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The devil in the detail

I had just woken up. It was still dawn, my best time when my brain or is it mind at its best before it is clogged by the lows and highs of the day. In the morning new ideas of enlarging my territory money-wise were always churning in my mind. I just remembered that I had some insurance policy which must have matured. I needed to check that one fast. The day could end up with me literally swimming in money or RTGS. Luck me!

And then from the blues, like a bolt of thunder, my front door burst open. I heard screaming before I could see the person causing this. And before I could spring into action, a half-naked woman   came screaming right into my bedroom and in hot pursuit was a man. He was a ball of tempestuous fury. They were my neighbours, ever fighting and squabbling, Mr and Mrs Svinurai, “Open your eyes” simple translation of the name. I could really say that his eyes were open to a streak of violence. From the corner of my eyes, I could see Mai Maidei trying to put on her clothes. Mai Svinurai tried to take shelter behind my wife, who was trying to dress up,

“What is this you people?” Mai Maidei said in dismay.

“I will kill you this time!” Shouted VaSvinurai. All the while he was swinging a leather belt in the air.

“Not in this house,” I suddenly found my voice.

“Asi munopenga vanhu imi,” I said. “Respect other people’s homes, budai muno. Are you crazy?” I said.

“Ibva wagara kuno, stay here, don’t come back to my house,” said VaSvinurai to his wife. He was literally shaking like a reed with anger and then suddenly he turned to leave. I heard the front door bang shut like thunder. His wife Mai Svinurai was cowering in the corner, a perpetual victim of domestic violence.

“What is it this time! Why is your husband beating you?” Asked Mai Maidei following the departure of her violent husband.

Mai Svinurai started sobbing and speaking in bursts of sobs like a little baby.

“He did not sleep at home and I only asked him where he spent the night,” she said.

“So this is the reason he was beating you?” I asked.

She nodded.  “He said I should be happy that I came back home at all and then started beating me, saying I had no right to ask him that,” she said.

I shook my head. This had happened countless times. Our neighbours would start the fight in their house and more often than not, it always ended unceremoniously in my house.  If only I had money I could go and live in the northern suburbs. There was absolutely no privacy in the life of a ghetto dweller. I was still in my boxer shorts, my abdomen and hairy chest had shamelessly witnessed the drama. I got up and put on my favourite black T-Shirt, clearly emblazoned at the back and front “Let me love you.”

I wish my neighbour Svinurai could see this and stop bashing his wife.

I knew that Mai Svinurai was going to spend the better part of the day in our house before she could go back to her home.

I took a copy of my policy document. I might just as well go to Trinity Insurance, not real name of course.  It was a day as good as any. My life policy had matured, but with the rate of inflation, this was the right time to harvest my policy.

At the reception I was met by a pretty young receptionist who raised her eyebrow. A smile danced on her lips. This was a positive sign.

“You may take a seat Sir, someone will shortly come and assist you,” she said, once I had briefed her on the nature of my business. And true to form, a young man with a false sense of importance came forward from one of the glass doors, which must have led to several offices.  He soon took me to a plush office, carpeted and I must say all the furniture looked expensive. This was also another sign that I could get my money. At the back of my mind I also knew that these insurance companies also built their business on “first impression counts.”

Any prospective would be insurance policy holder would swallow hook, line and sinker without batting an eyelid. The office spoke of prosperity and it did not need much convincing to buy a policy.

And so there I was that morning.  I handed the young man my copy of the policy document. His hawkish eyes scanned the policy document rapidly.

“Yes, I can see that the policy has matured, but just wait a moment Sir,” he said

I was excited at this piece of information. I cross checked to see if I had my identity particulars with me. Yes indeed, I had them.

The young man went to another office down the corridor, which was decked in a thick layer of carpet. He disappeared there for quite some considerable time.

I was thinking to myself that this should not take time.

And at last, when impatience was creeping in, a middle-aged gentleman appeared.   His head was balding. He asked for my identity particulars. He did not even bother to be courteous. It was odd. There could be no problem. They should just give me my cash.

“We seem to have a problem here on your policy,” he said.

“What?” I exclaimed.

“I see that you breached on this contract, you seem to have skipped some payments for two months, in June last year and in March this year,” he said.

“Yes I did but I did eventually paid up,” I said.

“But this kind of contract states that you must not skip even a month on the payment of installments.”

“And so what are you trying to say?” I asked.  At the back of my mind,. I knew where this was leading to.

He handed me back my policy document.

“Check on the bottom paragraph,” he said.

Only the “Terms and conditions” was in bold letters. The rest was very small sprint. I do not remember ever reading it at all this time. I could hardly read as the print was very tiny. The scammers! The print was not meant to be read!

“You breached your contract and so the company will only give you a 2% portion of what you should get,” the balded man said.

This was thievery, stealing public money in broad daylight and hiding the important stuff in the small print.

“No, no, no, I cannot take this. I want to see the manager,” I demanded.

“I am the manager,” said the balded man, or simply “nyamhanza” in the local language.

I stood up, placed the copy of the policy document on the table. I simply got up and walked away, passing through the glass revolving doors.

Many people must have lost their investments in this way.  The devil was in the detail, but they never showed you this.

Onie Ndoro is a writer, educationist and IELTS tutor. For feedback: oniendoro@gmail.com/twitter @Onie90396982/0773007173

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