Tag: weddings

‘Wedding thief’ found guilty of stealing from newlyweds in Ghana

A woman dubbed the “wedding thief” after carrying out a string of audacious robberies has been convicted in Ghana of stealing £5 000 from a couple at their wedding reception.

Emelia Appiah, described as a specialist in wedding thefts, stole cash gifts from a newly married couple in the west African country’s capital city by impersonating a member of the team in charge of the gift table.

In an audacious move, Appiah is reported to have gone to the bride’s house on the morning of the wedding in April under the pretence of being part of the team to dress her. The prosecutor, Inspector K Nyadikor, told the Accra circuit court Appiah was turned away because the bride was already dressed.

Nyadikor said Appiah later followed her to the church where the wedding was taking place in South La – a residential area in Accra – and impersonated another woman who was part of the team in charge of the gift table.

Church clerks, fooled by Appiah’s impersonation, then gave her access to the gifts, including envelopes containing £5 000 cash.

Appiah is believed to have used a similar tactic on several previous occasions, including one wedding where she impersonated a wedding planner.

Wedding gifts. (Pic: Flickr)
Wedding gifts. (Pic: Flickr / Matthew Nenninger)

Cash gifts and large, fluid guest lists are common at Ghanaian weddings, making them attractive targets for creative thieves.

In January Nana Sakyi Essel (18) was arrested at a wedding in Kumasi, capital of Ghana’s Ashanti region, wearing a grey suit and presenting himself to the bride’s family as one of the groom’s cousins in charge of the gifts, until he aroused one of the guests’ suspicions and the police were called.

He was later discovered to have stolen from at least one previous wedding in the city.

In 2010 Francis Degraft Johnson (26) stole about £500 from his friend’s wedding after he was asked to deposit the gifts in a bedroom at the wedding reception but made off with the cash instead.

Afua Hirsch for the Guardian

Economics, politics and a rural Zimbabwean wedding

Two Saturdays ago, we set off from Bulawayo at 6.30am in a Land Rover Discovery for my cousin sister’s wedding. It was scheduled to start at 9am at Zvegona Church of Christ in rural Zvishavane, a town well known for asbestos mining but which has now been taken over by Mimosa, a lucrative platinum mining company.

Mimosa mine. (Pic: AFP)
Mimosa mine. (Pic: AFP)

We were waved through most police roadblocks by officers speaking mainly in Shona to stoic Ndebeles. I wondered why they did not harass us like they usually do. It could have been the small Zimbabwean flag associated with Zanu-PF that was hanging by the rearview mirror or possibly the type of car we were driving – the police wouldn’t want to offend Zanu-PF ‘officials’, would they? But we were not Zanu-PF officials and besides the odd driver or two sporting a cap with the ruling party’s insignia, there were no visible reminders of the recent presidential election.

We reached Zvegona at around 9.30am after getting lost several times.  Everyone we asked directions from was also going to the wedding; rural weddings are for the whole village. There was an impressive building next to the church. We were later told that this was where Mimosa was was setting up a clinic for the community as part of its fulfillment of Zimbabwe’s indigenisation laws.

The small church was adorned in purple and white satin fabric. The wedding cake was the usual fruit cake with plastic icing. The bride and the groom were just like any other bride and groom I have seen before, as were the bridesmaids who danced the same dance I have been seeing for over twenty years as they ushered in the bride. She entered to loud ululation from excited female friends and family.

Standing there in the crowded church, I wondered what distinguishes a rural wedding from a city wedding. The bridal party even went to the nearby dam for a photo shoot, just like bridal parties in Bulawayo go to Centenary Park to pose for photos. Do they go to the Harare gardens in Harare? There was a PA system, there were video cameras. Did the reed mats in place of carpets add a bit of ruralness to the function?

There was an excited aunty who threw rice grains at the bridal party and the crowd. I forgot to ask what the rice signified –  my initial thought that they could not afford the usual confetti and glitter was quickly rubbished by the apparent evidence of money throughout the wedding ceremony. Besides asbestos and  platinum, there seems to be a lot of gold in Zvishavane, which is mined ‘illegally’. Illegal gold mining creates a cash economy that is shocking to broke city dwellers like us: Our tiny wedding presents were embarrassing in the face of refrigerators, microwaves and cash that the people of Zvishavane tossed at the young couple. Cash ranging from US$10 to US$200 was put on the table in front of the newlyweds while we sat, dished out rice and big chunks of meat, and felt out of place.

There was no sign of the recent elections in Zvishavane, not even talk of it. It was us city guys who discussed Morgan Tsvangirai’s embarrassing defeat and Bulawayo’s rejection of Welshman Ncube in preference for the MDC leader. The rural folk danced and sang the day away, oblivious to what we city folk think is the ‘destruction’ of the Zimbabwean economy by our leader.

