Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Take him to prison, officer; correction and instruction must both work, ere this rude beast will profit. -William Shakespeare; Measure for Measure

January 2007

Now Johnny has gone out and done it. Yes, Johnny, that homeboy of mine that got himself a gun. Used to be my homeboy, actually, but he moved out. He lives in Kile now. In an SQ he lives, or so I gather, but Kile is Kile. And he drives too. A stolen car, it is but to drive he does and that is about it.

I reckon kids down here have been watching too many movies, picking the wrong images from television; choosing the wrong idols. A while back, Johnny told me that, like rapper 50 Cent, he had to get rich or die trying. That he has got rich I cannot tell but I can see him dying soon, for the trying. You see, he has made it to the top of the Police’s ‘Most Wanted List’ and since when did the police get them alive- see what I mean?


I am sitting at the Stone Zone sipping on Napshizzle and starring at the front page of today’s newspaper, having borrowed it like I used to, from Mutua’s kiok. Yes, that is Johnny there, his glazed eyes peering from beneath a branded baseball cap. It is a good enough mug shot of him. It is as though he was hanging with his Flying Squad buddies after a heist- you know the one where all the thugs are gunned down apart from the one with the loot- and they pulled out a camera and he said: Cheese!

Now these fellows want him. Real bad is how they want him. Knowing Johnny- he has watched his fair share of gangster movies, you know- he must be looking at these pictures, musing: “…dead or alive, it is nice to be wanted!” (Who does he think he is, anyway, Billy the Kid?) But that is the trouble with kids from down here. They have lived in utter squalor and as victims of a system that treats them like they do not exist, for so long, that they begin to covet social and economic acceptance by all means necessary.

Do not be quick to accuse me of justifying their criminal tendencies. In fact, emphatically, I am an advocate for ‘societally approved means’ of navigating Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. But I am ever a pragmatic believing that what I dictate for myself will easily be shunned by certain elements down here.

In fact, a professor I met in a Mamlaka Road bar once, told me that there is a ‘plausible causal connection between social disability and delinquency.’ I cannot be sure what he meant but my lay interpretation is that: economically marginalized communities or individuals born within them are increasingly crime prone. That is especially true in view of incidences of violent crime. Certainly I am no sociologist so correct me if I am wrong.

My professor friend attested that socially induced stress influences criminal behaviour. He gave me a mouldy paper from The Social Service Review of September 1968 by John M. Martin, et al where such ‘tension state’ theories were referenced to as accounting for delinquent behaviour. They wrote: “In essence, this general theory holds that delinquency is a response to the frustration created when a society, committed to middle class ideals, denies to millions of youngsters the possibility of lawfully attaining these ideals because of inadequacy of schools, housing and employment opportunities.”

All that gobbledygook I will have to leave to you to interpret seeing that I am no social scientist my ambitions towards that end having been hampered by the self same inadequacies highlighted above.

There is one thing that I know, though, and it bothers me no end, that down in this dump, Johhny is a hero. A mere six months ago he sat right here not knowing pretty much where his next meal was coming from. In a little while, he started drafting what came to be jokingly referred to as Johnny’s Christmas shoplifting list. Needless to say, that list was ‘alcohol heavy’ indicating how escapism and means to achieving it are basic needs in this neighbourhood.

At that time we could not have imagined that that wee seed of pilferage would blossom, in little time into grand larceny (to use an Americanism that would appeal to Johnny.) But now in a ‘capital starved’ economy, Johnny has discovered a high yield enterprise that requires minimal venture capital. The son of a Council worker and a fish hawker now shops in a mall a long way from that dirty, little ‘credit book’ at Mama Njeri’s grocery stall.

And therein lays the trouble. “That Johnny from the ‘hood has made it, then we too can,” or so Komo, Viki and Zale from down the road think. The import of this: more guns on the streets than there are people to rob. Sooner than later we will have hordes of drugged out adolescents shooting folks for their last pau and shooting them, all the same, for having nothing. In a short while, this will be the next Kariobangi. What is worse; one gun is dangerous but two guns is two spheres of influence.

“I got a gun so get out of the way,” says the tall kid.

“oops easy dude, I got mine too, so you get out of the way!” exclaims the short one.


Pop! Pop! Move over L.A, New York and mother fucking Jo’burg, this is the new gang warfare capital of the world.

As usual though, I worry most about the here and now. That fat woman from Sector III must be busy telling the chief that Johnny was a Stone Zoner. The same woman who said that our friend Timi’s shooting was a case of chicken coming home to roost. That when, even, the good lord knows Timi wouldn’t hurt anybody and Timi got shot by a rogue cop.


The militia must be gathering now- frenzied like the murderous Orcs of Mordor- their machetes gleaming. That they are a belligerent lot of self seekers I know but pray tell, where in our crappy constitution do they draw the right to bear arms?

I know that by the end of this day lots of Stone Zoners will be ‘helping’ police with investigations. Now that is as scary a proposition as they come. Really. Personally,I am tired of this business of being picked up on the premise that since I have no job, then I must be a criminal. The police batter me till the obvious reveals itself- I know nothing of criminal ways (“Huh, Potash?” Shut your mouth, you bastards!)- so they put me back on the street, still with no job, until the next major crime. It is no wonder then that some of us break upon the realization that the system doesn’t see us as ‘individuals in trouble’ but as ‘troublesome individuals’.

When the cops come, I will tell them what I know. Which is not much. Johnny if you read this, know that I will not snitch on you but only because I do not know anything about what you have been up to- merely rumours. But frankly, I hope they catch you.For real. You are my friend and all but someone must send a tacit message to your younger brothers and other little homies that crime doesn’t pay.

My earnest desire is that they take you alive. They should arraign you and give you a fair trial because we all have a right to ou rday in court. That is the only way justice can be done and seen to be done. If they find you guilty, may the penal system straighten you out. (I saw it on TV the other day that jails are no longer as nasty as they used to be. Besides you could make it as the next Mr. Kamiti. Even meet Lord Delamere.)

If they send you to the gallows, do not fret, the hangman might easily hang himself in trying to hang you; he is so out of practice. So you can be rest assured they will not even try to. Anyway, if they take you to the Big House, know that we love you even though we feel that the streets are a lot safer without you.

Hey here come the police... I am out.


3N said...

potash, I am humbled by your genius in writing.

you have a subtle way of pointing out society ills without alienating those would be beneficiaries of the spoils.

i hope too they get Johnny, alive.

Boy genius said...

Another great one! So whats you're bet on "them" getting Johny alive.

Boy genius

modoathii said...

i'm a johnny come lately...

dude fab writing...anyway i hear you's a terribly good writer...kwani? na buy.

as for johnny...leet him DIE DIE DIE! and nice choice of friends...singependa kukutana ma-enemies were you.