I have had a brush with the dirty vagabonds who place nasty objects along the Lilongwe-Blantyre route, mainly between Dedza and Ntcheu, to trap unsuspecting motorists and rob them of belongings, and even life.
It was around 11pm in a pitch-black night three years ago, driving from Blantyre to Lilongwe. Along Linthipe 3, and well cruising in the middle of the road down the speed rumps, I spotted under my full lights a figure standing on the right side of the road.
At the feet of the man was a small sack which he then hastily heaved on to his shoulder. I was of the impression he was readying himself to cross as soon as I got past him.
Getting within 30 metres of the man, he catapulted the sack on to the middle of the road. I had no time to duck.
Before I could say a prayer, the object was lodged under my cruising vehicle, grinding against the parts down there with a clamour loud enough to wake up the dead.
Instinct had me go for the brakes and I swerved in an unwanted U-turn. Now facing where I was coming from, my eyes unbelievably fell on a group of men armed with sticks, stones and pangas, running after us as if we were hares meant for their supper. I trembled.
I accelerated on and on, with the vehicle still partially suspended in the air courtesy of the object underneath. The vehicle could not do as much as I prayed for. It swerved further.
I cried out to my passenger and former next door neighbour, Laisani Mitabo, preparing him for the worst I saw coming. He only tossed and turned in his seat, deep in slumber. It got me more uncomfortable and disoriented.
The vagabonds had now come within our reach. Frantically, I tried all I could—reverse, forward, reverse—until one try on the forward got the vehicle free from the trap.
My heart leapt as they watched us speed off. All they managed was ram the body of the vehicle with their wares, yelling unprintable insults. It was a fairy-tale escape.
The banging had awoken my passenger who now paid attention to my jumbled recount.
We drove in dead silence as the vehicle limped on to Nathenje Police and Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) checkpoint. I narrated my ordeal to officers on duty. They nodded and promised to do something about it. No details taken, just assurances.
From my bed back home in Lilongwe, I thought around the many accidents around the three Linthipes between Lilongwe and Dedza. How many of the accidents were ‘man made’?
Three years on, driving from Blantyre to Lilongwe in the evening in the company of three—my brother Golden Jamu, his wife and a cousin, another bad experience cropped up.
Approaching Dedza, a Toyota Hilux double cabin in front of us suddenly slowed to a crawl. Its bigger tyres allowed it to drive over an object without much trouble.
For us, it was different. We woke up to two stones seemingly strategically placed across the road. There was no stopping, never!
One stone got under our vehicle and scraped hard against the bottom, ruining the exhaust pipe and the rear right shock absorber.
I sensed it immediately. I am lucky to be here to tell this tale.
These vagabonds are having a Christmas. I hear some suspects were arrested a week or so ago. But that is not enough. More must be done. We need a tight and solid conclusion on the vagabonds of Linthipe.