This story is a bit tricky to tell as it involves someone that his family may recognise, so I am going to call the key figure in this story Nev. (which is just two letters off his real name)
Now Nev worked as the plant manager at Edmac Contractors in Kitwe, although I never really saw him managing any plant as it was mostly up to myself and my two workmates Alfonso and Dimitris to look after the yard and all of the plant.
Anyway, when Nev joined the company, he was allocated a small office which had just a desk and three chairs. Curiously, when he moved in, he demanded that his office floor be carpeted which was an odd request as all of the other offices had the usual polished concrete floor. Nev got his office carpeted, a nice deep pile version, dark blue if I remember. Once he was settled, Nev carried on with his management of plant and we just carried on keeping it running.
One day, Nev summoned myself and Dimitris to his office. Already seated inside were two rather scruffy gentlemen who looked decidedly shifty. Now Nev’s job description did not encompass recruitment, so Dimitris and I were curious as to why Nev wanted us.
It turned out that these two characters spoke no English or any of the local Zambian languages. They only knew Swahili and French which is the lingua franca of the Belgian Congo* which is where these two guys had come from.
Dimitris had spent some time working in the Congo but had to leave rapidly with his family due to the uprising in the 1960’s . He was not only fluent in French but also Swahili so it became obvious that Dimitris was to be the interpreter and me, the bodyguard !
These guys had a lot of diamonds which were quickly poured out from a couple of draw string bags to form a small heap on the desk. It quickly dawned on Dimitris and myself that Nev was a diamond buyer and these two guys were illegal diamond merchants, no wonder Nev needed a bodyguard.
Getting down to business, Nev started sorting out the diamonds into three separate piles. One pile for the rejects, another pile to be examined in more detail and the third pile for the choice items, they all looked the same to me !
Once they had been finally sorted, the haggling began and this is where Dimitris became the key player in this drama. I just stood and watched as the diamonds from two of the piles were pushed around the desk until at last Nev had created a small pile that he wanted to buy. Eventually a price was agreed and the two guys left with a large wad of notes.
Once they were gone, Nev then stood up and locked the office door. He stacked the three chairs on top of the desk and moved the lot up against the wall.
He then went down on his hands and knees and started to run his fingers though his new blue carpet. Immediately he started to pick out the best stones which he had flicked off the desk with his little finger whenever the two dealers were momentarily distracted.
The two guys were illegal diamond merchants but I’ve often wondered what that make Nev.
* Belgian Congo later renamed Zaire and then renamed again as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo)