Chapter 1: This is Zanzibar
Zanzibar. The Persians called it the Coast of the Blacks. The Arabs called it Fair Land. Some call it Spice Island, some Stone Town. About four thousand years ago, Africans arrived on the island. During the seventh century, Arabs and Persians arrived here. Then came the Portuguese, the British, the Indians and many others. It was a place notorious for the slave trade. The island also boasts of slave traders like Tipu Tip who had one official wife and two children and over thirty mistresses and their children.
The Omanis ruled it for a century and left their legacy behind. About 97% of Zanzibar’s population follows Islam. Like Ireland in Britain, the Kurds in Iraq, the Chechens in Russia, the Pakhtoons in Pakistan, and Kashmir in India, Zanzibar is a boil on the forehead. The local Arabs want independence or the Omanis rule the way it was before the British took over. As a result, the mainland pampers Zanzibar a lot, granting subsidized power, a loose localised legal framework and poor customs controls and so on.
It was 6.30 in the morning. Zuly had boarded a boat to Zanzibar. He had many missions there. One was that his UK client had arranged for a payment of $100,000 for buying beetle nuts and seashells from him. This would have to be collected from a local Zanzibari Arab trader. The Arab used to import bathroom tiles and other hardware from Zuly’s client and had not paid for a long time. So this exchange was most convenient for the UK company. The Arab trader had an account in a local bank in which money transfers were risky and as slow as getting it in a dhow.
Zuly had to withdraw 110 million local shillings with the maximum denomination of 10,000 and deposit it into his bank account. The Arab needed Zuly’s contacts to increase his imports, and Zuly had just got a contract to build a new parliament building for the legislative assembly of Zanzibar through the Arab.
So he had to make an investment before being paid from the treasury. This was how all three businessmen had each other’s tails in their hands.
Zuly’s other mission was to meet a minister and buy old buildings made by the British. Zuly would offer the minister a stake in converting the buildings, the lush green campus, and internal roads into a five-star hotel. He also wanted to erect the cellular towers at two prime high elevation locations.
Zuly was excited. For the first time, he was embarking on ventures that were his own creation and not inherited from his ancestors. It would boost his image in his Jamaat (community) as an achiever.
It takes about an hour and a half to reach the island. The boat was comfortable and could accommodate about 250 people and their luggage. People would carry unfinished meat from their host or a bucket of fish, if given as a gift. The only problem with travelling by boat was that many people would feel nauseated. So the travellers would be served with black tea, soft drinks and light snacks and after 45 minutes, they would be given thin, black plastic sick bags.
Zuly was lost in his own world. The more he thought about his progress, the better he felt. After a long time, he had no telephones to disturb him. He had a faint smile on his face. He noticed that a small African boy sitting next to him was watching him intently. Zuly felt a little awkward that the boy had caught him daydreaming.
He gave him a big smile and said, “Hu Jambo!”
“Shikamo-o,” the boy replied.
Zuly patted the child’s cheek. The boy’s mother gave him a faint smile. Zuly’s ‘feel good’ excitement was so high that he not only liked the boy, but the mother also.
“Toto janja saana (boy is very smart)!” Zuly said.
They exchanged smiles again. He bought toffees and groundnuts for the boy and passed them to the mother also. He thought, poor Africans! They deserve our love.
Zuly played with the boy for a while. Then he got up to look at the sea. He ordered a tin of coke and a packet of potato chips, stood on the deck at the rear to watch the choppy waves. He found everything exciting and adventurous. After his little snack, he returned to his seat. The monotonous drone of the engines and the boat’s lulling movement made everyone sleepy. Zuly slept, a man walked past them with a bunch of sick bags. The mother did not ask for it.
Suddenly, Zuly woke up. The boy had vomited in his lap. Zuly was wet right up to his shoes. He could not move for a few moments, he did not know how to move the boy away and get up to clean himself. Some people looked at them and smiled as the boy had made the ‘Muhindi’ dirty.
Zuly’s ‘feel – good’ excitement vanished instantaneously. He was disgusted and looked scornfully at the mother. He told himself that it was a lousy way to begin the day; it was not a good omen.
