KOK TALES: Poppie part 3: The fruits of torture

Adam and I were sitting in my study enjoying a great Single Malt whiskey. He had been telling me about his “ugly sister”, Poppie.

To my surprise, Adam said a story can be like an onion. The story of Poppy had a number of layers. The next layer is another story — the story of Jock Mopani.

Adam met Jock at a journalists’ conference in Dar es Salaam. Each had heard the other’s reputation — both were ladies’ men after all — and they took to each other like cats to cream. Over a drink, Adam told Jock his Kok Tales and Jock told Adam his Jock Tales. They matched each other, story for story — adding more and more pepper and salt as the evening wore on . . . until Jock told Adam what he was about to tell me now.

“Jy ken, Jack,” said Adam to me, “I thought I had some good stories but when Jock told me this one, my mouth started watering I could hardly find room for the whiskey.”

“Adam, my friend, would you mind telling the story instead of talking about it? I’ve waited long enough.”

“Suk’baleka, kwedini! The way you run! Have you never heard the story of Kamba and Tsuro?”

Exasperated, I said: “Adam Kok! This is not a crèche! Tell me the story or I kick you out of here — and I stay with the bottle!”

“All right, all right, comrade, take it easy. You should learn to count time by looking at the bottle.”

“Adam!”

“Just let me fill my glass first — I need to fill up for a story like this!”

Finally, finally, Adam got down to the story. This is how it went.

Everyone in Nairobi knew Jock Mopani. He was a well-known journalist, who from time to time gladdened the hearts of the masses by exposing the corruption and abuse of power that characterised the government of Daniel arap Moi.

When he suddenly disappeared, Jock became a celebrity. His case was taken up by the International Association of Journalists and various human rights bodies.

Moi denied all knowledge and eventually people began to forget Jock — even the ladies whom he had previously been wont to make happy.

But, as he told Adam, Jock had never been arrested at all. He had been tipped off by one of his girlfriends working for the Security Police that they were coming for him. That would really have involved an introduction to the crocodiles or a few nights as a corpse in a forest near Nairobi. So he fled.

He went to London and, being the man he was, he got into a scrape with one of the various husbands he was cheating. Jock hadn’t done his research. The husband was a Nigerian with links to the Nigerian mafia. They caught them in bed together, slashed his face, gave him a good beating and dumped him in a dustbin in an alleyway in Fulham. He was lucky to come away a complete man — they had threatened to cut them off if he ever touched the woman again.

And that is what gave him his great idea.

Moi was no more and the dust had settled in Kenya. Jock went back home. Everyone wanted to hear his story. As a journalist Jock knew how to sensationalise things so that a cough becomes an epidemic, an everyday police roadblock something approaching Abu Ghraib and a head of state’s trip on a carpet, regime change.

He spun them a pretty story — kidnapping by government thugs, solitary confinement, torture, beatings and threats to throw him to the crocodiles. He had the scars to prove it. Running down his handsome face, from ear to chin, was a visible gash — and he hinted that the rest of his body was similarly marked by the proofs of torture. Jock was once again a celebrity.

He added one more important fact to his story — his great idea. He told a drinking pal of his, who, he knew, would spread it all over Nairobi, that as a result of the torture, he had become impotent.

There is nothing to make other men celebrate more than to hear that a man they envy for his prowess with women — or dread for fear for their wives — can no longer do the job. The story swept Nairobi like a veld fire. Suddenly all his men friends — including his enemies — became so nice to him, their poor brother, who had gone through such a terrible experience at the hands of Moi’s torturers. Behind Jock’s back, however, they couldn’t stop laughing. Jock Mopani, the stud of Nairobi, impotent!

The men made snide jokes with their wives, with their nyatsis, their small houses and the secretaries at work — and then, hoping to really disgrace him, they did a very foolish thing.

They purposely recommended he spend time with their women, take them out, and visit them at home. Jock was the joke of the town — and the more rope they gave him, the more amusing the men found it.

Soon Jock had access to the most famous beauties in Nairobi — the stunners, the party fat cats and big tycoons of Nairobi snapped up when they were still young and then kept under lock and key, the ravishing small houses, where pretty women lived all alone in luxury. Jock’s impotence was an “Open Sesame” to every one of these.

Only the women knew that Jock’s impotence was a myth — and, far from being unable to do the job, Jock had returned from the UK with a few tricks up his sleeve and the appetite of a man coming home from exile and knowing that there is no woman like his own women.

Jock had one advantage over my friend, Kok. Kok was married — which did, of course, to some extent cramp his style. But Jock was as free as a dog. “Indoda yinja”, they say, “A man’s a dog”. Jock was the freest dog in Africa.

Of course, Jock’s paradise on earth could not last. A woman by the name of Aminika (which ironically means “trustworthy”) got very jealous. Aminika wanted Jock all to herself. It so happened she was married to the Minister of Justice.

In a fit of self-destructive fury — ‘‘there is no fury like a woman scorned’’ — Aminika hinted to her husband that there might be more to Jock’s story than he and all the other men thought.

At first the minister just laughed at her indulgently. This made her even madder.

One day when Adam failed to perform because he had spent a torrid night with Wanjiku, the young, beautiful and very sex-starved wife of an old moneybag who controlled half the matatas in Kenya, Aminika, eaten up by jealousy, made a decision she regretted for the rest of her life.

She waited until Adam had recovered his powers and then took very explicit photos on her cell-phone and sent them to the minister, her husband.

As you can imagine, all hell broke loose. The truth was out — and just as the story of Jock’s impotence had spread through Nairobi like a veld fire, so did the truth that it was all a lie and that half the richest and most powerful men in Nairobi had been cuckolded, cheated and humiliated — not only with their permission but with their active encouragement. It was not egg that was on their faces but whatever it was, they did not like it and they were onto Jock like a pack of bloodhounds.

Fortunately for him, Aminika realised too late what she had done. She had lost him for ever. In a fit of tears she told Jock what she had done. Jock packed a bag, jumped into one of the matatas owned by Wanjuku’s old husband and fled to Tanzania — where Adam found him when he went there for the conference.

I was as usual shocked and disapproving and told Adam so. “And what the hell has this story got to do with Poppie?” I demanded.

“Comrade, Jock was lucky, very lucky, and if I could get away with it here in Harare, I would do it in a flash. Every day in Angola we were in danger of collecting one of Savimbi’s bullets. I swore then that if I ever get out of this, I was going to make the most of my life.

“Women are my life and what Jock managed to do in Nairobi is a dream I may dream but never hope to experience. Meanwhile, I do my best to make up for it.

“As for Poppie, don’t be so dumb, comrade. Didn’t I use my sister, Poppie’s, ugliness in Harare in the same way as Jock used his impotence in Nairobi? That is why Poppie is the flower at the heart of the onion, my friend.”

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