If you missed Part 1 you can find it here African Crime Stories; Guilty Until Proven Innocent I hope you enjoy the read.
The sunlight inches bit by bit into the room as the morning slowly arrives. A drowsy Brian wakes up seated at his desk, his face buried in an arm pillow and his laptop underneath his arms. It’s just another normal day to him, the usual routine, except well now he shoves a taser into his pocket before going out for his morning run. It’s illegal to have one but this is Africa unless it’s life threatening people aren’t really bothered by the crime. A step out of his door, he’s stopped by the reporter.
“Mr Gwati any comments about what went on in the minister’s office?”
“I’m sorry man I’m just trying to run here,” Brian replies.
“So are you saying you’re innocent?”
“What?” Brian shouts out in bewilderment, he heard the question but it just doesn’t make sense that it would be asked to him instead of Mr Mteke the actual minister.
“Well sir the question is are you saying you didn’t take the money?”
“You know what get out face.”
Brian is fuming as he pushes the reporter to the side and takes off in a run.
First I lose my job without reason in fact I’m fired and now I’m being labeled as corrupt. What the hell is wrong with people?
He’s in silent contemplation as he gets into his full stride, nearly bumping into a vendor carrying her tomatoes. Sorry he shouts out but he doesn’t stop. “Pfutsek,” the lady shouts after him. After 15 minutes he finally stops and there he realizes he hasn’t been following his usual route he’s ran totally of course. While he catches his breath he looks up at a newsstand and there he sees it. In bold black print; MINISTER’S AID LABELED AS CULPRIT IN $5 MILLION CORRUPTION CASE.
There is an instantaneous reaction within his body. His hands get clammy, he begins feeling intense palpitations and he can’t breathe, it’s almost as if he was being choked. He starts groaning hoarsely as the feeling gets worse and worse. Rivulets of sweat form down his forehead and then he throws up were he stands. And even after there is nothing left to come out of him, his insides kept contracting. A headache comes about and that’s it.
A few hours later Brian comes to in a hospital bed. He is still in the same clothes so he knows he hasn’t been there for long.
“Doctor he’s awake,” a nurse shouts.
A short man in a white coat with a stethoscope around his neck walks in. In this moment movies horribly disappointed Brian. They were none of those tall, handsome, chiseled chin looks that you saw on medical soapies. The man has a chubby face with a rather fat nose, weirdly shaped ears and to make matters worse he’s balding.
If this is my doctor I’m dying in here, Brian thinks to himself.
“Well Mr Gwati it’s good to see you’re awake you had us worried for a moment.” The doctor says this while placing a thermometer under his armpit and reading the clipboard next to his bed. “It seems you had nothing more than a panic attack, so once your IV finishes and you eat something I’ll discharge you.”
“Thank you doc,” was all Brian could utter.
Late afternoon Brian walks up to the door to his house. It’s unlocked and half open but he vividly remembers closing it and even his keys are still in his pocket. Inside his bags had been packed, his passport and a plane ticket were also on the kitchen counter. It’s strange and unsettling. He also notices a bunch of documents with his name and signature on them but he didn’t recognize them. Then he hears the door open behind him. Turning back he sees two uniformed officers standing there.
“Mr Gwati I’m Constable Panganai and this is officer Zengwa, we would like to please have a chat with you,” said the larger of the two cops. This was the police’s polite way of telling you you’re under arrest but they liked to put it in a way which made you think you had a choice.
“Sure, can I ask what is the problem?”
“Sure you can but you might not get answers,” replied the junior officer while he was already in the middle of putting handcuffs on him.
Brian had listened to all the people have rights speeches but he wasn’t fooled. He knew how things went down in the real world. You either complied or you got forced to comply. It was a short ride in the back of a rusty pick up truck to the police station. Bumpy, uncomfortable and it stunk of fish.
Inside the station his handcuffs were removed and he was thrown inside a cell. He was in for a long night and there was none of that you get a phone call business. If you got arrested with no one around and you weren’t popular enough to have friends looking for you, you could just disappear into night. Still trying to take everything in, Constable Panganai walks into the cell area with a big grin on his face.
“So Mr Gwati you’ve been arrested for corruption and your bail has been denied because you were clearly trying to flea.”
“What the hell are you talking about? I’m not guilty of any crime and neither did I try to flea.”
“Well I’m just the messenger and not the judge, so don’t waste your energy on me.”
“I need to talk to who put me in here then and I need to talk to them now.”
“Good luck with that my friend,” the Constable says as he walks away.
Brian is left angry and exasperated which soon fade away after night falls and the cold gets underneath his skin. The bed in his cell has a thin mattress and one blanket that is riddled with lice. He throws the blanket off and then sleeps directly on the metal base with the mattress on top of him.
All through the day the top news story had filtered out to most people. The minister had shifted blame to an aid of his by the name Brian Gwati. In poor judgment he had given him autonomy over certain decisions and government bank accounts. The honorable Mr Mteke felt betrayed but he said all the blame was ultimately on his hands as he had handpicked all his employees. This was the climax of a well orchestrated plot to scapegoat the little known Brian Gwati.
Brian’s parents had read the paper in disbelief, they knew their son better than this they believed. Although Mrs Gwati -Brian’s mother- was mostly concerned about what the neighbours would say she told herself she was calling him out of concern but she got no answer. Her false concern turned into genuine worry but it was just brushed off by her husband. Mr Gwati was the tough type, he withheld love to toughen his kids or at least that’s what he let people believe.
Brian had 2 siblings an older brother who was now overseas and a younger sister at university.
Mrs Gwati now fear riddled for her son calls his other siblings but neither has heard from him or even heard about the corruption story. Only later on, on the news would they hear the police correspondent announcing Brian was in custody and that he had been caught trying to fly out of the country.
The next morning Brian wakes up to the shock of being behind bars. He knew he had been arrested the previous night but he just put it away in his mind as a nightmare, an illusion or at the worst a mistake. Once up the comfort of the steel base becomes intolerable. He’s thirsty, hungry and restless. And while he was still trying to put things into perspective he got his shock first visitor.
Minister Mteke walks in unaccompanied and grim faced. It was a welcome sight for Brian that is until he heard what the minister had to say.
“Brian I’m not going to waste anytime here. You’re being accused of corruption and fraud and if you knew what was good for you you’d sign a confession”
“I won’t write a confession to something I didn’t do.”
“You don’t have to write a confession it’s already been written for you.”
“I’m not guilty and I’m not going to say I’m guilty no matter what.”
“Brian it’s really simple,” the minister says while placing a picture of Brian’s parents against the bars. “You either sign the confession or you’ll become orphan earlier than you expected and besides it already looks bad. Your bags were packed, you bought a plane ticket and your signature is on the bank transactions you’re guilty no matter what.”
“So you’re setting me up? Is that it?”
“No need to point fingers dear Brian, but just know every time you say you were framed or you say my name or you say you’re not guilty your parents will lose a finger or a toe and we’ll gladly post it to you.”
“Fuck you Mteke.”
“Well thank you for the compliment but I expect the confession to be signed by 12,” was the minister’s last remark before he walked out. And once in his car Mteke placed a call to the police chief.
“Uncle Dube it’s done,” he says as soon as the call was answered.