Celebrating East African Writing!
He checked his watch for the umpteenth time; it was half past two.-still no call from his Uncle’s friend, Majenzi. He was so famished, his stomach rumbled again and again. He surveyed the whole park; most of the people lay on the dusty grass. A small crowd had pulled itself together.
He could wait no further. The promise of a job from Majenzi was no longer feasible. Two years after graduating in what was dubbed the “The Best University North of Limpopo and South of Sahara,” he was jobless. He felt tricked by the whole system. As he rose to go, he decided to check out the crowd to satisfy his curiosity.
At first, he noticed a man holding the Holy Book and shouting his lungs out to an audience that listened to him with indifference. He was tempted to dismiss it as well the usual story: a swindler promising paradise to unsuspecting members of the public, then taking up their offerings to pay for his rent. To satisfy his curiosity he inched closer to the crowd.
Kenbi closely scrutinized the whole congregation; nothing short of desperation met his eyes; faces of despair. People who had walked miles to town, ones that had been given eviction notices, others that had taken nothing but water for the past two days, and some that had not changed their clothes for three days because it was the only pair left.
Kenbi scanned the audience again, this time a bigger picture forming up in his mind. An entrepreneurship’s opportunity had just crossed his mind. There was no need to be just over broke (job) anymore, here was a lifetime opportunity to make money, real money running into millions of shillings even. Depart broke, busted, dejected and disgusted Kenbi and enter self made nouveau riche, Sir Kenbi.
The following day, Kenbi was back at Jeevanjee gardens. The concept was simple and the idea saleable. You don’t want to be poor anymore? Okay plant a seed- How much? Just a thousand bob. Then what? Bring on board eight more people and make sure they register, each with a thousand bob only. You surely can get eight people can’t you? Okay if the eight people register under your name, you almost guessed it; your return would be a massive five thousand bob! You mean something like a tree structure? Oh well you are such a genius! That means if more people register in your tree, you receive returns perpetually. The three thousand from the other members are paid to the company. In unwritten words they are the returns to the entrepreneur.
The idea too good, was what a person in despair wanted to hear. And just like a snake slithering through the undergrowth, so did the network of the company grow. The benefits were real, the returns tangible and everyone was laughing all the way to the bank. The biggest beneficiary was however Kenbi, the mastermind. People came to register with a grand together with eight people they had cajoled and they witnessed their money grow exponentially by four hundred percent before their very own eyes. Who needed any other miracle?
In a country where people charged with the responsibility of investigating such unusual activities are poorly remunerated and are either napping or yapping at their jobs, Kenbi’s ideas can extend beyond imaginations. The prison warders were the first to join the network, followed by the administration police. The bigger boys joined later either through their wives or their mistresses.
Kenbi’s company had grown immensely. He actually had to introduce a department dealing with Forex business to keep the nosy undercover journalists at bay. The company had expanded to the whole of East and Central Africa, where the largest concentration had shifted from Nairobi’s Industrial Area to Kampala’s Wendegeya Market, where most of the market women were in the ring. Kenbi being on top of his game and therefore enjoying a bird’s eye view started noticing cracks in his pyramid before anyone else and quickly thought of an exit plan.
The great shopping city of Dubai was his destination. He mused over his life as a millionaire and he knew liked it much better than being so poor. He had changed his name and erased everyone in his life. He was now known as Muhammad Hussein and was thinking of a better business idea. He though about where he would invest his millions to keep him richer. He thought of going back to the coastal city of Mombasa and probably take a plunge into the hotel business. The tourists tricked in from the entire world and the underground skin business to satiate the lustful tourists would be a big plus. He also thought about transporting cocaine from Mombasa to Uganda, the risk quite high but the corrupt system and the high returns would enable him do it quite well. He would probably then invest the money at the stock exchange which ‘experts’ had forecasted a bullish year for the Nairobi based bourse. There were a myriad of proposals to consider. But first he had to continue in indulgence in this great city for one more week before he could think of something that held water.
The week was not to be thanks to headlines in the whole of East African region screaming- “wily racketeer swindles unsuspecting members of the public.” Photos of one most wanted Kenbi were splashed all over the dailies. The police comment- they had identified it as a collapsed pyramid scheme and had launched investigations into the matter.
Kenbi, sorry Hussein, read the news first with bated breath. He knew it was coming, but he did not think it would be that soon. He read again and again each time wild ideas criss-crossing his mind. He was far away but could they find him?
The following day’s dailies carried special reports of the aftermath of the collapsed Pyramid. Even CNN carried an exposé on it on its world’s untold stories. The number of those affected running into hundreds of thousands. Armed with membership certificates they trooped to police stations to try and salvage their money. The police had no way of helping other than to reiterate that they had launched a manhunt for Kenbi and had even enlisted the support of Interpol. They even condemned them for investing in a house of cards that had just folded up with nothing to recover.
The newspaper details were in full details. All over Nairobi’s Jeevanjee gardens, Industrial Area, Wendegeya in Kampala and Arusha in Tanzania, they covered the desperate faces feeling sidelined by the government system. Feeling as lesser human beings, discriminated by their leaders, disgusted by the mention of the police and sulking up to the rich ones. Waking up each morning hoping for a miracle that always eludes them. Always in this vicious circle poverty- forever chasing after the wind. On the other hand, the trigger happy police were pictured displaying their armor and spitting fire to the wind.
© Raymond Bett 2009
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