Night action

Insecurity in Lusaka during the 90’s was prevalent and, apart from daylight robberies like the ones I mentioned [1], there was the threat of house break-ins during the night, something that worried us a lot. There were rumours of armed gangs and shooting could be heard almost every night. Some of these were house owners that would deliberately shoot in the air as a way of advertising that they were armed. We also learnt that robbers were very brutal with the watchmen that often got killed trying to stop them.

The second part of my earlier post “The bowtie country” [2] describes our security arrangements in our house. In addition, we learnt that a neighbourhood watch [3] was active in our area so we were quite confident that we would have peaceful nights.

Our dogs did not bark much and certainly did not sound like the dogs that woke us up one day in the middle of the night. “Something is happening! The dogs are barking differently” were the words said by Mabel that woke me up. I immediately left the bed and, in the dark, I went to look through the window facing the front gate of the house.

What I saw was rather worrying. The dogs were furiously barking at the gate and, as there was no reason to expect friends at that time of the night, I assumed that they were robbers. So, as agreed with our watchman (Mr. Nelson), I blew the whistle for him to retreat while pressing our alarm button. Immediately, I also reported the incident to the UN security.

Despite the dogs’ fury, I saw a few men climbing over our wall, so I reacted fast and tried to get my shotgun just in case while Mabel continued watching the developments. As I did not (and still do not) like guns, I had dismantled it in the three pieces that I could detach [4] and stored it inside a trap in the ceiling, not a very convenient place from where to retrieve it in the dark of the night! Eventually I got a chair to climb on and retrieve it.

Despite its potential gravity, in retrospect the scene was quite funny. While in the bedroom Mabel kept watch peering through the window at the outside developments, I frantically tried to assemble the gun without success, getting my fingers pinched in the process and spending a few of my swear words in both Spanish and English. Outside, we heard a metallic bang and saw a man attempting to climb the front gate followed by another bang and the man disappeared. I was still messing with the gun.

Suddenly the dogs stopped barking and calm was restored. Then, we saw Mr. Nelson walking towards the gate holding his catapult, ready to shoot!

The calm did not last long as a couple of minutes later the security team, alerted by us by pressing all available buttons, arrived and climbed over our wall and gate in an impressive show of force. We were saved and I was still holding the three shotgun pieces in my hands while following the events!

We let the security team know that we were well and, after a thorough search around the house and garden, when they were satisfied that no one was hiding anywhere, they left us to attempt a return to our rudely interrupted sleep.

The following morning there was a lot of excitement among our employees as, while all the action took place, they were of course hiding themselves in various places around their living area. It transpired that Mr. Nelson, despite our instructions to join them in hiding, was the hero of the night by confronting the aggressors with his catapult! He shot his rounded clay balls at them (explaining the loud bangs we heard when the balls hit the metal entrance gate). I had seen youngsters at Lutale killing bushbabies with a catapult, so he probably hit one or more of the attackers as well!

So it was that the Bible-reading and veteran Mr. Nelson became our hero from that day on and that I put my shotgun for sale!



[3] A neighborhood watch is a group of people living in the same area that support the local police to reduce crime.

[4] I now learnt that what I had in my hands were the stock, the fore-end and the barrel that are meant to latch together.

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