A FEW days ago I met with the inconvenience of being visited by Property Re-allocation Operatives taking advantage of an unbelievable amount of luck and surviving narrowly because of the casual ineptitude of their should-be nemeses.
I could have written, “The other day my stuff stolen by some lucky thieves who got away because the security wasn’t at its best…” but I don’t want to point fingers and sound angry at people who I cannot demand more from fwaaa like that.
The thieves made off with my Rose Nakitto bag with a Macbook Pro in it (Serial Number C02J9385DQK), a notebook with very special handwritten notes in it (please return this? A reward awaits – seriously), a pen, my wallet with cash and identity cards, a bag of medicinal drugs, and some other personal items.
It happened at an up-market shopping mall, in Kampala. The thieves were two females, whose efficiency is commendable in many ways. In all, I was away from the station for just three minutes. During those three minutes I walked to the toilet and back, killing two minutes in hurried chit chat with people I met along the way.
I never stay away from my laptop (or other) bags for long because I am afraid of them being stolen – and this is the first time it has ever happened in many years of my conveying one wherever I go.
Normally I will have my laptop out and plugged into the wall in order to make it awkward for a snatch and flee theft. But I had completed my meeting and walked away leaving the bag with a lawyer friend who was unfortunate to be on the scene this way.
As soon as I left the first female took the seat behind him, on the verandah, and tapped him on the shoulder to borrow a pen. That went too quickly, apparently, so she whipped out an identity card of sorts and struck up a conversation about crossing the border using the random card.
It didn’t get far before she quickly said her thanks, stood up, and left hurriedly.
I returned a minute later and asked after my bag, at which point his eyes lit up as the conversation finally made sense, and this is where we began dealing with the private security guards. Having made it to the most likely exists within seconds, we lost precious time trying to get them to focus on the need to trace or chase after the thieves.
During the many seconds it took to get it through to them why we were moving urgently, one of the guards thought we were simply striking up a casual conversation, and even started a story about a similar incident having taken place some time back, perhaps at a different location in a totally different country. I shut that one down quite quickly and tried to be as professional as the investigators are in all those television crime thrillers we enjoy reading and watching.
That was part of my problem, I realised, but could also become a solution because next year I will be getting some of these security guards to watch these dramas so they understand where we get our expectations from.
After a few minutes of frantic ‘preliminary enquiries’ we realised that one of the thieving females had actually used the exit we were at, and determined the direction in which she had gone – mostly thanks to a bystander who confirmed that the woman fitting our description had appeared odd (read ’suspect’) rushing about the way she had. By that time we had waded through very many unnecessary questions and comments from what eventually became a gathering of private security guards, allowing the perpetrators of the crime to get further and further away with their loot.
We arranged access to the CCTV (closed circuit television) monitoring room and retreated there to do some more scientific scrutiny and within minutes realised we had to take over the manipulation of the technology.
The poor fellow in control, another private security guard, seemed to have a limited appreciation of what the video cameras and computers were capable of doing besides forwarding and rewinding at different speeds.
By the time we identified the thieving females I knew there was no catching them that night.
In the process, though, we got told that some of the cameras covering critical parts of the Mall were in boxes right in that room where we stood, and would be installed the very next day. I was too irritated to get into the reasons why the cameras were still boxed and not being installed that very minute, let alone from the time they had been delivered!
I won’t even go into the analysis of the footage we reviewed.
As I said at the start, I found it hard to complain too much because I know that these fellows are not paid a lot of money and probably don’t get the training we believe they should have.
I actually once started drafting a “Letter to the Random Askari” but stopped halfway because not only was it condescending, it was downright escapist from their reality.
This Christmas I am tipping security guards (government and private) in a special way just to say “Thank You” to them for all the times things haven’t gone wrong, rather than blaming them for the times they did go wrong.
And next year I’ll dedicate a little bit of energy to helping them operate more efficiently where I can contribute, so that they can do even better than they already are doing.
IN case you missed it, there is a food security notice out there giving us tips and guidelines at a personal level that we should pin up onto our walls, fridges, car dashboards and office desks for daily use.
The warnings came as early as April this year, when the IMF (International Monetary Fund) actually wrote: “After an extended period of strong economic growth, many sub-Saharan African countries have been hit by a multiple of shocks—the sharp decline in commodity prices, tighter financing conditions, and a severe drought in southern and eastern Africa. Growth fell in 2015 to its lowest level in some 15 years and is expected to slow further to 3 percent in 2016.”
The IMF advisories are macro-economic, and so a little too high level for non-economists such as myself, but they still make it clear that half a year ago we should have sat up and changed our ways, as the government is advising now at a micro-economic level.
The current government advisory hasn’t yet been given as much air play as it should – and isn’t available EVERYWHERE as it should be. Disappointingly, most of our government websites and notice boards – especially those that are directly responsible for this alert, are sleeping on the job.
But we can’t use that as an excuse NOT to be sensible in the face of potential disaster.
The poor rains (both in quantity and timing) and heavy sunshine since the beginning of this year, followed by prolonged drought last year have led to a massive crop failure in most parts of the country. We are therefore facing a severe food crisis across the entire country.
This is NOT a joke and it is not a lamentation either – it is an alarming FACT. Only 36 districts in Uganda are considered, today, to be “fairly food secure”.
One joker suggested that the solution would be to move to one of those districts till the crisis ends, but that could lead to conflict.
The government advisory, though, is quite clear and is aimed at us – the educated, affluent, employed, reasoning, and so on and so forth.
“Individuals and families are strongly advised to save money by spending much less over the coming festive season and avoid unnecessary feasting,” it reads.
It is awkward that we would need the government to tell us this, but it is a fact that if we didn’t receive word from above it might not come to our attention that we have a role to play in propping up the economy.
The government notice continues with: “NO NEW XMAS CLOTHES, NO BIG XMAS PARTIES, NO NEW HOUSEHOLD MATERIALS (MATRESSES ETC), NO NEW SMART PHONES, LESS DRINKING, etc., etc” (sic).
They even put this in capital letters, just so we read it properly and internalize what we need to do.
“Individuals and families are encouraged to plant leafy vegetables taking (advantage) of the little on-going rains. Vegetables such as cowpea leaves (Gobbe) should be dried and stored.”
You guys, we need to be serious about this.
Instead of buying up ANY foreign or imported stuff, buy local. Instead of spending lavishly on non-productive things, spend on stuff that will produce food or wealth in the news few months. Where you don’t need to spend money, DON’T. When traveling upcountry for Christmas as families, try to fit yourselves into as few cars as possible.
As we sit in our coffee shops and air conditioned offices, luxuriating in plush sofas at home in front of wide high definition flat screen televisions talking about Donald Trump and typing out comments on Facebook and Twitter, please let’s remember that “the total population in need of urgent relief food stands at about 1,300,000 people (the sub-regions of Karamoja, Test, Lango, Acholi, Bukedi, West Nile, parts of Basoga and some districts along the Cattle Corridor).”
Please, let’s spend time and energy being prudent, careful and wise especially during this festive season and food crisis.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have few excuses for NOT being sensible in the face of disaster.