I gave him the list of articles that were taken away, he was asking me whether that was all as if a bit disappointed. However, I could not think of anything else. By the time he finished the F.I.R, a gentleman wearing a sports jacket whom I came to know later as the Officer in charge, breezed in. On seeing a foreigner near the counter, he approached me and asked what the problem was. After hearing my story he told me that it was a matter for the "Anti-robbery squad" and would be passed on to them. He further assured me that the culprits would be apprehended soon.

My next stop was at the office of the Ministry of Works. The windows that were damaged by the thieves had to be repaired. The maintenance officer promised to send his crew by mid-morning so that they could finish the job by late afternoon.

By the time I reached home, I found the police had arrived. There were three of them, including the finger-print man. He was dusting the window sill and frames, door handles etc. for prints and collected some. He would have to compare them with the collection of prints at the bureau. The other two were talking to Richard in a very friendly manner and smoking the cheap cigarettes he offered. As they were talking in bemba, I did not understand what they were saying. Anyway, it sounded like a friendly conversation, let alone any police interrogation.

The maintenance officer kept his word by sending his crew to repair the damaged windows and fix the protective grills. The phone line which was cut off by the thieves was also reconnected. In short things were back to normal once again.

During the lunch hour, the maintenance officer paid a visit to my place to see how the work was progressing. As the official vehicle was not available, he decided to walk, taking a short-cut through the town cemetery. He was walking along a well-defined path when he noticed a number of oblong objects on the ground nearby. He picked up one of them and found it to be a cheque book. He examined the others also and found them all cheque books of certain foreign banks. As my name was stamped on them, he concluded that the thieves might have tarried in the cemetery for a while in order to divide the proceeds of the robbery between them and the cheque books which were found among the spoils were discarded as they were of no use to them. The officer brought them along to me.

After the workers and some friends who had gathered at my place left, we felt very lonely. In fact we did not relish the idea of spending another night at No.34, David Kaunda drive. So we ate an early supper, gathered some clothes and rushed to the Top shop flats where some friends were staying. It was there that we slept for the next seven or eight nights until we left permanently the house that was our residence for the past fifteen years and moved to one of the ZCCM (Zambia Consolidated Copper Mine) flats with " round the clock" security.

Note: Securing a suitable alternate accommodation at such a short notice was not an easy thing. For this, I am indebted to a number of good people who sympathised with me at my predicament, like my colleagues Silumbu and Sakala, who were sharing one of the mine flats allocated to the housing pool and who agreed to swap with me, Mr. Zumani, my boss and Mr. Phiri, the district secretary of Mufulira who was also the chairman of the housing committee who both approved the proposal for the swap and made it possible for me and my family to move to the new premises within the shortest possible time. Undoubtedly this was another occasion of Zambian goodwill experienced by me during my long stay in that country.

Monday, August 3, 2009


It was the final day of the World Cup Football and the date was June 30th, 1986. I was recouping from a three week-long viral fever and the night was very cold.

Even though I went to bed at about 10.30 PM I did not know how long it took me to fall asleep. I was sleeping soundly when some strange noise woke me up. I was not sure what it was. I lay awake, listening for any further noise.

There it was again. It sounded like the creaking of a bed spring. I slowly got up from my bed and went to my son's bedroom to see if my ten-year old son had been turning in his bed during sleep. I found him sleeping peacefully. I returned to my room and found my wife already awake and looking out through one of the windows. I happened to note the time on the bedside clock as five minutes past two in the morning.

It was very quiet outside. There was sufficient light for us to see the plants in our garden, the wire-fence at the far end of the property known as No.34, David Kaunda drive, part of my drive-way, the double-gates and the trees on the other side of the road, in the compound of Pamodzi primary school. There was hardly any movement. The trees stood mute and motionless, bathed in the dim silvery moonlight and there was not even the distant hum of a motor car on the highway or the barking of stray dogs in the neighbourhood.

Suddenly it struck me very odd that my two guard dogs, Snowy and Sooty were nowhere to be seen. At night, they always used to be somewhere around, but not far from the vicinity of our bedrooms. I looked through one of the windows into the second garage where my Fiat was parked. The car stood bathed in the bright light of the overhead fluorescent lamp but there was no sign of the dogs.

The silence was ominous. I shuffled on bare feet through the narrow corridor in between the bedrooms and the living room to reach the door at the far end that gave access to the kitchen. That door was bolted on the inside with a heavy brass bolt. I did not notice the light that was filtering in through the small glass window at the top.

Without any hesitation, I pulled the bolt and opened the door. What happened during the next few moments took place so fast that I could not comprehend fully what exactly was happening. I had an impression of three or four people rushing in through the door and I felt at the same time as if some heavy object was falling on my left shoulder. However, I did not feel any pain but only heaviness. Then I felt being pushed backwards as if in the midst of a crowd along the corridor until I found myself in my bedroom and my wife standing at the far window, still clutching the pull-switch of the security alarm which I could hear wailing like a banshee from the roof-top. As its shrill cry shattered the silence of the night air, one of the intruders managed to grab the cord of the pull-switch and stop it. The apparent leader of the gang brandished a gleaming knife at us and ordered both of us to lie down on the carpet and we obeyed promptly.

There were four of them. One appeared very huge and wore a face-mask. He gave short, crisp orders and the others complied with. They forced open locked cupboards and ransacked shelves and drawers. They pulled out the contents and scattered them on the floor. The leader kept on asking for American dollars which we did not have any. They gathered electronic equipments, wrist watches, and anything else that attracted their attention, but very little money as we did not keep any large amounts at home. They looked into my son's bedroom briefly but did not take anything from there. Then they left, taking the house-keys and the car keys along with them so that we would not get out of the house immediately and follow them or go to the police. However, we were too scared to even move out of the bedroom.

As soon as I heard the front door bang indicating their departure, I ran to my son's bedroom and carried him to our bedroom. The child was shivering. In fact he was awakened by the wailing of the security alarm and had seen the thieves, but was so scared that he pulled the blanket over his head and remained motionless until I gathered him in my arms. After putting him down on the bed, I lifted the receiver of the telephone and found it dead. It was obvious that the thieves had cut the telephone wires before entering the house. There was nothing else for us to do but to huddle together under the same blanket and sit, waiting for the apparently never-ending night to end and the dawn to come.

There was one question that pestered us while we sat there, awaiting the morning: "Why didn't our guard dogs bark that night?" We got the answer the next morning: The dogs were poisoned by the thieves.

NOTE. We are very grateful to the Zambian officials for the sympathy they had shown to us and for rendering all possible assistance during the period that followed immediately after the above-mentioned incident. It was found out later that the crime was perpetrated by dissidents from a neighboring country who infiltrated into Zambia through a common border.