I wondered if this kind of life in Zvishavane was sustainable. Could it be translated into real wealth and perhaps lead to poverty alleviation? A few years ago I went to Chiadzwa, near the city of Mutare, where people were enjoying the same kind of liquidity I was seeing in Zvishavane. Now they are back to being destitute because diamond mining in Chiadzwa has been ‘formalised’. Gold panning in Zvishavane will also come to an end. And then what?

We left for the city at dusk. I remain in a confused state about the dynamics of the Zimbabwean economy and Zimbabwean politics.

Mgcini Nyoni is a poet, playwright and blogger based in Bulawayo. He blogs at nyonimgcini.blogspot.com and mgcininyoni.blogspot.com.Connect with him on Twitter.

I’m getting married, please send money

It’s eight in the morning when I enter the office gate just after dropping out of the minibus taxis – famously known as daladala – and my cellphone rings. I take it out of my jeans pocket only to find that it is one of my college mates, an old friend who I have not seen for months.

“Hey Erick, how are you?” he asks by way of greeting. “You are not seen – I just find your name in the papers.”

I give him an excuse about a busy life at the newspaper in Dar es Salaam that doesn’t seem to allow me to meet regularly with old friends, but I tell him that I’m doing fine. After some small talk the real reason for his call comes out.

“My friend, I am getting married in the next two months and I really need your support,” he says. I can’t possibly reject his request outright so out comes my standard response: “Hey, congratulations, man, count me in.”

But, really, all I can think of is the small table in my bedroom where, just next to my computer, there are about five cards from close and not-so-close friends with the same request – an appeal for a contribution to a wedding.

The texts in the cards are almost the same. “The family of so-and-so is happy to inform you that their beloved son/daughter is getting married in October. We have a pleasure to ask you for your participation by contributing some money and moral support. Please give the money to the one who gave you this card or contact the phone numbers below.”

This wedding “contribution” has become part of Tanzanian culture.

Weddings are a big thing – not just a family function as in some other countries but, rather, a community event. Relatives, friends, neighbours and colleagues are invited to be part of it, but not just by attending but also by giving generous financial assistance.

Like most things, it starts at the family level, where all the traditional processes such as dowry payments take place. It is the family that sets the wedding date – and the budget.

After that’s decided the family helps to make up special “contribution cards” for the bride and groom, which are delivered to relatives and friends of the family. Contributors are given at least three months to make sure they have ample time to get it together.

But the collection starts as soon as the cards go out. Every weekend, relatives and close friends who form the wedding committee meet to see how much they have collected and how the preparations are proceeding – what is going on with the wedding hall, the decorator and the caterer, and how much else they can pack into the budget.

As the wedding day gets closer, the committee reminds contributors of their promises by sending SMSes, or visiting them in their offices and homes, to make sure they cough up.

“As a close dear friend and relative, you are reminded to submit your contribution to fulfil the preparation of my wedding. God bless you!” is the sort of text message that arrives on my phone almost every weekend.

But it’s not just for the wedding that contributions are expected. For the bride, there is also the kitchen party, organised by the bride’s mother and aunts, and it is women only affair. Of course, guests do not get into the kitchen party for free either. They must contribute money for drinks and snacks, and arrive with a kitchen gift to help stock the bride and groom’s new home.

A week after the kitchen party the bride’s family also organises a prewedding party, famously known as a send-off party, which includes all invited guests.

At this party guests eat, drink and dance and at the end of it everyone , even those who attended the kitchen party, congratulates the bride to be – and bestows yet another gift on the happy couple.

The big event is normally hosted by the groom’s family. After the religious ceremony, either in church or in a mosque, the party moves to a hall for the reception. More food, drinks and dancing, with, of course, a present for the newly married couple.

Guys like me with many young friends shell out more than R400 every month for weddings or sendoff parties. And, as men, we’re lucky – we don’t have to include the kitchen party in our budget.

I am still recovering from what I gave out last month when two close friends got married.

I had to contribute about Tsh50 000 (about R220) to Rose’s send-off party and the same amount to Alex’s wedding. But, it didn’t end there. Alex was my roommate at university and he asked me to be one of the groomsmen so I had to buy a new suit, white shirt, a pair of shoes and a tie.

I sank about another Tsh300 000 (R1 300) – the equivalent of a secondary school teacher’s monthly salary – on just one wedding. I suppose we can blame Julius Nyerere’s “communalism” theories.

In Tanzania, the “contribution” is more about sharing than anything else. Even if the family is wealthy people still contribute in a show of “sharing”. And even though people complain about it they still have to contribute. It’s a kind of “if you do me, I do you” game. When my time comes, I’ll approach all those who I contributed to – a sort of money back guarantee.

But even if it’s all in the spirit of sharing don’t even think of going to anyone’s wedding if you didn’t contribute. Wedding invitations per se are sent out only a few days before the wedding and whether you make the guest list always comes down to how much you contributed. But never mind about how much you gave, it all goes towards making the couple’s big day.

Erick Mchome was the Mail & Guardian’s David Astor fellow in 2011. This post was first published in the M&G newspaper.