I was mistaken for a ‘thief’ for being polite-TV host Willy Mzazi Tuva


I first came to Nairobi just after the bomb blast, it was either late 1998 or early 1999. I alighted at South B, where I spent the night, having travelled from Mombasa at night.

I went to the CBD the next day but had to cut short my business since I met people walking so fast, I thought it was a demo. With all the stories I had heard about tear gas, being roughed up by anti-riot police and pedestrians being robbed in the process, I was not taking chances.

So, I hopped into the next matatu back to South B and waited for the 7pm news. I was shocked when there was no news item about a demonstration in town. I later realised that everyone in Nairobi is always in a hurry.

In my first few days as a Nairobian, I also learnt that it was almost a ‘crime’ to even say ‘hi’ to random people in the streets. People would stare at me as if I wanted to steal from them. My polite gesture only earned me uneasy stares.

I was also shocked by Nairobi thieves, who had the guts to steal in broad daylight. I could not understand how one could steal a car’s side mirror in broad daylight.

Women in Nairobi were also a sight to behold. How could one walk almost half-naked yet no one seemed to be bothered? To make matters worse, it was freezing cold!

I also suffered language barrier and culture shock. I could not believe that people could speak such bad Kiswahili, with phrases like, “Hizi maji ni zangu,” seemingly normal.


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