Bwana Fisi

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs

How easy it is to fall for a swindle.

Bwana Fisi

 

They called him ‘Bwana Fisi’ after the incident with the Dutchman. Fisi translates to ‘hyena’, which gives an idea of the character of the man. He was Maasai and apparently, his father had understood the value of education, for boys, so he sent his son to secondary school where he chummed up with a couple of his peers who taught him about the rewards of dishonesty. They were still only kids, so only managed a few petty swindles, nevertheless, it started Bw. Fisi on his path.

His father had some influence in town and managed to get him a job at the local council, where although his role was a fuzzy one, he had the title of Tourism Officer, and of course some people bask in the glow of titles. He found, title or not, he had plenty of wriggle room, and didn’t turn up for work every day, but that’s how things worked in those days, the council wasn’t always able to pay its workers, so they had to find other ways making a living. The culture of the day was that making a living might not necessarily involve money, a favour for a favour or something in kind often sufficed.

Bw. Fisi’s father manoeuvered a man rich with many cows into allowing his daughter to marry his son, so although Bw. Fisi wasn’t in the slightest attracted to Naishiye, the dowry and likely inheritance from her father prompted his acquiescence. Bw. Fisi was a big, handsome fellow, which was his gift when it came to feminine entrapment, many had fallen for his honey-coated tongue, and his father was happy to use those attributes for his own advantage. He, like everyone else at the time, was lacking currency of the jangling kind, and he hoped his son was going to care for him in his dotage.

Bwana Fisi met Luuk a young Dutchman who was interested in setting up a safari business to escort tourists into the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and to Tarangire National Park. Someone in the council had pointed him in the direction of the Tourism Officer, so Bw. Fisi and that honey-coated tongue soon had Luuk under a spell. He was convinced that Bw. Fisi was well-versed in the safari business and became excited when the big Maasai offered to become a business partner and provide expertise in the industry. As well he could smooth the way through the bureaucracy within the council.

Luuk had a wealthy uncle who was interested in setting up a flower industry and thought Luuk’s idea of a safari company was the way of the future, so he was prepared to invest. The advice Bw. Fisi gave to Luuk was logical, he needed two Landrovers, an office and good communications. Good communications were difficult at the time, so they came at a high and inflated price, but Luuk put the plan to his uncle who was happy to fund the whole project. But not before Bw. Fisi added what was to become his favourite and most lucrative component… the cost of contingencies.

Soon the Landrovers were bought, the office was purchased and the contingency funds were in the company’s bank account. Bw. Fisi took Luuk on a reconnoitre of Tarangire to get him used to spotting the various game, and Luuk didn’t twig that it was a case of the blind leading the blind, the so-called expert had never been in the park before either! However, he managed to convince Luuk that he knew what he was doing. Secretly he had used some of the contingency money to purchase a book on the mammals of Africa and had taken the time to swot it up!

It was two weeks before their first customer booked a safari, and another week before he arrived accompanied by a friend to take their safari. Bw. Fisi encouraged Luuk to take them on his own, after all doing is the best way of learning. It was an exciting day for Luuk, his uncle’s investment was about to produce its first fruit!

As soon as the loaded Landrover out the gate, Bw. Fisi took the other Landrover to the Immigration Office where one of his dodgy mates from school had wheedled his way into an influential position. In return for the Landrover, the immigration officer cancelled Luuk’s work visa! He was waiting in the yard for the safari party to arrive back from Tarangire and demanded to see Luuk’s passport. Bw. Fisi knew Luuk kept his passport and other papers in the office safe, so the documents were produced quickly. The immigration officer retrieved the official stamp and stamp-pad from his Landrover and used the mudguard of his Landrover as a hard surface to thump the stamp on the passport. The stamp read, ‘Undesirable Alien’ and he wrote by hand, ‘Two days to exit!’

Bw. Fisi showed all the sympathy in the world to Luuk. Offering to send his goods and chattels behind him. He offered some sound advice too. Fly out from Dar es Salaam rather than try to do so from Nairobi, because with undesirable alien stamped on the passport, Luuk wouldn’t get past the border into Kenya. Bw. Fisi magnanimously gave him money for the bus fare and for the flight back to Holland.

Needless to say, Luuk never received his goods and chattels, sure he received documentation that they had been despatched, not forgeries… the proper people filled them out and stamped them, but those people ate well for the next fortnight or so. The office and the equipment therein were all sold off together with the remaining Landrover, and the bank account was closed. Bw. Fisi wrote a sympathetic letter to Luuk saying everything had been confiscated and that he shared in the loss.  He kept the money in a satchel and the day he sent the letter, he drunk himself stupid and was seen in the company of a number of women!

With his small fortune he bought the property that was to become his family home, he had future plans for the property and was soon married to Naishiye. Someone on the side-line had watched all of this take place and had coined the name ‘Bw. Fisi’, and it had stuck. And in the end, he didn’t even look after his father! And… I ended up working for the bugger!

 

 

 

 


Submitted: June 25, 2021

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