Arm-twisting Africa Style

Friday 23rd – in the evening

If I thought the morning started badly, the day got considerably worse.

Attempting to overcome fact I don’t look a bit like stunner daughter and trying to reconcile self to unwelcome ageing process which means wrinkles and saggy bottom, in contrast to daughter’s unlined complexion and pert derriere, I am sulking upstairs with book.

A car appears in the drive. Afraid of going out of the house again today without a bag over my head, I insist husband Anthony tends to the visitors.

Who happen, as luck would have it, to be a couple of Labour Union officials and assorted uniformed policemen. They have come armed with a warrant for Anthony’s arrest. The crowd (dodgy, as it transpired) that we worked for until the end of last year has not paid farm laborers for months. That Anthony was once an employee and unsuspecting of looming trouble (unlike remaining management and the financial controller who – we subsequently discover – have gone into hiding) means he’s in the wrong place (still squatting on the farm, hanging out in the hope of recouping some of our own unpaid salary) at the wrong time. The Fall Guy.

Arresting innocents at 5pm on a Friday afternoon is a popular intimidation tactic here: nobody wants to spend a weekend in the cells. Problem is – and unluckily for the hundreds of poor Africans who haven’t been paid for weeks – ex employers, Americans and South Africans doing their grubby African deals from the safety of far-flung addresses where the local cops can’t touch them, couldn’t care less if Anthony rots in jail. As an arm twisting exercise, this is a waste of time.

A fairly unpleasant six hours ensues. As Anthony is carted off to the local police station, I field three distraught children who are convinced their father is about to be given a life sentence. I try to secure the necessary for bail as well as some legal representation. We buy some time when local cop shop admits to their cells being full; Anthony must be escorted to the central police station in town by which time I have availed of the services of a lawyer who is prepared to take on a case at 5.45 on a Friday evening.

By night fall we are back in the village police station where we started, bail has been posted (Anthony’s British passport surrendered and a substantial bribe paid: bail isn’t enough: we need to lubricate the justice procedure Africa fashion).

By ten we are home – having retrieved tired children with tear-stained faced – and I am collecting evidence for the lawyer to prove Anthony has not worked for the company in question since last year. And the reason he resigned was because people weren’t getting paid.

That I look really, really old and really, really tired no longer matters: Anthony isn’t in a cell somewhere and my babies are safe.

We’re in court Monday, if this farcical case isn’t thrown out before then.

3 Responses to “Arm-twisting Africa Style”

  1. sociolingo Says:

    Sending you moral support from Mali as I can’t really do anything else! But, I do thankyou for sharing these blow by blow accounts with the internet world. I do hope and pray for you that this will be resolved quickly.

    I had already linked to your ATM story in my blog ( and I’ll do the same with this one.

  2. Tanzania: Arm-twisting Africa Style « Sociolingo’s Africa Says:

    […] Arm-twisting Africa Style […]

  3. Tom Says:

    Blimey, this is just so how it is.

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