Dave was a quiet sort of chap, easy going but he kept himself to himself. It must have been around 1970 when he worked at the Smith & Youngson tanker shop on Chachacha Road in Lusaka and was involved in repairing the bent and battered S&Y vehicles of which there were many.
He didn't join us on Saturday evenings when most of us mechanics either ended up at the Ridgeway Hotel for their famous chicken in a basket, or for serious drinking sessions at the Q Inn on Cairo Road. Dave kept himself to himself - Until we had that party.
Now it wasn't really a party but if there was a long weekend for example at Easter when we had Friday to Monday off, we organised a gathering at Mimosa to enjoy many Lions, Castles and lots of steaks on the braai*
Dave lived along with us twenty odd mechanics at Mimosa which was known as the bachelors mess and was about eight miles South of Lusaka on the Kafue Road. Mimosa was run by Mrs McCartney who must have been in her sixties. She had come to Africa from the UK when she was in her twenties and never went back.
Anyway, I digress. The gathering was well populated with guests from Central African Motors, Power Equipment plus a few others.
One thing we had noticed about Dave was that he always had some form of money belt around his waist. It was often hidden by his shirt but now and again we got a glimpse of it.
As the party went on into the evening, we invited Dave to join our little group where we were in the process of demolishing a couple of cases of Lion Lagers. Dave seemed to enjoy our company and after a couple of bottles or three, he began to open up and to our surprise, he began to tell us a story about a guy who had worked on a diamond mine in South Africa.
Now if you worked on a diamond mine it appeared to be relatively simple to pocket some choice stones and stash them away. The big problem was getting them out of the mine compound where all the mine workers lived. The compound was surrounded by a high fence with armed guards and if you had to leave you were subjected to a full body search, sometimes an x-ray and all of your possessions were scrutinised.
Now this guy, according to Dave, had squirrelled away some stones and needed a plan to get away with them. A new office block was being built and the yard was busy with bricks, scaffolding and cement mixers. While nobody was watching he scooped up some fresh concrete and quickly fashioned it into a rough block. Before he put it back on the ground, he carefully inserted the diamonds he had collected. The concrete eventually set hard and became just another part of the general rubble in the yard.
The day came when the miner's contract was up and he made preparations to leave. He was strip searched and his belonging were checked over by the security people. His vehicle, an old pickup was also given a quick once over but as this had been kept in a secure garage, it was not suspect.
All his possessions were loaded into the back of the pickup and he slowly drove across the yard to the main security gate but to his annoyance, he got a puncture. Pulling up outside the new office he got his jack out of the back of the pickup and started to raise the wheel. Unfortunately the jack couldn't get the wheel high enough to clear the ground, so he needed something to put under the jack, like a concrete block….
It didn't take him long to change the wheel and when he’d finished he loaded the punctured wheel back in the pickup along with the jack and the concrete block. Of course, he needed the concrete block incase he had another puncture. The main security gates opened and he drove off.
Now Dave then mentioned something about the IDB** and their organisation that used informants to track down stolen diamonds. It seemed that you could not only make some money by stealing diamonds but you could also makes a tidy sum by informing on someone and earning a reward. The IDB organisation had its informants throughout Central & South Africa so any diamond smuggler never knew who to trust or when he would get that tap on his shoulder.
We finished the last case of Lions and as we all had to be back at work early the next morning, we retired to our separate rooms.
Next morning at breakfast there was an empty place at the table..
Dave was gone.
Dave was that diamond smuggler.
** IDB - Illegal Diamond Board which I believe was part of the De Beers Mining Group