He was received at the port by the Arab, Ali Nasoro. After exchanging pleasantries, they went to his home, which was also his office. He was served black tea in a pint-sized tea cup with a slice of jaggery and some nut cake. He was also offered jelly-like cashew nut haluwa, originally an Indian delicacy. Zuly wanted to avoid eating anything as he used to suffer from a common gastrointestinal disorder known as a nervous colon syndrome.
But Ali would not hear of it. “This is our Zanzibar specialty. You must try it, Bwana,” he insisted.
They talked about Dar and Zanzibar.
Zuly asked, “Ahaan, so when do we go to the bank?”
“Don’t worry Bwana Zuly, I have told my people to gather money.”
“What? I asked you, you said money is there!”
“Money is there, you will get it before I go for Suali (prayer).”
It had started raining. Zuly thought of getting started on the other missions on his mind. He decided to go to the Registrar of Lands office in Ali’s car. Zuly expected a warm welcome because he would be piggybacking on a minister’s reference to get his work done. But he was disappointed when, after a bit of introduction, a desk clerk told him that the boss was out.
“Unfortunately, government has not given him vehicle. It is raining. Maybe he has no umbrella. You just wait. He will come, surely.”
Zuly waited for a while. He also had work with the Ministry of Revenue. Running under trees and extended roofs to keep himself dry, Zuly reached the car and jumped in. The driver took some time to locate the office; the revenue officer was out of town. His assistants gave Zuly a list of documents required for submission. Zuly went back to the Registrar’s office.
He asked the clerk “Is your boss in?”
“Yes, he was, but has gone out.”
“In Zanzibar, we call it mini lunch.”
Fuming privately, he asked the driver to take him to a nearby hotel. The rains had stopped. He sat under an almond tree facing the sea in a nicely laid out hotel. Zuly did not know how he could kill time. A waiter stood by him. Zuly looked at him for some time. His stomach was full of chips, coke, tea, nuts, jaggery, haluwa and two bottles of water. Zuly was thoroughly confused.
‘Some drink, Saar!’
He decided to skip lunch as it would take long and ordered coffee and sandwiches. He was not in a mood to appreciate the ocean that lay in front of him.
The sea was calm and many dhows were anchored near the shore. Most of them had motor engines. One such dhow was approaching the sparsely populated north–eastern cost. It stood a little away from the coast. A small raft approached it. A bundle of fishnet, some empty jerry cans and a few sacks full of long Sangara fish were delivered to the raft. They waved and parted. The raft slowly went along the coast and anchored next to a beach resort. The dhow was emptied and the fisherman lay down on the heap of net.
After about an hour, two men and a lady dressed for a swim came out from the resort. They strolled on the beach and passed by the fisherman a couple of times.
The fisherman asked, “Unataka (do you want) Sangara?”
The trio approached him. One man asked, “Sangara of Zanzibar or Dar?
“Is it in a bag or loose?
The fisherman’s eyes gleamed. He looked around for a while carefully. So did the others.
Then, he opened the net and pulled out a sack. The lady picked it up. One man pretended to be interested in the other sack. He opened it, pulled out one fish and talked for a while to the others. They looked around again. There was no one there except for a white couple swimming some distance away.
The man bent down and seemed to be pushing the fish back into sack. Immediately, the fisherman got up to help out.
The man straightened up and tried to tuck in his vest properly. He dropped a bundle of notes near the fisherman’s leg.
The fisherman thanked him and turned back to put the other things back on the raft. The trio slowly walked into the hotel as if they had gone to the beach for a swim and were returning with a bag of clothes.
They went to their room and opened the sack. There was a pistol and a machine gun inside. One man checked to see if it was loaded. The lady looked scared. The men smiled and raised their thumbs. They were Jambaazi (bandits) planning to loot a bank.
Zuly went back to the government office. The registrar was back after his mini lunch. “It can be done. You have come with a big minister’s reference. He is the ultimate authority. But tomorrow he should not be questioned in the assembly. I may lose my job and you, your property. We have to make a good case. I can do it. But, you know Bwana this is Zanzibar. Everybody wants Takrima (favour or bribe).”
“Sawa. How fast?”
He asked for some documents. Zuly was prepared. He went through them. “See me after two hours.”
“You mean by one?”
“Oh, I go for prayers and then lunch. Others will also go. Come on Monday.”
“I have to go back?”
“These buildings are standing for more than a hundred years. You cannot stand for two days!”
He laughed. Zuly gave up.
He rushed to Ali for his money.
“Karibu Bwana Zuly! Be happy. We have money now. This is Zanzibar. You have to be patient. Now my son is coming with you to withdraw money.”
“No Ali, you must come.”
“I can’t make it to Suali (prayers) if I come with you.”
“Please, saidia Bwana (help). If some signature is required or any problem arises, then again it will be tomorrow. I will get stuck. It is not a small sum. Tafadali (please).”
“Inshah Allah, I can attend both. I will hand over money at my bank. Then you go with my driver to your bank. I go to mosque.”
“No, no, Ali. You come and give money to your son. Let him keep the money till we reach my bank.”
“I do not want to take a risk on the way.”
Ali was angry, “Look here, Bwana. Our deal was that I pay you, not where and how.”
Zuly had no choice.
They went to the local bank. Ali walked straight to the officer and after exchanging the usual greetings, he introduced Zuly to the officer. Zuly produced proof of his identity and was given a token.
“Sawa Bwana, mi na kwenda (I am going),” said Ali.
Zuly was tense, “No, no. Wait and help me to count the notes. Wait till I get the money.”
They waited for a while. Zuly was summoned by the officer twice for more signatures. The bank was very small; all staff members seemed to know that a lot of money was being withdrawn. Everybody was looking at him every now and then. Zuly was nervous. He looked around.
There were only two or three customers chatting casually with the staff who were working. Zuly felt an uncomfortable sensation grip his stomach. Half an hour had gone by. Zuly went to the cashier, “How long will it take?”
After a while, the cashier pulled out some bundles, piled them up on the counter and called Zuly. Just as Zuly approached the counter, the power went off.
“Now machine cannot work.”
“You do not have a generator?”
Cashier smiled, “No.”
Zuly’s stomach started to ache now. He wiped the sweat off his forehead and broke wind.
“I do not mind waiting, but give me sealed bundles.”
“It will take a long time. Talk to my officer.”
Ali was trying to humour the cashier and keep him in good spirits till Zuly’s transactions were done. He explained what had to be done. The cashier called another staff member and gave her a few instructions.
“Okay, just wait.”
Another half hour went by. The lady appeared with a tray full of bundles, all tied with sisal ropes. She almost dropped it on the cashier’s counter and said, “Ah! Kazi (work) Jamaani (people). So many bundles!”
Zuly wanted her to shut her mouth. Again he looked around wishing nobody had heard her remarks. He could not do anything about the pain in his stomach and his uncontrollable urge to break wind. Coke and cake could sit easily in the stomach since one was effervescent and the other was porous. But, impermeable haluwa and jaggery could not get along with them. His bowels were adjusting to this cultural collision and were trying to push all quarrelsome elements out.
Zuly was now also worried that the bank would close for the day. He picked up all the bundles, one by one. He checked the denominations by flipping the notes while Ali helped him.
“Sign here,” the cashier said.
“‘Yeah, but wait. How are we going to carry this?” Zuly looked at Ali in desperation.
Ali went out and got some thick plastic bags and packed the money. Ali decided to accompany Zuly since he looked rather scared. When they came out of the building, a few beggars came close.
A man came said softly, “Mzee.” Zuly skipped a heartbeat. The man pulled out a smuggled watch, “Very cheap.”
Zuly got into the car with the bags and checked if Ali had also put the bags with him safely. The car moved slowly through the narrow streets.
A few minutes later, a police constable waved them down. The driver slowed down. Ali shouted, “Do not stop, just go.”
The driver hesitated. The police constable seemed to be in a great hurry. He banged his baton on the car bonnet and shouted while wildly gesticulating.
