Pros and cons of tricking a conman

Somewhere in downtown Johannesburg there's a blighter who could turn this God-fearing, well- brought-up son of the soil into a heartless sinner.

Somewhere in downtown Johannesburg there's a blighter who could turn this God-fearing, well- brought-up son of the soil into a heartless sinner.

I met him some time last year. He was dressed in a fairly decent suit, hair well cut and clutching a newspaper under his arm.

He gave me a look that said: "I think I've seen you before. Aren't we cousins?"

While I was thinking if he wasn't a long lost cousin indeed, he stuck out his hand and gave me a firm grip, looking me straight in the eye.

Then he struck: "You won't believe what I've done. I left my wallet in my office in Sandton. Now I have run out of juice here ." and he pointed to a Jetta that was parked a few paces from where we were.

Could I advance him R100 or so, and he would arrange with his secretary to deposit the money in my account when he got to the office.

In fact, he said, he would even double the repayment.

He continued: "Oh, by the way, I almost forgot. The name is [whatever]. I am a stock broker at the JSE."

Just when I was beginning to like him, eh the gods of Mogale kicked in. From feeling sorry for him in the one minute, I was beginning to find him too smooth to be real.

Then I lied: "I also left my wallet in the office ."

His beaming face turned sullen immediately, like someone had just switched off his smile. He walked away without saying one more word, obviously to try and find himself another moegoe to con . or so I thought.

Two weeks back, in another part of town, I walked into someone whose face looked very familiar. I could not place him, though, and thought he was probably a former schoolmate or neighbour.

He was quite neat and obviously took his appearance seriously.

He offered his hand and we shook.

Then he let rip: "You won't believe what I've done. I left my wallet ."

Tla!

The penny dropped.

The bloody swine. He recited his lines, and as far as I can remember, it was verbatim from the last time I met him. He obviously did not remember me. This time "his" car was a silver double cab Colt.

I wanted to kick him where it hurts most, wring his neck and throw him in the rubbish bin.

Strangely, though, I burst out laughing. He clearly did not like that.

A word of advice: you do not mess with conmen in the streets of Johannesburg. You do not tell them they are liars and cheats and they must go and play with themselves. You don't even say fokof. It might be the last thing you say.

Inside that neatly wrapped newspaper there could be a loaded gun that could pierce a neat little hole in your head, or a butcher's knife that might slice you up into a hundred pieces.

It is safer, like I did, to say: "Ek het fokol, my broer."

l Charles Mogale is the editor of Sunday World

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