Chapter 12 : Finally The Contract
The next day, we continued our journey to Port Matadi.. We arrived there a few hours later. Damn it was far too hot there!! I had arranged a forwarding agent from Kinshasa to assist taking out our machinery before I went to Matadi. It was run by another French guy named Frederique.. who seemed to know so much about the political scenario of Republique Democratique du Congo. I just called him Freddy. From the documents that he gave me, it was stated that we didn’t need to pay a single tax as we were coming there to assist development. He didn’t come along with us as I told him that I could handle things by myself.. knowing that he was quite busy at the time.
Here we go.. My bloody day started again when all our machinery were not allowed to be taken out!! The officer in-charged claimed about USD 80,000 for tax or else they would just block our machines.. Hell! The telephone system at Matadi was screwed up. A few ISD operators charged ‘a bomb’ for their service but I had to deal with it. The only thing that I could manage to do was making a few phone calls to Kinshasa and Malaysia. I had to wait for 1 week for Freddy to come down.. meanwhile I arranged a private property owned by a new friend named Mr Tutu.. about 2 kms away from the port to park the machinery before we started our project. As Freddy arrived.. I felt relieved coz I was so certain that he would be able to handle the case. Nope!! I was wrong. They still wouldn’t release our machinery.. I went to see the man in-charge and started to shout at him in English.. All sorts of swear words came out from my mouth.. He didn’t understand a single word but I didn’t care coz I felt satisfied… Couldn’t stand the pressure anymore.. plus the hot sun.. I mean.. really really bloody hot!! I went back to my hotel room and slept! The next day, someone came knocking on my door.. and straight away opened it.. Shit! I thought I had locked the door! Then came a familiar voice of my immediate boss, just one position below Dato.. Mr Henry.. so surprised he was there.. He used the receptionist to open the door.. perhaps I didn’t answer my door for quite sometimes. I opened up my mouth and mumbled something and I just could not remember what happened next..
Then, a few hours later I opened my eyes again.. there were people around me.. Mr Henry was there.. He asked me “Are you Ok?” .. and I replied.. “Haaa…?” He explained to me that they knocked and knocked and knocked my door but I didn’t answer it. They thought something was wrong. But when he entered my room, I got up and started to scream and abuse him with horrible swearing words.. then I collapsed. They rushed me to a nearby hospital and there I was treated and confirmed ‘Malaria’.. Strange enough I didn’t need to have ‘a drip’ as I had seen treated to others.. and I recovered within 2 days.. that was the first time I had Malaria after staying in Africa for almost 2 and a half years..
Mr Henry, Mr Tutu and Mr Valero took me to the piece of land that I had arranged to park the machinery. I smiled this time.. all the machinery had been taken out of the port and nicely parked as I had wished… I started to snap photos of each one of them.. Then we all went back to Kinshasa.. smiling and so happy as if we had won a battle.. Nope!! wrong again!! 3 months later.. we still didn’t get our contract to reconstruct the road. I had been pushed from one department to another.. but still failed to get anything out of it.. Then Dato came.. he was dissappointed with the Minister that had promised him to give the contract.. he said “Let’s pack up and leave..!!” What??? I didn’t expect to hear that. I sat for a while.. thinking.. actually thinking about how the hell was I going to reach President Laurent Kabila and report all these incidents to him..?
It just so happened that there was a Western African Leaders meeting held at The Grand Continental Hotel that day. I stood up and said to Dato “Wait Dato!! Don’t give up yet! Give me a chance to try one more time!!” He laughed… “Ha..ha.. little hero.. what can you do..?” and I said “If it works out.. then you will know it Dato.. I’m going out for a while.. see you later.” I called my lawyer. He came and we went to The Grand Continental Hotel together.. As we approached the hotel.. there were military everywhere.. they pointed their guns at us.. we were ordered to leave as the security was very very tight. There were 5 African Leaders, expected to meet there.. Bloody Hell.. I failed again.. What I wanted to do was to meet The President of Namibia.. who is a good friend of Dato. He was the one who recommended Dato to do the project. I wanted him to help reporting our problem to President Laurent Kabila. I didn’t trust anybody else in the ministry that would bring us to him. I had been trying to meet President Laurent Kabila for more than six months but I only met crooks that were just after money.
We both sat in the car.. just looking at the guards.. Then I had another idea.. I took out my name card and wrote behind it ..”Sir, I’m in trouble.. Please help me.. Urgent!! Call me please.. From your friend, Dato Wong” and with little tears mixed with anger.. I begged to my lawyer.. “Use your power.. use any excuse whatsoever.. please go in there.. reach out the nearest person who would give this to The President of Namibia.. ” and he looked at me and said.. “Are you crazy..?” and I said to him.. “Yes buddy.. I am fucking crazy!! and fucking mad!!” ..”So, will you do it..?” He grabbed my hands and said.. “I’m with you..” and off he went.. I felt that our effort would go to waste once again.. But at least we had tried our best.. I waited for 45 minutes.. My lawyer came back.. the only thing he said was “You almost got me killed!!” We both went back to our office… I said to Dato..”If we don’t hear anything for the next 2 hours.. then let’s pack up and leave this horrible place Dato.”
WRONG AGAIN!!! I received a call about one hour later from The President of Namibia. He asked me “What’s wrong??” and I told him that the people in the ministry were not co-orperating with us for the road project.. and I asked his help to bring us to meet President Laurent Kabila… To my astonishment, he invited us to come to The Grand Continental Hotel immediately.
It was kinda great when the same military who pointed the guns at us earlier came and picked us up at the entrance this time.. So, Dato met his good friend The President of Namibia.. We had our words together with him.. but I was careful enough not to say the wrong things.. fearing it might spoil everything.. 10 minutes later..The President of Namibia took us to meet The President of Republique Democratique du Congo, President Laurent Kabila.
Guess what? The first word that came out from President Kabila when he saw Dato was “Hello my Malaysian friend.. what happened..? Why aren’t you building the road for us..? They said you are not doing anything.. Why take so much time..?” Apparently Kabila was able to speak English and French. Then Dato said..”Well… maybe you can ask my manager here..” while pointing at me.. Then the same question was asked to me.. This time I replied in French, meaning “Your Excellence, we want to start the project but we can’t do it without a contract. We had tried to get the contract signed for the past 6 months but until now it has not been signed yet.” And The President asked “But why..??” And I kept my reluctant answer “I don’t know Sir… I really really don’t know Sir.. I don’t know why our contract is not signed ” I kept repeating the words “I don’t know” and “contract not signed” as hints that there is something phishy in the ministry. Actually I was so tempted to say that somebody wanted some under table money!! Uurrrgghh.. Luckily I didn’t say that.. perhaps I could have got killed.. Then something else struck in my mind.. I said, “Your Excellence, we really want to do the project.. In fact we had imported our machinery here. Look at these pictures…” I showed him the pictures which I took before, which just happend to be in my file that I brought along that day. Lucky enough, the pictures had date at the bottom. Then I said..”Look Your Excellence.. Our machinery had been there for the past 3 months already…. and we are ready to do some work..!! We need the contract signed!!” Hmmmm…. I think by that time he got the message already…. Immediately he called the Minister in-charged.. “Where is Mr……..?” (I won’t mention his name here k..) “Call him here!!”….. Probably you could imagine my face expression at that time.. yep, I was giving that smart-arse looking smile..
Two weeks later……. Voila!!……. We got the contract signed!!……. Bravo!!!!!!!!
To be continued… DjRay