We were sloping down from Garden City towards the Jinja Road lights one Friday evening. The traffic was bumper to bumper. My mother, who is in her 70s, coughed when I turned on the AC. So, we were forced to roll down the windows. Suddenly, she was struggling to pull the window up. I helped only to realize why moments later. A smartly dressed youth was slapping people whose car windows were down and took their phones in a flash second. He did it with great skill. He took 3 to 4 phones in a few moments and crossed the road majestically as if nothing had happened. “Only if he was using that skill to do something good!” mum exclaimed.

 “Imagine that energy and speed in the arms. He would do well in milking cows and tending gardens. He would be rich doing good deeds and not need to steal,” she went on. Well, I told her, maybe he doesn’t have cows or a garden to tend. It’s why he has turned the streets into his garden. We are suffering because we are crossing his garden. She still insisted that it was wasted energy.

 Weeks later, some people tried to con her. They told her she was the lucky winner of a car in a promotion but needed to send money for fuel so that they would drive the car home. Being the sharp son in Kampala who has run such promotions with Pepsi and other companies, she called me to confirm whether it was true. I told her it was conmen. She again wondered why they would go extra length to organize Indians and English sounding people to make the con-calls. “Why can’t they use their intellect to do better?” You can imagine the disappointment. Being a former teacher, she taught for 34 years nonstop before retiring and has this firm belief that anyone can learn to be better and do good. She nearly convinced me that it’s possible but looking at this town and what is happening, I realize that it won’t be easy.

 I have been conned before. One time, it was over land. The other time, it was in Kisseka. I had heard the stories of people being forced to pay large sums of money after Kisseka Market Street smart thugs descend on them but never believed it would happen to me. Till one evening, I drove to Kisseka Market to fix a light that had fallen off. Within minutes, my car was sitting on stones. It had happened. I had been conned. Threats didn’t help. Even the local cops wouldn’t help. It appeared they were in cohorts with the thugs. It took a platoon of counter terrorism armed to the teeth to recover my car. I can swear that these people have magic. How they convinced me to fall for a trap I knew about all along!

 There is a new job in Kampala called Kuyiya. There are people who wake up to go and hustle. They know where the deal is and set out to close the loops. They sell anything and everything, so long as there is some money to be made. Challenge is most focused on what is not legitimate.

 Even mightier have been conned. Imagine the Mzee with all his intelligence machinery being conned to give land to people with no money or intent to do business. I can imagine the guys that managed to get him to launch a sanitizer as medicine for COVID 19 when it had just come. Months later, they managed to pull in a big shot from a neighbouring country to launch their pharmaceutical company expected to make vaccines here. How do these people do it? This is the same guy who had run ads all over the media for wheat flour and never paid any of us a coin. I saw his assets on sale by auctioneers but how does he do it? Are they lucky or magicians? Imagine the guys that got the government to give them land in Nakawa for a housing estate. Till now, it’s the rats that celebrate getting a clear habitat. I survived being conned on this project. I was supposed to buy `good will` for one of the houses in that estate with the hope of getting one of the apartments once the project kicked off. Remember Shimoni Demonstration School. How did they manage to convince the government to break it down yet clearly, they had no intentions to fulfil the promise? Same goes with a hospital on Entebbe Road.

 At the recent Dubai Expo, similar stories were being told of companies that we seem to have signed deals with. One of the companies that signed and even got industrial land appeared to be dormant and domiciled in a dingy estate somewhere in the UK. Don’t even mention the company that was supposed to do the computerized number plates.

 These are big deals worth so much money. Why can’t these people who get them do the real work? Since they have the guts and intellect to play and get big offers, why not be clean and win fair and square? Why can’t they be good? Why can’t they use their talents to do well?