As I walked to the house, I saw a group of people peering through the mosque’s gate. They appeared scared and I knew at once there must be something out of the ordinary within the mosque.I joined the scared, but curious group and looked at what they must have been afraid to learn more about. There were two cars; one black, the other white on the mosque’s compound.
Both of them were behind a huge lorry carrying a long container. I would soon know that what I was looking at was one of the biggest means through which consignments are stolen in the country or rather, how they get lost.There is some arcane boldness that grows in you once you become a journalist. I do feel to be brimming with that kind of esoteric audacity.
That was what pushed me on top of the mosque and stood outside the building by the door.I stared at the long lorry for a long time. Then I turned my eyes to the two cars by the huge juggernaut. One of the three people standing outside one of the cars walked towards me.
I did not know what he saw in me that attracted him, but straight he came towards me, stern faced as if he had an issue to settle with me.
“Do you live around here, Mzee?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“We are police officers probing a case connected with that lorry over there,” he told me, pointing to the lorry.
There was something queer happening, or that had just happened to the lorry. Its cabin had been cut up into metal plates lying down. I asked the police officer what the matter was with the lorry.
“Its owner is in Mwanza and it was given 24 tonnes of cotton worth 68m/- to bring down here to Mohamed Enterprise, but they – the driver and his conductor– offloaded the consignment somewhere on the way. It is said they did it in Morogoro,” the police officer explained to me.
He thereafter went back to the car. Soon after, I followed him there and saw two hand-cuffed men in their late thirties or early forties in the car. The three other men outside the car were also cops for they had walkie-talkies. The butt of a pistol also peeped from under the Kaunda Suit of one of them.
The police officers prodded the two men to tell them where the cotton had been offloaded. But hard as the officers tried to elicit information from the two men, the men did not tell the officers anything of value. “Let’s take them to the station,” one officer threatened.
The men called the officers back into the car. With one standing outside one window, another one outside another window on the other side, they listened to what the men in the car said. I tried to listen but got nothing.Not having learned much, the police officers decided to take the two men away with them.
Reporter at Large learned that the lorry loaded with the cotton consignment got an accident somewhere close to Sekenke Hill. It could, however, limp on to Dar es Salaam, driven by a ‘Day Worker’.More revelation was that the cotton consignment was offloaded at night into another lorry that came right there into the enclosure of Tabata Mosque by St Mary’s Primary School.
The mosque is used as a security enclosure for vehicles at night, a business they do for pay just as CCM offices in many suburbs of the city do.Some of the men, who keep guard at night on the vehicles there told Reporter at Large that during the Ramadhan period about 200 bags of remnants of cotton seeds which had been crushed to squeeze out oil were offloaded there by another lorry.
They sounded shocked and appeared to be bamboozled by the discovery that they had been guarding cars, which people used to rip off the nation of whooping sums of money.Shortly later, about a week, the 200 bags were taken to some unknown place. The lorry which brought the leftover of the cotton seeds (mashudu) was different from the one that had cotton on that day with police officers, one of the guards said.
So why was the lorry being cut up into pieces and who was trying to do it? Reporter at Large wanted to know.The police officer said that after the people knew their plan to steal the cargo was discovered, they decided to hide away the lorry as well. The best way to do it was to cut it up into small pieces and dismantle the rest of it to dispose of easily.
Apparently, the police were too smart for the men. But there are people who guard stolen things without knowing they do. Most of all, the incident proves how people make fast money in the country, right below our nose.