I really hate Valentine's week. It brings back bad memories. This is the time of year when it rains non-stop for days on end and as a result, everyone stays indoors.
Some 12-14 years ago, a spate of burglaries were plaguing the University of Zambia, Great East Road campus. Spiderman, as the suspected burglar was known, used to climb to the 3rd and 4th floor rooms in the female hostels by scaling the outside wall/windows and escaping the same way, but by diving out of the window and landing in a stunt move (body roll). Like the misogynistic twerp that he was, he only seemed to rob female student residences.
|UNZA Momma's Main Residence - Aka October 24 Hostel. |
The picture was taken by Barbara Graf Horka
Our room, in October Block 3, overlooked the UNZA laundry area, so it was an enclosed space, fenced off from the rest of the campus. It's where they used to hang the clothes to dry. As residents of the ground floor, we used to jump out of the window and hang our clothes there too. Occasionally, friends who had washed beddings and other large items would come to us to ask for access to climb through and hang their duvets etc.
On that fateful night of February 14th 2000 or 2001 or 2002, I had gone to attend a sleepover with some of the girls at church and my roomie was off campus. It was raining incessantly as it is wont to do in February. In fact, it had rained for almost 3 days.
I got to the room the next morning and noticed something was off. It wasn't immediately obvious that we had been robbed. Using deductive reasoning (yes, I watch Sherlock and Elementary), we determined that Spiderman was definitely a student. Why? Because he was fair and balanced in his theft. He stole Roomie's two plate cooker, but left mine. He took my kettle, but left hers and so on. It was not his intention to completely cripple the residents he stole from. Also, he stole food, but only what was still in unopened original packaging, making it appear as though he had merely gone grocery shopping. Then, he stole books, but only those which we had not written in yet. Only a fellow student would be considerate enough to leave data. We also knew it was a male student, probably without a girlfriend because he left all the clothes and shoes. Roomie was a fashionista, even in those days. Methinks the dude missed an opportunity.
Then, in keeping with his signature move in his campaign of larceny, Spiderman piled all Roomie's clothes onto the floor on her side of the room and poured milk, juice and oil all over the clothes. Because of the rain and enclosed space, Spiderman had all the time in the world to work undisturbed. He helped himself to a suitcase to carry everything in. He even had the GALL to make himself a glass of juice and sandwich and leave the dirty dishes. Ugh! Then, the jerk also stole an umbrella. It was a huge shock and financial set back. Our friends came and commiserated with us for being Spiderman's latest victims.
But, Spiderman had messed with the wrong Momma. Roomie set out to catch this scumbag. He had been known to strike the same room twice, so she was vigilant. We knew he had gotten in through the laundry and so listened out for sounds of anyone tampering with the small gate that lead to that area. Sure enough, he came back. We shouted and made noise and he fled. Roomie chased after him, but lost him. A friend mentioned that the same night he had seen a guy hurrying away from our hostel who was known to be a martial arts enthusiast. When he asked him who he was running away from, the guy answered, "The Police". Our friend figured the guy had gotten into a fight with someone and the cops wanted to speak to him for abusing his martial arts skills. The guy was studying civil engineering (not really, I've changed his identity slightly). The trail went cold and the burglaries stopped.
Fast forward to end of semester and it was time to 'clear'. Roomie noticed her library cards were missing. She went to the library to clear and they said she had two overdue books out. She told them her cards were stolen toward the beginning of the semester and asked for the title of the books. They were 'civil engineering' books. Aha!
She rushed back to the room and we strategised what to do. We found out where his room was, but how to access it? We discovered we had a friend whose boyfriend was on the same level. We persuaded our friend to talk to her boyfriend and asked him to go and check for the books. He agreed. We waited in the boyfriend's room while he went across the hall. He found the books and came back with them. We had our culprit, but we had just taken away the evidence. We asked Boyfriend to take the books back again, which he did. Next step was to alert campus security. Boyfriend got cold feet, because apparently Spiderman had had it rough with school and home life and he didn't want to contribute to his having to drop out of school, so he refused to allow his room to be used as a base for the sting operation.
We proceeded anyway. Somehow, Spiderman's contacts at Campus Security tipped him off that they were coming and he left campus. In his room, lots of electronics, TVs etc were found, but no spiderman. It was coming up to exam time and we knew he would come back to write the exams, so campus security laid in wait to apprehend him as he attempted to enter the examination room. He was tipped off again and didn't show. Security followed him to his room where he escaped from the 4th floor window by tying bedsheets together like in a movie -- so cliche.
Following that incident, Spiderman withdrew from school and at least until Roomie and I graduated from UNZA, he never came back. February rains and Valentine's always make me think of that fateful day and the events that followed. I wonder what became of Spiderman. What is he doing and where is he? Actually, I don't know and I don't care.
A Google search reveals a woeful lack of pictures of the University of Zambia. I find this troubling as we have a very limited pictorial evidence or documentation of the highest institution in our nation. I 'borrowed' this picture from some German/Swiss website detailing some kind of student exchange programme between Namibia Polytechnic and UNZA: http://www.namibiandays.ch/studentenunruhen/