Ali got out of the car and started shouting, “These people are from the mainland! Wewe (you) ofisaa. You do not know me?”
“Wewe Mharabu (arab). Get out of the way, Waziri Mkuu (prime minister) is passing.”
“But why are you banging my car?”
Zuly’s heart started pounding. Any police involvement would open up Pandora’s Box. The manner in which he was transferring money was dubious. In Tanzania, it is the police and not tax authorities who can start a commercial investigation.
They would first allege that Zuly was a robber and would accuse him of charges one could not even dream of. Then, depending upon the amount of money in question and how urgently the ‘accused’ wanted it, they would demand a part of it.
The driver could hear the sirens and see the flashing lights of the escort cars. He immediately tried to squeeze the vehicle into the side of the narrow street, but couldn’t. Zuly’s bowels had been sending distress signals to his stubborn mind. But this time, it was his mind that was sending distress signals to the bowels. Zuly jumped out of the car and ran to Ali. He was almost in tears.
He pleaded with Ali, “Bwana, leave it now.”
He folded his hands in prayer in front of the constable, profusely apologising for Ali’s behaviour and pulled him away.
The escort car passed by. It slowed down. The constable saluted senior officers inside the car. The rear window rolled down and an officer waved Ali’s car further away. Ali defiantly got into his car.
Ali, Zuly and the driver looked into the car. A senior officer shouted, “Wewe Mharabu!”
Ali smiled and waved at him. A few Land rovers followed by two black Mercs passed by. They were followed by the Field Force unit, a special armed force, men in brown uniforms wielding guns in the open armoured car. Everybody was out to have a look at the convoy.
Some waved. Some cheered and clapped. There were policemen every few metres coordinating via radio sets to clear the traffic.
They reached Zuly’s bank. The security guard was bargaining with a food vendor. His gun was resting on the wall. Zuly went into the building and heaved a sigh of relief. But the frequent spasms in his stomach made him move with some urgency.
“Now relax Bwana Zuly, you are inside your bank. Let me go for Suali.”
“Just wait Bwana Ali, It won’t take much time.”
There were five people in the queue. Zuly was impatient. His forehead was cool but drenched with sweat.
When Nature calls, it gives you a buzz the first time. If you ignore it, the pressure subsides temporarily. It rings an alarm the second time with greater pressure.
It numbs you for a second and challenges you to ignore it again. It subsides again if you still command it to do so. But it comes back within a shorter time. As it’s calls are turned back, Nature becomes more and more impatient. It waits for lesser and lesser time and finally bangs open the stretchable door ignoring your command completely.
When Zuly took his place in the queue, he got the first call. He started planning for an emergency. The queue shortened and now only two men stood between Zuly and the teller.
Zuly was shifting his weight from one leg to another, looking around him and trying to distract his attention from his bowels and the money. The customer at the teller counter was chatting with the teller about their mutual friends. They were talking for quite some time. It was a well-known and expected nuisance for the locals, but for Zuly it was physically unbearable. It would be quite insulting if they were asked not to talk while working. He also knew that his transaction would raise questions, so it was better not to anger the teller. Zuly wished desperately that the teller would get back to work.
Nature’s second alarm call had Zuly dancing, trying to suppress the pressure in his intestines. Zuly asked Ali to stand in the queue and went looking for the toilet. He got the key and almost ran into it, fumbled with the key, and shut the door with a bang. His pants fell down. He collapsed on the seat, taking off his briefs quickly. The briefs rolled down tightly and looked like a spectacle frame without glasses. There was thunder and showers. Zuly felt very relieved, like a mother in the maternity ward. He had forgotten about his money.
After a few moments, he realised it was risky to leave such a huge amount with Ali who might run away with it. He might be busy chatting with someone and a crook would walk away with a few bundles.
He shortened his act against the wishes of his bowels. It took some time to uncoil his brief and dress up. He rushed to the teller counter. Ali was still standing there; there was only one man ahead of Ali now. The Arab had understood what Zuly’s problem was.
He laughed at him and said, “Do not worry Bwana Zuly, this is Zanzibar.”
