To people who fancy shortcuts, black markets are ideal for their various business transactions. In Malawi, it is reportedly during festive seasons like Christmas, when these illegal markets experience a ‘boom’ because those based in diaspora, usually stream back home.
Inside these markets, the most viable trade is said to be forex exchange. It is believed that, in these risky markets, foreign currencies are bought and sold at twice the prices offered in commercial banks.
Though these markets are usually behind the scenes owing to their illegalities, most illegal traders stream to them for business opportunities. In Zomba town, one pioneer of black market is, though never seen by ordinary people, popularly known as Dobadoba.
You only hear his tricks in business when eavesdropping on peoples conversations around Zomba town. He seems to be popular behind the scenes. On one trip to the old capital city, one of the passengers talked a lot about Dobadoba and he attracted a lot of attention in that bus.
He would say: “It is difficult to meet him, especially when you have strangers because he usually say he fails to distinguish a sheep from a fox. He has his readily available customers. For strangers, it’s a problem, unless you are approved by his regular customers. ”
During a weeklong stay in Zomba, our reporter hoped he would meet Dobadoba but it was to no avail. However, there was some assurance that he was around the market. But maybe as that passenger said, the illegal trader is much careful and makes sure he plays his cards right.
In Lilongwe, another popular name pops up around devil street and Chigwiri, Majintchidwe. He is, according to people who have seen him, a very huge man. Very huge that they compare him with the popular weight lifting heavyweight-Ichocho.
At one takeaway, our reporter overheard some youngsters describing him as a veteran in the business, with over fifteen years of existence in the illegal business.
“He survives through that,” one boy in his early 20s pronounced,” he is just a master of his own way. Nobody understands him. Some guys are too good in business.”
As our reporter started off his journey back to Mzuzu, stories of Majintchidwe followed him in this public commuter. People spoke good and bad about him. They spoke, spoke and spoke until the bus reached Mzimba bus depot where people started arguing on who is more powerful than the other, between Majintchidwe of Lilongwe and Ngangilingo of Mzimba.
It was not until then that our reporter realized that there is another pioneer of black market in Mzimba main market. Ngangilingo, so they call him. After a lengthy comparison of the two, it was resolved that each of them was a giant in business. All that separated their muscles was who has more customers that time.
But one passenger had a warning: “You have to beware of these people. Some of them are crooks and fraudsters. They duped someone of his money just last week. The duped man came from South Africa with rands (SA currency) and he wanted to use shortcuts.
“They,” he continued “transacted their business of exchanging money there but when that fraudster disappeared, that was when that man realized he was given a few bank notes and the rest were papers. He cried bitterly like a baby. But then, he wouldn’t have gone to police to report because they carried out an illegal business. Regrets have no remedy, be warned.”
His warning was echoed by Mzimba Police officer in charge, Peter Muwanga during one of the sensitization campaign meetings held in the district ahead of Christmas celebrations.
Muwanga warned people to refrain from using shortcuts when transacting any business during and after Christmas, saying such ways are risky and illegal. He advised people to always use banks when they want to carry out any financial transactions.
Said Muwanga: “As we are heading towards Christmas, criminals find chances to dupe people. Be careful when transacting business. Make sure, you are transacting with someone who is registered or go to the bank when you want forex exchange. ”
As our reporter started off his journey to Mzuzu, the warning kept wringing in his mind and of course he is eager to meet another black market tycoon, popular in Mzuzu business district as Mbinga.