A serial thief and ‘desperate times’ – a true story.

A few short years ago I found myself the victim of a spate of robberies at the guest house. These ranged from television sets being stolen out of the rooms, to my bag – twice, and one night even my car was stolen out of the parking lot! After each incident we would fortify as best we could, hoping to solve the problem, but the thief or thieves surprised us by brazenly trying new ways to get inside. On one occasion breaking my office window and on another forcing the front door open with presumably a crow bar! This all whilst my children and I were sleeping upstairs.

There is nothing more terrifying than being woken up by the sound of shattering glass. I can still remember the feeling of utter panic and the overwhelming sensation of my heart racing and pounding in my chest, while I crept from room to room upstairs, my hands shaking so much I could barely dial for help.

Over the next few weeks I did what I could to keep the intruders out. The palisade boundary fence was raised and fitted with rolled barbed razor wire, making the whole property look like a mini Fort – knox. The windows were all burglar – guarded. Eventually an alarm system complete with panic buttons was installed at great expense.

The agony and inconvenience of having to apply for new Identity card, bank cards, and drivers license not once but twice in six months, I am convinced has shortened my life span by a few years!

The procedure of finger prints being searched for and statements being given each time felt a bit like a lost cause to be honest. Somehow however, the wheels of justice kept slowly grinding away and eventually a Mr. Ngwenya was arrested for a number of house robberies in the area, including those at Penryn.

Myself and a neighbor received a summons to appear in court to testify against the notorious Mr. Ngwenya. The first time the accused, unsurprisingly, did not bother to show up. The second time, some of the evidence had been mislaid or left behind and once again we spent a morning wasted in court. We were informed however that the accused had pleaded guilty anyway, without our needing to be there eventually. Much to our relief!

Things settled back into there normal routine thankfully and as the months past Mr. Ngwenya was forgotten about for a while. That was, until I received a phone call one morning from our local prison.

Mr. Dube the prison warden, politely inquired as to my health. I replied that – yes thank you all was well, and how could I help Mr. Dube. Did he perhaps require accommodation? No he did not require accommodation, but would it be possible to see him the next day at the prison? When I hesitatingly asked  in connection with what. He very jovially replied that there was nothing to worry about, he would explain all when I got there the next day. This had exactly the opposite effect and I worried all afternoon and had a sleepless night to boot!

My head was spinning by the time I arrived at the prison and I had managed to work myself up into a bit of a state! I was informed that my cell phone and bag would have to be stored in a locker whilst I was inside. I was then led down a series of long corridors and through a courtyard, finally to be shown into an office. I was told to wait, Mr. Dube would be there shortly.

After about a twenty minute wait, In strolled a large, spectacled friendly looking man. Mr. Dube. Close behind followed another uniformed man, presumably an officer or guard, and with him, a prisoner wearing  bright orange overalls and handcuffed. Mr. Ngwenya!

Introductions were made, all the while Mr. Dube keeping up a sort of forced over friendly banter, perhaps to make me feel more at ease. It was all very unreal and disturbing. If he had sported a grey beard and chuckled “ho ho ho” at this point it would not have seemed out of the ordinary. The whole experience was beginning to feel like a Mad hatters tea party and I was Alice trying to make sense of it all. I listened in a daze to what was being said, and tried to piece together why I was there in the first place. This was difficult as the explanation was long winded and dramatized for effect.

First Mr. Dube took great pains to explain how full – in fact, over full, the prisons were, and prisoners were being given the opportunity to come forth, and did I know, he went on, that these were desperate times! This last bit was said with great emphasis and a raising of his voice. I still did not know what the prisoners were coming forth about, but I nodded my head nervously in agreement.

He then proceeded to go on at great lengths, extolling the many many virtues of forgiveness. This solemn sermon would be interrupted every now and again by a “Thank you Jesus, thank you!” from Mr. Ngwenya – Mr Ngwenya who had now been reformed it seemed by his short spate in the ‘over full’ prison, in these ‘desperate times’.

After this long winded sermon like speech, they all turned to stare at me, and I realised that I was now expected to say something. Still feeling a bit dazed I stammered something to the effect that – yes it was a good thing to forgive another human being, especially if that person had changed his ways and was remorseful. To be honest I could not wait to get out of there. I was uncomfortable with the whole thing and I had very unfairly been put on the spot.

There was obvious relief at my reply because the whole atmosphere relaxed and changed again. The other officer in the room even went on to give Mr. Ngwenya some practical and sound advice. Mr. Ngwenya was to tell his friends that the next time they wanted to steal, they should at least leave the identity cards and drivers license cards behind. Did he not know what a great inconvenience this was for the poor people they were robbing! Very inconvenient he repeated while shaking his head sternly.

This should have sufficed as the cherry on the top, but no, there was more.

Mr. Dube then turned to me and in total sincerity, asked – if  “mamma Carol” did not perhaps have a job for the poor Mr. Ngwenya.  After all, he sighed sadly, these were very very desperate times indeed.

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