The torture inside the grave is known only by the corpse. (Adhabu ya kaburi aijua maiti.)
Soon, it was Zuly’s turn. Ali and Zuly piled the bundles of notes on the teller’s counter.
The teller exclaimed, “Ah, Kazi (work)!”
A lady drove straight to the entrance of the bank. Two men got off quickly. One man pulled out a machine gun from under the car seat while the other pointed his gun at the security guard and then shot at the glass doors.
The security guard ran away and so did all the other people passing by. Shopkeepers ducked under the counters of their shops and taxi drivers abandoned their vehicles and ran away.
Everyone inside the bank heard the shots. Zuly looked at the main entrance. He turned back and the teller had disappeared. She had taken cover under the table, as had all the other tellers in the bank.
Zuly pushed all his money off the counter and letting it all fall down.
He whispered to the teller, “save my money, dada (sister).”
The bundles showered on her.
He ran towards the toilet, he still had the key. Ali was trying to get behind a water dispenser. The dispenser had not been moved for months; a thick curtain of cobwebs greeted him. Several cockroaches that had taken refuge under the dispenser ran around.
The robbers sprayed bullets on the furniture and on the wall.
“Maneja (manager) come out. We want money not people’s lives.”
The manager was trembling, he shook while walking to the safe and opening the door. One man guarded the main entrance, and the other one with the pistol held out huge sacks. He ordered the manager and two other employees to fill it up cash.
The word of the robbery had spread. Most of the policemen were generally unarmed. Those who had arms were not issued bullets. Those who had bullets had no vehicle to rush to the spot. Radio calls buzzed through the whole of Zanzibar. The Field Force unit accompanying the prime minister was summoned. The prime minister was attending a conference on the Millennium Development Goals.
A Kiswahili proverb says – Jogoo hulia “uta wangu u kule”. The rooster crows “my bow is just over there” (when hawk preys on chickens).
A police commander fired two rounds in the air while his officers cautiously approached the main entrance.
He shouted through the loudspeaker, “Come out, we will not do anything, or else it will be bad.”
The man inside shouted at the manager, “Enough, tie this rope. Remaining, next time. Fast.”
The man guarding the entrance sprayed bullets through the window and the main door.
The FFU men ducked and dived for cover. The commander dived too while firing in air, but the bullet struck an old man who was standing on a balcony facing the bank.
He cried out and fell like a huge tree. A woman started yelling from the balcony, “Shoot the Jambaazi, not an old man.”
The bandits got together and asked, “Choo wapi? (Where is the toilet)?”
They tried opening the door but Zuly was inside. He was not sure if he should open it. The robbers finally kicked the door open, caught Zuly by his neck and threw him out. The other bandit used the butt of the machine gun like a hammer and broke the wall around the window. The other man threatened the manager, “Go out and tell them we are coming out.”
“But they will shoot me by mistake.”
“I will shoot you without mistake.”
The commander looked at the balcony and the fallen old man. He looked at his assistant. “It must be their bullet,” said the assistant quickly. The other members got distracted. They were caught between the machine gun and verbal fire.
The commander shouted, “Forget it. Attack them. Move in.”
The manager ran like a cockroach across the floor, stopping every now and then and shouting, “Halo, shimame (stop), mi maneja hapo. Stop firing, stop firing, they are coming out.”
The commander said, “Wait. Be ready.”
Then he crawled near one of his shooters and whispered, “Shoot them as soon they come out.”
He shouted on the loudspeaker, “Sawa, Jamaani, simame faya (fire).”
The police heard something like a window break and moments went by. The guards surrounding the building were called to position themselves in front of the entrance.
The 150-year-old lime and mortar wall of the toilet gave way. The window frame fell off. It was at the back of the building.
One of the bandits peeped out of the window first. It was safe. He jumped out of the window and started walking as if nothing had happened.
He came to the main road and waved at their car. Two bags of cash came out next. The second bandit fell over them. Their lady partner drove up to them. They escaped with the money.
