The Immigration Officer at the Zimbabwe-Zambia border on the Zambian side couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw a beautiful woman rolling down the window of a brand new silver Mercedez Benz with South African number plates. He tapped his friend on the shoulder and whispered, “talk of the devil. Look who is showing up at our border so soon after we have been looking at the old newspapers that we have just cleaned up: Pamela Gondwe!”
“You are kidding me. I think you are thinking of that woman too much. Pamela Gondwe, forget her. She is gone and probably already married to some very poor white man to get some much needed citizenship under a different name”. “Man I am not kidding, just look at the one who is about to present her passport to us”. “It is a South African passport, I can tell.”
The second officer immediately looked in that direction and nearly fell down over his table sending hot tea cascading down the floor. He also couldn’t believe his eyes. Pamela Gondwe is back in Zambia so soon after escaping with thousands of foreign currency cash. He had to maintain his composure and didn’t want to betray his recognition of Pamela Gondwe who was now presenting her South African passport.
The first Immigration Officer also had to struggle to remain calm.
As he was fidgeting with the words, he stumbled on the sentence, “welcome back to Zambia, madam, ah ah Nguni.”
“Thank you, but why are you saying ‘welcome back’? This is my first time coming to Zambia.” The two officers looked at each other. One began to speak, “Ah, ah, ah, aren’t you…” When the other one kicked him on the left sheen under the table. He got the message. How can you ask a criminal whether she was Pamela Gondwe?
‘We are used to repeat tourists so it has become a habit to say welcome back. In South Africa you say ‘beck’ or is it “bake?'” “I am sure I will be beck if I enjoy the place. I hear the economy is in the doldrums and I am here to inject a bit of forex. I just hope your country is not full of criminals like South Africa,” Ms Nguni stated as she rolled the window up and drove towards Zambia. She was alone and looked savvy.
“How stupid can this woman be? She is mocking Zambia. She just left Zambia barely two months ago using the VIP entrance and exit at KKIA carrying thousands of forex in a suitable and she is back already!” “Does she think she will not be caught because she is flaunting a South African passport in her new name and using exaggerated South African accent.”
“Man, I have serious misgivings that that is Pamela Gondwe. We just looked at her photos as we cleaned the newspapers. Look at that picture there. Does Pamela have that cleft or what do you call it, gap or parting in the centre of her upper teeth? Her facial dimples weren’t that deep when she left. Look at that photograph. Look further, there is a tattoo below her right shoulder in that picture. I didn’t see that tattoo this time around and she was wearing more or less a similar top today.”
The other Immigration Officer started laughing. “You Zambians make me laugh. What kind of training did you do to be become an Immigration Officer, let alone working at a border post and interdicting serious criminals, terrorists, refugees, fugitives from justice, smugglers and the rest? Man do you think Pamela Gondwe would come back and announce with telltale signs that she is back! Man, you are so naive.”
“Man, you are the one who deserves further training. That woman has a gap in the centre of her upper teeth. Does that picture have that?” “Where is the tattoo?”
The other officer was doubling down laughing with tears streaming down his cheeks. The other officer couldn’t understand why his friend was laughing so hard. At that time they were interrupted by a tourist and they became busy processing several other visitors.
When there was a small break, the other officer asked his friend, “what is so funny about what I am telling you? Man you are crazy. I can’t believe you think that is Pamela Gondwe despite the resemblance. You know they say that in this world there are always two people or more outside of identical twins that resemble the other person. There are two or more of you out there. There are two or more of me out there. This is simply another double for Pamela Gondwe. You hear me!”
The other man started laughing again. “Banene, have you ever heard of plastic surgery? Do you know that tattoos can be removed. Dimples can be created or deepened or removed”. “How can you catch a sophisticated criminal with that naivety?” “The gap in the teeth could even be an illusion. Her real teeth formation could be intact behind that plastic facade.”
“Please go back to training.”
The other officer started to ponder. Maybe his friend was right. That may be Pamela Gondwe who has transformed herself.
“Let me tell you something again, banene. Criminal profiling as a science has shown that it is difficult to catch a criminal who is hiding in plain sight. Gondwe would look like a fish out of water in say Japan or Switzerland. If she runs out of money in those countries, she should have to turn to prostitution to earn a living and prostitution areas in foreign countries are dens of Interpol, the Mafia, the FBI, Mossad, KGB, M16 you name them. These agencies look for criminals there. They also recruit women there as agents to entrap big name criminals. They turn them into spies or double agents. They use their sexuality to catch and turn lonely or disgruntled diplomats into spies and betrayers of their countries. There is no more grateful woman than one rescued from poverty and prostitution by the promise of a steady income, regular apartment, travel in several countries with top-tier hotel accommodation and with several passports. Now imagine if Pamela behaved like a lot of clever criminals, hiding in plain sight right here in Zambia. With that money she stole, she buys a small plot of land, build, stay out of trouble, have a poor regular boyfriend for companionship, go to movies at night and enjoy a pretty comfortable life in Zambia. Meanwhile Interpol will be searching for Pamela Gondwe all over the world, in wrong places. Do you know how many women look like Pamela Gondwe in South Africa, Malawi, Brazil, US, UK, Ethiopia, Nigeria? A lot and some of them have already been questioned by the FBI, Scotland Yard and Interpol. But Pamela Gondwe has just passed here and you think that is some else. Hiding in plain sight, my brother.”
