November 1, 2015
A while ago, I was in an internet cafe getting some paperwork done. In the midst of it, an old Mzungu man walked in in a bit of a state. He needed to get a document to someone in the UK and he needed to do it yesterday.
So, the nice lady at the front desk scanned his document and then emailed it for him. Because he had interrupted my transaction, with my permission – respect for one’s elders and all that – I guess he felt compelled to share with me what the fuss was about.
The pensions authority in the UK had written him in June, asking him to send them his bank details (he retired here) so they could wire him his ka-pension. The letter reached him today hence his kavuuyo.
I advised him to go up the street to Aramex and open an account so in future his mail would arrive on time. It would cost him a bit more but he’d never have to rely on the empathy of strangers again.
While I waited for my stuff to be finished, we got into conversation. He was convinced that I had lived in his country (which I have but that’s besides the point) because “I was helpful like his countrymen”.
… I politely disagreed, pointing out that Ugandans are helpful! He must just be hanging out with the wrong ones … then we went into a bit of a back and forth, him dissing Ugandan mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, just about everyone in the service industry and me trying to defend all of us. Then he said this, and I paraphrase,
“… The pensions guys in the UK ‘followed’ him up to UG and asked him for his bank details so they can give him his money. In UG, even if you personally trek to the Ministry of Public Service for months, nay, years, someone will still conspire to steal your pension. Lord forbid that after retirement you move to Kagera village in Kisoro! …” That Kisoro bit is mine but you get the point.
What could I say?
Then I left the cafe and crossed the road to the car. Guess what, the attendant hadn’t ticketed me and when I asked how many parking tickets I owed him, he instead asked whether I didn’t have any money to give him. Kale imagine, I’ve just spent 30 minutes of my life assuring this Mzungu that we are not all thugs trying to reap where we have not sowed and here is this jackass trying to rip off his employer!
After giving him a proper earful, I drove to his company office and reported him. Then I called the pensioner, and accepted his offer of a drink to smooth over my ruffled Ugandan feathers.