The manager was too scared to declare the escape of the bandits as he could not see what was happening inside the toilet. People around the bank saw the bandits get away and shouted from windows and waved to the policemen indicating that the bandits had escaped.
Kiswahili slang is very mild. So the commander uttered a few from his own kabila (sect). He stormed into the bank and then left to chase the car. A few policemen were left behind to take down eyewitness accounts.
The bank manager told them the whole story. Zuly stood near the counter. His intestines were chafed like strips of asparagus.
Ali came out from behind the dispenser, dusting cobwebs off his clothes. Some spiders walked on his long beard, marvelling at the the black oily fiber with a faint smell of chickens.
Zuly spoke to the teller, “Mama, please check if my money is safe.”
“I can see your bundles down here, but not counted,” she said.
The police officer asked them to go into the waiting lounge. Nobody was allowed to go out. After the commander returned, their statements were recorded.
The cash on the counter was counted and sealed along with the teller’s statement. Pictures of the toilet and the damaged walls and entrance were taken. The commander was too angry to speak, but the manager told Ali not to worry about the money and come the next day.
Zuly went to a hotel and Ali for his prayers. Both thanked God for saving their lives. Zuly spoke to his family and asked them not to worry. By 8 pm he felt better, and so did his stomach. He had turned philosophical about life and his mundane existence. He was prepared to even forget about the money and, of course, Zanzibar, and go home.
Ali called him up and suggested they go out for dinner.
Ali introduced Zuly to an Asian man. “Bwana Zuly, meet him, Mistaa Popo. Though his real name I do not know, but whole Zanzibar knows him as Popo.”
Popo in Kiswahili means ‘a bat’. Zuly smiled.
“My real name is Popatlal Kanodia. You can call me PK.”
They went for dinner at a wayside joint known for mishkaki, roasted fried chicken or beef crumbs pierced on skewers.
“This Bwana Popo knows everybody in Zanzibar. He can solve any problem. He is a doktaa (doctor). Yes, you have to tell all your problems to him without hiding.
Una jua (you know), Mficha uchi hazai, (without being nude, you can’t give birth to a child. ”
A doctor in the Tanzanian sense is a person who solves problems. An advocate or some other professional can escape from problems by giving excuses, but a doctor has to solve the medical problem of a patient otherwise he will die. The status of doctor is extended to car mechanics and company directors, provided they solve problems.
Popo was told about the adventure in the bank. Zuly and Ali needed his help in getting the money deposited safely in Zuly’s account.
“No problem. The police chief of Zanzibar knows me.”
He spoke to the hotel owner and dialled the police chief’s residence.
“Hujambo, Chifu (chief), Popo hapa sorry to distaab you at this time…,” he narrated Zuly’s plight briefly. “He is just like my brother.” This was a much-heard phrase. It meant that his commission and the benefactor’s Takrima were assured.
Doktaa Popo declared with a broad smile, “You can sleep peacefully tonight. You will get your money tomorrow.”
Popo knew the amount involved so his smile would not fade away very quickly. Zuly talked about his hotel project and cell tower project.
Popo started his harangue on who he was. He had the only license to play the games Lotto and Housie in hotels. His art of calling the numbers had made him very popular. Popo held the contract for running the government’s ramshackle amusement park. It had a merry-go-round, a giant wheel and a toy train running on a small diesel engine. His only credentials were that he could get cheap fundi (mechanics) from India to repair the aging equipment and of course, would regularly give a cut to the people who mattered. He was an office bearer of a political party in power. He was good at arranging deals on property and licensing. He was a moneychanger and inland tour operator too. He was a man for every need.
“How long are you here for?”
“I want to leave tomorrow, if I get my money.”
“Okay, but tomorrow is Friday. We’ll go to the registrar’s office first. Let him start working. We finish the bank then and go to meet the IG of police. Then again work for your hotel plot. Friday is generally half day here. People go for prayers, then lunch and then, you know these people from the government. They do not come back.”
“Do they work half-day on Saturday?”
“No, no. Saturday and Sunday are official holidays. But I will try. Early next week, if the minister signs the land transfer agreement, you will be the owner of all their office buildings,” Popo smiled.
