The accidental thief; When theft becomes a raging fire.

The accidental thief; When theft becomes a raging fire.

The accidental thief; When theft becomes a raging fire.

It’s a dog’s life.

With Robert Mukondiwa

It seems the days at Msengezi High School were packed with fun, drama and oh so much entertainment; but there were shady sides to the boys also.

As boarders, we always had what we wanted.

Stocks of maputi enough to feed a European cow for the duration of the coldest and longest winter, Mazoe orange crush (it had to be Mazoe) that could keep flowing way after the Zambezi ran dry and enough sweets and corned beef that could fill a whole host of chain stores.

Yet the young psyche always pushes one to do the unthinkable and oft that leads to grand felony like theft.

I was no exception.

Although I must stress that my one off theft at the school was by ‘mistake’ and totally unintentional but the effects lasted forever. They also gave a teacher his best meal ever at the school.

Now as form one students, my cousin Tatenda and I would always stick together like glue. We were soul mates that way. Whenever there was mischief to be committed, we would both participate and were therefore a ‘bad meets evil’ type of duo.

After having committed a lot of misdemeanours at the school, we were yet to pull our best and most infamous heist.

Now my brother David was always the flashy type of school metrosexual character. He had it all. The girls, the perfect basketball skills, I must emphasise that I had the looks: and of course, he had the money.

While the lunch at Msengezi was always something that angels even dreamt of at the table in heaven; we had it here on earth.

Even some hotel groups could not serve the sumptuous dishes that sekuru Mpanduki would make for us. It was a two course meal which ended with a hearty dessert of jelly and a generous serving of ice-cream

But David would have none of it.

Because he was loaded, he would abscond along with his best friend Andrew Xaba and they would but soft drinks, lemon creams and a couple of goodies from the school tuck-shop. And this happened every day. Not that there lemon cream biscuits were any glamorous. But rather that the fact that they bought this food everyday meant that they kept their list as the ‘richest boys on campus.

If there was a Forbes list of the wealthiest fellows, they would occupy top spot and probably be followed a distant eleventh by the headmaster; they would occupy all top ten spots just the two of them.

Now one particular morning after the introduction of the fifty-dollar notes in 1994, my brother decided he would wear his famous ‘Soldier’ brand of deodorant. He had left his wallet with four hundred and fifty dollars on his bed carelessly.

To put you into perspective, $450 in Zimbabwean currency back then was a lot of money. Our school fees back then were a massive $300 with such a good diet and they were amongst the highest fees in the nation then.

David’s money, however, was his to spend.

He would flash it out whenever he got the chance and we would all drool in envy, all twenty-plus hostel mates.

Tatenda looked at me as I glanced at the orange wallet. We wanted to hide it and play a nasty trick on him; he would never ever leave that wallet lying around again.

I leapt towards it and snatched it in lightning speed and went out followed by Tatenda. We put the wallet in a disused locker in a closed out room at the school.

“We will make sure he looks for it frantically and is close to throwing a fit. Then after lunch we will give it back along with a caution that he should never again be so reckless and play the spoilt child,” we resolved.

We waited for a few minutes and as we went to brush our teeth but as we got back to the hostel, there was chaos.

My brother was of course throwing a fit. But it was worse. In our absence, David had had the teacher on duty, one livid Mr Gudu, known as a no nonsense bloke, screaming and promising hell to whoever had taken the wallet.

Te person would be ‘killed’ if they were caught. Lynched, as an example that theft was not a good deed.

Theft? Who had said anything about theft? This was supposed to be a prank!

Whip in hand he asked if anybody had seen the wallet and everybody fell silent. We walked in and he had already started his search of the hostel and people’s personal belongings.

‘Should we own up?’ a look I gave Tatenda asked and his was an emphatic-no! We were in deep shit thanks to our childish prank. But after all we were kids being just form one. Everyone else was in form three and four and we were the two ‘innocent’ babies.

Mr Gudu turned to me and I was consumed with guilt. Of all people I was the last person who was supposed to play a prank (read steal now) on my own flesh and blood!

I could almost see and hear the words coming out of his mouth; did you steal from David? Was what I anticipated.

And what did he say?

“Ah, it is these two innocent boys. Your brother lost his wallet to some thief here, did you boys see anything? Anyway I don’t expect you will snitch on these older boys. We shall conduct a search and you two boys run off to breakfast. It couldn’t have been you. We don’t want you missing your breakfast now do we?” he said with so much love.

Thank heavens I am as dark as a fat juicy grape otherwise I would have turned red from a myriad of feelings and emotions.

I was ashamed. The real culprits-us! We had been exonerated because we were innocent, young and the victim’s brother!

Tatenda and I hardly talked about the ordeal but we knew we could not go back. We had conducted a heist and there was no way out anymore. We had to share the spoils and spend the money.

“We have to just keep it and spend it when we go home for exit-weekend or some other break. If we spend it here people will get suspicious,” Tatenda reasoned.

We shared the money and it was a sombre ceremony, it was like we were officiating at a funeral. We were totally ashamed of ourselves. Just like the muroyi would feel inside when they attend the burial of a person they will have killed knowing they would be coming to get the meat at night.

We had sunk to our lowest ebb.

Tatenda resolved that as David was my elder brother and he just a cousin, I was to get two hundred and fifty dollars while he got two hundred. It just added to my shame. I was getting more pounds of flesh because I was the blood brother! What irony.

We then took the money to the paddocks and bound it in thick plastic sheets before putting it in old cans of beans.

One sweltering hot afternoon, tatenda came and he was breathless. Some idiot had lit a fire at the whole paddock was ablaze. While others frantically tried to help the cattle and were wondering whether the cattle would escape the fire; we were worried whether our Swiss bank accounts could stand the heat!

After it all, we carefully went to the paddock and Tatenda was disappointed. His money was in cinders. Mine was a tight burnt ball of plastic. We were done for.

At least |Tatenda had gone and ‘withdrawn’ fifty dollars one weekend when he had to go home. I had never had the chance to use mine.

We commiserated.

Later I took mi ball to the hostel and decided just out of curiosity how my burnt money looked inside.

I slit it open and lo and behold my money was perfect!

I did not breathe a word to tatenda about my fortune. Neither did I tell anybody of this until now dear reader, when I let you in on my secret. Now that David knows if he reads this opening up of my soul, I may have to take him for a drink to make up for my sin of ‘94.

The story taught me a lot. Never play a prank; it may grow into a deep wound that will get you deeper and deeper in evil. Never trust the little ones as being honest…make everyone a suspect.

I also learnt hat there is NO honour amongst thieves; if there was I would have been honest to Tatenda and told him that my money had survived the fire and at least given him a bit.

And never completely trust someone because they are your relative. Tuku said; Chiiko pahukama? Kupedeza nguva kutsvaga muroyi kuvatorwa! (What is this spirit amongst the related? You are wasting time looking for the enemy amongst strangers-the enemy is within!)

That was the last time I stole-at school! I have not repeated anything of the sort; yet!

Now I look back and think, how come I was ever tempted to be such a terrible tot? and then I realise that mine is a dog’s life…but somebody’s got to live it!


  1. I laughed so hard at this story - of course i laughed even harder with the paddock alight!! Interesting Msengezi Stories for sure...


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