“Oh my God, we have spent a lot of time speculating whether or not that was Pamela Gondwe that we forgot to alert the police. Man we are both stupid. We both deserve to be terminated from employment, you more-so than me because you believe that is Pamela Gondwe yet you forgot to call the cops. I believe that is not Pamela Gondwe so I had no cause for concern.” “Man, I thought you are not as stupid as you look.” “It makes the both of us”, the other one uttered a rejoinder.
“Can I speak to the Commanding Officer, Livingstone. Urgent”, called the immigration officer to Police Headquarters. “Just a minute sir, what is it in regards.” “Just put the Officer in Charge on the phone. I have no time for chit chat. Waunfwa”. “Yes sir, right away.”
“Officer, we think Pamela Gondwe has returned to Zambia through the Victoria Falls/Livingstone Border post. She was driving a brand new silver Mercedez Benz with South African number plates and she is carrying a South African passport. The licence plate number is the following and she is using the following name.”
“How long ago was that?” asked the Officer Commanding. “About 40 minutes to an hour ago.” “What! Are you crazy. You see a worldwide wanted criminal and you wait an hour to report! Zambia can literally be burnt down by smugglers while you guys are twiddling your fingers. What were you doing for an hour? Your shift will be investigated. Heads must roll. I will send some officers to get some statements and check the scene. Don’t forget to immediately remove the film in the CCTV and give it to my officers. Mwanvela?” “Yes, sir,” was the answer.
As the unmarked police car raced towards The Mighty Victoria Falls, along Mosi-Ou-Tunya Road, the detectives saw a brand new silver Mercedez Benz that matched the description of the car Pamela Gondwe was driving but this one had diplomatic mission licence plate status and there were two men in it and no woman at all. They radioed the Livingstone police post at the exit point to Lusaka and instructed that any brand new silver Mercedez Benz with South African Licence plate numbers must be stopped no matter who was driving it, man or woman. This message was relayed throughout the chain and through toll gates from Livingstone to Lusaka. Pamela Gondwe was back and must be captured. There were strict instructions not to spread any news about this on social media. Pamela shouldn’t be alerted.
The police inquired from their traffic colleagues stationed between Livingstone and Victoria Falls whether they saw the described Mercedez Benz. The traffic officers stated that the only Mercedez Benz they saw was one with diplomatic mission licence plate but never saw one with the South African licence plate number. The mystery was intensifying. Where is the Mercedez Benz bearing South Africa licence plate numbers?
The police officers despatched another message that the described car bearing diplomatic licence plate number must be stopped at the next tollgate, that being the Daniel Munkombwe Tollgate after Choma.
On being informed that some police officer had issued a directive that a diplomatic car should be stopped for investigation, the Livingstone Commanding Officer was furious. “You idiots, I will have you fired after this. Don’t you know a diplomat’s car is foreign territory! You can’t trespass on foreign territory. Didn’t you learn that in police academy? Diplomats have immunity from criminal charges. But let me consult the Attorney General or Foreign Affairs or Minister of Justice. In the meantime get a high-wheeled police car from Choma to trail that Mercedez and peep through to see whether there is a woman siting or lying in the back seat of the Benz. Report everything”
“Sir, this is Choma calling. The described Mercedez Benz has been spotted cruising towards Daniel Munkombwe toll bridge but it doesn’t have diplomatic licence plate number but it has a licence plate number registered to a top RTSA official in Lusaka and there is a mean-looking man driving that vehicle”. The mystery of the car was deepening. Are all these people talking about the same car?
Several Hours Later
“Kalaluka here, the Attorney General. I have talked to several lawyers here and abroad about diplomatic immunities. Professor Kenneth Mwenda gave me the most persuasive analysis. In any case that is no longer the issue. Developments have overtaken the diplomatic issue. The car with diplomatic licence plate was seen earlier at Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula airport dropping off a woman, and some people were struck by her resemblance to Pamela Gondwe but that woman smiled so much displaying her gap in her upper teeth which Gondwe doesn’t have and that immediately shut down any conversation. That woman landed in Lusaka where a few people again thought she was Pamela Gondwe. Again her display of the gap and lack of tattoo disarmed everybody’s suscipicions.”
The Attorney General continued. “The woman got into a new Pajero without a licence plate number. These vehicles are usually given to retired prominent people or retired law enforcement top notch former high flying operatives. Since the information hadn’t reached Lusaka at the time, no action could be taken. The described Mercedez Benz crossed into Zimbabwe at Chirundu bearing a diplomatic licence plate”.
“This is the Inspector General of Police. Interpol compared the pictures of Pamela Gondwe with those obtained from the border CCTV camera and after a series of photographic manipulation here in Zambia and at Scotland Yard, at Interpol Headquarters and at the FBI’s finest lab in Quantico, Virginia, it has been determined that the woman who arrived in Livingstone many hours ago is Pamela Gondwe.”
To be continued./SM
Dr Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches Criminal Law and Law of Evidence.