A man who got frustrated with relatives and friends lack of response to his call for wedding contribution decided not to inundate them further, instead he compelled them contribute in grief.
Jerome Jawoko, a fisherman from Masasa Landing Site in Jinja East, last week conspired with two close pals to announce his death and draw friends and well-wishers into financial freewheeling and generosity.
In January, the man fondly called JJ by his pals chaired begging meetings (also disguised as wedding preparatory meetings) of his friend but things were not easy. Meeting after meeting only had two to three people in attendance. Pledges weren't coming in either, let alone the cash contributions.
"I was hurt that when that friend died after a road accident on April 1, contributions flooded in to see him to his final destination," JJ said.
"Many of those we sent direct messages asking for their help in seeing to the success of his wedding refused to contribute, they didn't help when he was in hospital breathing his last but came in droves once he was dead. What kind of society is this?"
In late September, JJ said he started running around looking for financial contribution toward his own wedding only for his close friends to start distancing themselves from him.
"I was being blue-ticked on WhatsApp as if I was some debt collector. Some friends even left WhatsApp groups I was in just to be as far away as possible even on the cyber space," he said.
According to Olum Achak, an accessory in the alleged fraud, JJ tried to organise himself and started a WhatsApp group for his wedding preparation.
"We added many close friends and relatives but after one left the group, others started leaving. Some said they should have been consulted first before being added on the group," Olum Achak said.
"The few brave ones who stayed on weren't brave enough to contribute even a chat though. They stayed permanently in Kamooli (silent mode)."
Irked by what was happening, JJ and his two accomplices, Okumu Achak and Peter Mpengere, agreed to fake death to draw the people out. There were no surprises as friends, relatives and well-wishers commiserated with cash.
"The same people who were running away from us came running with cash to us. They were willing to pay for a nice coffin of Shs2 million but not even 5k when I was asking for wedding pledges," JJ said from custody at Janja police.
Mpengere, who was unapologetic about the fast one they pulled on their friends and relatives, said the mourners had already even booked a funeral van to transport the body to Zombo District in West Nile for burial.
In just a day, the group had received more than Shs7 million in cash.
"I don't know why police are making a fuss about our tact. We are fishermen who use baits to cash the best and we merely put our skills to good use on society's misers and it work," Olum Achak said.
The LC1 chairman for Masasa Zone II, Asafa Mbayo, said he spoke to the suspects and after hearing their explanation, he sympathises with them. He blamed the incident on society growing increasingly inconsiderate to the needs of those around them, saying people are now too selfish to help friends in need and "only want to apply [Milton] Obote's words that 'a good friend is a dead one.'" (Obote is reported to have infamously said a good Muganda is a dead one.)
"It's not just friends. Even the government is like that. How do you explain [Catherine] Kusasira being fattened on taxpayers' money when students at Makerere University are risking their lives to strike?" Mbayo.
"Why should Buchaman be given money yet Mulago is rotting away, Jinja Hospital here is totally rotten and there are no drugs in hospitals? Why?"
The officer in charge of Janja Police said the trio will be charged with obtaining money by false pretence. However, he refused to identify himself because the police station in question does not exist and the incident is "too true to be real."
"That is a creation of Empty Tin," the officer said.