He added, “But to get the buildings in your hand, you have to give them some people to pack their files and furniture, give them transport and chakula (food). Luckily, the new building is ready and it is in the city centre, but we have to check that there is water in the toilets; all plug points, lights and fan have electricity and so on. Otherwise, they will take one year to shift.”
“But why me?”
Ali started laughing, “You want their 150-year-old offices in such a good area for almost nothing and you do not want to spend?”
Popo went with Zuly to the registrar’s office in the morning. Zuly waited on a wooden bench while Popo disappeared inside. The benches were located at the entrance in such a way that everybody had to pass by them, and would have to salimia (greet) persons sitting on the benches and shake hands even with strangers.
Zuly was tired of shaking hands and acknowledging everybody. Popo came out running.
“I told him not to go for mini lunch now. We will provide them with a meal. He will trace the files, prepare papers and hand it over to us so that we can go to the minister and get his signature. This normally takes two to three months. As per the rules, the minister or his secretary has to come along with us and carry out the procedure in front of him. You see!”
“How long will he take then?”
“We will get the papers by 4 pm today. They will go for suali, you know. I told them I will get them a taxi.”
“How much is he asking for all this?”
Popo raised his index finger to denote one million shillings, approximately $ 1000.
“One million! Is it not too much?”
Popo smiled faintly. “That you will recover in an hour when you start a hotel here.”
Zuly smiled and asked, “How much time will the ministry take?”
“You said you know him? I also know him very well. My advice to you is pay them off and forget it. Do not carry a monkey on your back.”
“But I committed…”
“No commitment. I know him. I know his Mama Ndogo (mistress). He will also need the support of small people like us to be a minister again. Look, it is election time now. You pay something to the party and something to him. This is Zanzibar. Keep a low profile and make your money, Bwana.”
Both smiled at each other.
“Come let me introduce you to the registrar.”
Popo introduced Zuly, “He is just like my brother…”
The registrar shook hands and immediately pointed out a technical glitch, “You see, these days revenue authority has become very strict. You have to get their clearance on your deed, before I sign. I do not know anybody there.”
Popo cut him short, “Mzee, they will ask so many queries like a professor. He is not from Zanzibar. You have the powers. Your signature is final. You sign, we ignore them.”
The registrar disagreed, “No,no. Usi vunje sheria (do not break the law).”
Popo smiled, “Usi vunje sheria, kunje tu (don’t break the law, just bend it).”
“You Muhindi, you know too much. You are asking me to do all these shortcuts in my office, during office hours, in front of this mageni (guest). You go,” The registrar frowned.
Popo and Zuly left immediately. Zuly thought the game was over.
“Don’t worry, Bwana Zuly. When he says get out, means work is done. After mini lunch, there is always big lunch. Hakuna matata (no problem).”
Popo was smiling as ever. They went to the bank and walked straight to the manger. The teller was called; Zuly thanked her for saving his money and said, “Pick a bundle of your choice.” Each bundle contained about $100.
Popo declared on his client’s behalf, “And one bundle for the manager and staff, Bwana. You are very lucky.” Zuly’s enthusiasm faded away slightly.
He nodded nonetheless, “Of course!”
His money was transferred without another hitch. They also thanked the police chief, for which Zuly had to shell out another bundle. When he asked Popo about his expectations, Popo gave him a discourse on ‘relations’.
Zuly gave him one bundle; Popo was unusually silent and gave Zuly a Mona Lisa smile.
Zuly pacified him, “This is just the beginning, Mr. Popatlal! Do not worry. Now I know you well. You know me well. You are just like my brother…”
Popo was bolshoying in the clouds till now; he came crashing down without a parachute.
“Okay, no problem. Next time take care of me. Let’s meet next week. I will call you.”
They shook hands. Zuly was relieved to have found a good agent in Popo. Doktaa Popo was happy to get a prospective client or patient, in Zuly.
Zuly boarded a boat again. This time he made sure that there was no boy next to him, who could puke in his lap. He looked behind at the vanishing island of Zanzibar.
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