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FREDRICK Chitangala.

Let us safeguard our safety and security…

ON OCTOBER, 31, 2018, I flew from Lusaka to Johannesburg.
I landed just at the break of the evening.
I was picked by my hotel shuttle and along the way, I requested that we stop at a mall to buy a few things.
Seeing one of the First National Bank (FNB) ATMs by the corner but in between two shops, I quickly went there to help myself with cash to pay the shuttle and also to buy a few goodies.
By the money machine was a well-dressed man who definitely looked like a bank security man. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by other well-dressed men but the man I thought was a security man came right in my face and asked me to type my pin. And that’s how I lost all the money in my account. For those familiar with Jo’burg, all this happened in Sandton City, the safe zone of Johannesburg.
By the time my bank, Barclays, managed to block my card, nine ATM transactions were made and all the money was withdrawn. All this happened within very few minutes. I have always believed I was a sharp dude and always careful when visiting ATM’s and have travelled extensively around the world, and this has never happened before – I don’t know what happened to my card or how they apparently obtained it – but to all people intending to visit South Africa – please be very careful.
I was lucky I was not physically injured.
I went to my hotel devastated. With no appetite to eat, I fell into a trance. My heart, my mind and my psychological well-being were beguiled as if bewitched and becharmed by some magical powers. In my mystical being, as though intentionally creating a dream of my choice, I found myself at Cross Roads mall near my house on a queue to withdraw money from an ATM. In front of me was a lady who did not know how to use the machine. The security officer helped her and even gave her a free tutorial. Then I was taken to another scene where my sister needed to withdraw money using eWallet. A man just before in line helped her with no bad intentions.
Minutes later, a white man approached me and asked me how he could identify a taxi and even where he could get one. You could tell he was new in Zambia. I helped him. I noticed that money was protruding from his back pocket and it was almost falling off. I asked him to tuck it in properly. He asked me if everyone in Zambia was that caring and helpful. I told him that we don’t just brag about safety, security and peace in Zambia, they are real. There are many bad things that Zambia is known for. But crime is not one of them. He offered to give me $10 for my kindness, I refused and told him I am Zambian, I have been brought up to be a good citizen and help without expecting payment. One land and one nation is our cry, dignity and peace beneath Zambia’s sky is our pride.
Then I started hearing someone calling my name and at the same time, I could hear door knocks. I woke up. It was a dream. I had fallen asleep. I was sweating and my heart palpitations were abnormal. I realised my blood pressure was high. And the truth came back to haunt me; I just lost all my money in my bank account due to ATM fraud. I walked to the door and someone brought my accommodation receipt. I thanked him and locked the door.
I gathered strength and called my wife, who was shocked and encouraged me. Then I whatsapped my boss, who assured me my money would be paid back but both of us were worried about how this would affect my meeting that morning. It was a very important meeting. My spirits were low, could not do much that night except turn and toss in bed till morning while thinking about my early evening dream about my beautiful country Zambia, a country where Ubuntu is lived like it should, a country where the spirit of oneness transcends tribe, colour and country of origin.
The following morning was crucial. I had an important meeting to go to, hence I didn’t think I had any choice but to get ready. As I waited for my Uber taxi outside the hotel, I started developing nostalgia and wished I was home. If I had a way, I would have returned home the same evening. For one reason or the other, I feared those malefactors were still following me. After my meeting, which was not as bad as I feared, I went to make a police report.
I returned home a day later with no gifts for either my kids or my wife. The following day I was at my bank. Fortunately, my bank said I was not liable and they would refund all the money. At last I was home, free at last. Yes, we have crime here, too, but I am at peace walking on Zambian roads and utilising ATMs and asking for help where I am stuck. This is the Zambia I want. Let us make our country even better. Tourists can make Zamia their preferred destination because they will be safe and secure. We need to be proud of this. Happy New Year Fellows.
The author is Olympic Youth Development Centre director.