Up to a third of East Africa’s tourism work force is now out of a job. Until now, it didn’t take guns to send them packing.
A number of high-end, professional robberies have been reported at camps in East Africa over the last month. As in downturns in the past, many disgruntled workers turn on their former employers in a number of ways. The most common one is to become the thief that knows where the clients’ valuables are stored.
As in the past, we’re all more vigilant in instructing clients how to act if there is a hold-up. And we’re more careful where we stay. And usually, nothing happens. Thefts tend to occur in areas with less police protection, like private reserves, and on lonely roads we have to avoid.
And until Tuesday the current trend wasn’t violent, but Tuesday Tanzanian police confronted five robbers fleeing the prestigious Grumeti Reserve and shot them to death.
The media has been all over with praise for the Tanzanian cops, but frankly, I think this is bad. There’s no need to make a war against redundant workers.
According to two sources, Agence France Press and Wolfgang Thome, a reporter based in Uganda, staff at the upmarket Grumeti Reserves tipped off area police that five laid off workers were planning an inside job. Presumably it was the inside that ratted on the outside.
Police and other security operatives laid a trap for the robbers. When the robbers arrived, they were killed in a gun battle started by the police.
I’m not suggesting that our empathy for redundant workers should transform into letting them off the hook. But my experience with these guys is that they’re hungry, educated and have little interest in doing anything but stealing wallets. The Tanzanian response might just have been a bit over the top.
Note: The next day, Grumeti Reserves announced it was seeking a new head of its Tanzanian operations.