‘Chadonha’: A wallet full of tricks
Talent Gore and Julia Mugadzaweta
It is mid-morning in Harare’s bustling Africa Unity Square and, as usual, the place is busy with people of from all walks of life going about their business.
A young lady rises from a bench with her right hand on her forehead, restlessly walking in circles.
She lets out a scream, attracting the surrounding photographers’ attention.
They run towards her to inquire if everything is okay.
Despite the questioning, she is struggling to speak with tears trickling down her eyes.
After a few minutes, with the crowd swelling, in a faint voice she says: “I was robbed.”
“I was sitting on the bench and three women approached me and we started talking.
“As we were talking, a man passed by and dropped a wallet.
“One of the women stood up and called us to see what was in the wallet.
“Since we were talking about hardships the lady said God must have heard our pleas with this wallet.
“We decided to split the contents of the wallet among ourselves,” she said.
This is where her fortune turned to tears.
“The ladies told me to go into the toilet to count the money and see how much we had. They even accompanied me to the entrance.
“When we got there, they said I should leave my bags behind as security,” the lady added sobbing in between her narration.
The moment she left the toilet, there was no one in sight.
All she had left with was a wallet with two soiled US$1 notes and counterfeit money.
Despite her heartbreaking story, the photographers in the park were not moved instead they kept uttering the word “bosh”.
The young woman’s tale is one of the many they hear each passing day.
Chido Makoto said she was coming from the bank when she stumbled upon a small bag.
“As I tried to see what was in the bag two women came to me saying that we were supposed to share the contents of the bag since they had seen it too,” she said.
The distribution process left her counting her losses.
“They said we had to share money in private and they took me to the Africa Unity Square toilets,” she said.
Like most victims, she was instructed to leave her belongings behind and lost them in the process.
“When I came out of the toilet, there was no one at the door. The ladies had left with my wallet containing $60 and bank cards,” Makoto said.
Makoto reported the matter to the police but to no avail as the tricksters had disappeared.
Dubbed “Chadonha”, the trick is usually played on people who seem not to be familiar with the fast pace of Harare’s CBD.
Sometimes people are promised jobs and are told to declare their belongings when they get to the supposed work- place.
Harare’s downtown is particularly notorious for such tricks with the Gulf Complex being the hub of most criminals with one gang called Highlanders calling the shots.
Conmnen and women also ply their trade at the teeming Speak Avenue bus terminus, better known as “Copacabana” as well as corner Chinhoyi Street and Jason Moyo Avenue.
The part of town alonmng Robert Mugabe Road between Julius Nyerere Way and Sam Nujoma Street is also rife with these criminal elements.
A vendor who preferred anonymity said the culprits were well known adding they could be easily be brought to book if police made the effort’.
“We know these guys and they are not that hard to identify. Anyone can see them if they pay close attention.
They pretend to be very friendly to characters that show they have just came from the rural areas,” she said.
She added: “The police should deploy detectives to trap these people. It breaks my heart to see people in tears on a regular basis.”
Mr Chuma, a street vendor who sells refreshments in the park, said these conmen probably used “juju” to to identify people who with cash on them.
They usually pounce on women and young children.
“These people come into the park and they see that a certain person has money and, I believe they use juju which detects that this person has money so they follow them and pounce.”
He added that once someone agrees to enter the toilet to check the contents of the wallet, they won’t recover their belongings.
A photographer in Africa Unity Square, Mr Edison Tsuro, urged people to take heed of police warnings and not entertain strangers.
“People want to make money quickly that is the problem. They want to reap where they did not sow, his is why they end up in tears. The dishonesty displayed in trying to empty a dropped wallet is haunting many,” he said.
He lamented the lack of teaching in society saying children should be taught not to entertain strangers.
He added: “There are instances where people are promised jobs and told to place whatever money they have in an envelope for “security reasons’/ Any sane person would know that a legitimate job offer doesn’t come that way.”
“People who do that are crooks and the average citizen should never fall for such tricks,” Tsuro said
Then there are also the so-called “petty thieves” who are forever asking for a coin (50 cents) or bus fare to go home often switching bases to avoid being exposed.
Allegations are once one pulls a note from their wallet to assist, their money will vanish.
It is believed that they employ juju in stealing from unsuspecting well- wishers.
Late last year a school girl was saved by some Good Samaritans from the Diaspora when she fell victim to the “chadonha” conmen and women and lost her school fees.
An online fund-raising campaign was set up to aid the girl.
Life in Harare is slowly becoming dog eat dog with people employing sinister means to get money.