If there is a place I think I know like the back of my hand is Limbe. With all its chaos, I have learned all it offers and found comfort in the place. It’s funny all the jobs I have had have all been in the Limbe, which has forced me to learn all the tricks that thieves do when they want to attack people. However, sometimes you think you know a place so well that you let your guard down, and that is when they attack.
I have shared before that Limbe is one of the scariest towns in Malawi. It is a place you never want to be in when the dark settles in. Even in broad daylight, the crime rate in this congested town is too high and has never been curbed. When you are in Limbe, things like having your minibags hanging to the side are risky, they have to be in front where you can see them, preferably with your hand lightly grabbing onto it. It is risky for men to walk around with their wallets in their back pockets too. Hell, it is not even safe to pick up a phone call in Limbe as you could have the phone snatched.
The first and last time I got robbed in Limbe was when I was 16; my dad had just sent me money to buy a phone. I met a man who had offered to sell a phone at 75% of the shop price which made me feel like I had a superpower. Unfortunately, we handed him money which he tightly folded in front of our eyes. What we did not know was that he had switched the money with dirty old newspapers and had vanished in the alley. That is when I told myself to learn all the tricks that are used in this forbidden town so I never go through it again.
We do not choose when and where we got robbed, unfortunately. And in all this, I blame the fuel shortage that we are facing in the country right now. If you are not Malawian or are in the diaspora, we are currently facing one of the worst fuel crises in the country. People are having to queue for 6 – 8 hours just to gas up their cars. This has also brought shortages of minibusses in locations as they have to queue as well.
That alone has led to high prices for public transport. This post better explains the situation on the ground if you are curious.
Limbe showed me flames
On the 4th of September 2023, I met a fate I wish I could reverse but can’t. That Wednesday, I woke up in the best of moods, it was a beautiful day and the weather was almost perfect. I had an enjoyable day at work, something that has been scarce for me lately.
When it was time to knock off, I wasn’t too eager to go home. Not because I did not want to, but because I had been trying to make two people connect and were afraid they would have a communication breakdown if I was not there. With that thought in mind, I lingered longer outside of the office and chatted with a few of my colleagues.
As we were having banter, I glanced at my bus stop and noticed that no minibusses were in sight. However, the number of people was growing at every passing second. I decided that it was better to stay longer where I was than to spend minutes just standing and waiting for the next available minibus.
A couple of moments passed by and I decided it was the right time to go. I noticed that three minibusses had stopped by and the number of people had decreased. Slowly, I made my way to the stage to wait for a minibus to come through.
As I normally do, I stood a couple of feet away from the people because one thing I know so well is the chaos that would be there once a bus stopped by. After standing strong like a soldier, there was no minibus in sight. I could smell the desperation from the people around me. One thing anyone knows is that Limbe is never safe once it gets dark.
The dark was seeping through and settling in and we all wanted to get out of Limbe. Another 5 minutes passed by and finally, a minibus was seen coming our way.
Limbe’s sticky fingers
Before the minibus could stop, we could already hear the conductor shout the very high price. My stage had doubled up from K500 ($0.65) to K1,000 ($1.30). One thing about being desperate to get home is you never care how high the price is, you pay for it so long as you are out of the Limbe.
As it tried to make a stop, people had already started shoving each other to board the minibus. At that moment, I told myself to use one of the tricks that often gets me through even when there is chaos erupting by the door. I quickly walked to one side of the door and found a little space that I could creep through. As I tried to wiggle my way through, I felt a couple of shoves from behind.
At that moment, I did not care. A quarter of my body was already inside the vehicle, I just needed to hoist myself up and I would be in and finding a seat. Luck was on my side, the man to my left had moved slightly to the left creating more space for me. With such luck, I quickly pulled my legs up and I was in. I made my way to the back of the minibus and sat right by the window.
As I looked down at my handbag that was resting on my thighs, I noted that the zip was opened and that is when a sunken feeling engulfed me. I knew nothing good had happened and remembered why the thieves in Limbe are known to be notorious.
One look inside the bag and I could tell that the two envelopes that I had stashed inside were gone. One of the envelopes had school forms and other documents for Evan. The other contained cash I had earlier taken from the ATM that was meant to be for my maid and other house supplies.
As the minibus pulled away from the stage, I was lost in my thoughts recounting what had happened, trying to figure out when exactly they might have opened my bag and pulled out the envelopes. I was so deep in my thoughts that I hardly heard the conductor ask for his money. Lucky enough, I had a system of stashing changed money in different parts of my bag which saved me from the embarrassment of saying I had no money on me.
As we drove out of Limbe, I started cursing whoever had stolen that money. In my head, I concluded that the shoves I had felt behind me were from the thief, but I was so caught up trying to board a bus that I did not notice anything happen to my bag.
When I got home, I went straight to bed that day. A day that started off so well ended up ending in the worst way for me.
Just a few things that happened in Limbe. In all of this, one of the lessons I relearned is to never expose your valuables. In this case, it is not that the money was exposed, but it was right on top of everything in the bag, making it easier for the culprit to grab and go.
Over the years, I had always stashed money or valuables at the bottom of the bag and had my wrapper at the top to make it the first line of defense. But like I said, the day you lose your guard is when the bad things happen.
Limbe is not a place for loose guard, you need to always have your guard up and be aware of your environment. However, we learn from mistakes and this was one of them.
Ever been robbed in Limbe, share what happened to you in the comment section below.