Yusuf and the Sacrifice
(All these stories are true).
I and two others were sent to Botswana to rescue a brewery business, started by a German company, which had run into all sorts of trouble.
I had no idea of some of the issues I would have to deal with.
Yusuf, our very competent Jordanian engineer, had dedicated every possible moment of his last few years to the success of the operation. He lived in a house on the Brewery premises and often spent eighteen hours a day underneath some rotten piece of equipment.
From the very early days of our involvement, he used to pop into my office, often just for a chat, usually with some cotton waste and an offending and often broken piece of equipment in his hand. Thin, not very tall, wiry Yusuf, with his short greying locks, usually dressed in a greasy overall and always with a smile on his face.
Initially the business had used returnable bottles, because much of the market in neighbouring South Africa used returnables. To save money, and not understanding the environment, the German management had installed cheap and wholly unsuitable bottle washers, which were quite incapable of washing the bottles properly once they had been returned to the brewery to be used again. Inevitably, a variety of foreign objects from the dry dusty country that is Botswana - mice, cockroaches, spiders to name but a few- found refuge in the bottles,
The result was that many unhappy customers found that included in their beer or soft drink was some ghastly, unwanted foreign object.
The brewery business had a very high profile, since it was a part of the Government of Botswana’s modest attempt to rid themselves of dependence on neighbouring apartheid-driven South Africa.
Within weeks of the brewery marketing its first beers on the market, negative articles started to appear in the Botswana Daily News from various sources; one article featured a photograph of a Mr Molefe, who resided in Old Naledi, a shanty town situated on the southern border of Gaborone, the Capital City of Botswana. Mr Molefe was gazing unhappily at a Prinz-Brau beer with a small, obviously dead, mouse stuck in the throat of the bottle he was holding. Soon there were similar complaints from all over the Country from both the Company’s beer and soft drink products.
Inevitably, as we had warned them the Botswana Government asked us to ‘come and rescue’ the business.
As part of the changes we found necessary, two offending bottle washers were removed, but were still standing forlornly in the outer part of the brewery premises, waiting to be collected by a scrap dealer.
In the middle of helping to supervise the installation of a much larger and more robust washer, Yusuf popped over to see me saying: “Mr. Guy (he always called Mr Guy, despite my entreaties asking him to just refer to me as Guy), these old washers still have very bad evil spirits inside and we need to get rid of them.”
“Yusuf, what do you have in mind?”
“We must make sacrifice.”
“OK,” I said, wondering what I was letting myself in for; sacrifices were way out of my experience. “What do you suggest?”
“I will buy a big male goat.” He said. “We will then sacrifice goat on the top of washer, with all brewery people watching. They must all know the bad spirits have been chased away.”
He then added, “We can all then eat goat at my house. Your wife and all the wives of management people can come and eat as well.”
So that is what we did. On a Friday afternoon timed so both the outgoing day shift and incoming night shift were present, Yusuf himself, with a firm grip on the unfortunate goat, stood on the top of one of the old bottle washing machines, muttering incantations which none of us understood. He expertly slaughtered said goat, with me and most of the workforce surrounding the offending bottle washer looking on in amazement.
The next evening, my wife and some of the other wives of brewery personnel sat in the kitchen with Yusuf’s wife, while we men were served goat meat in Yusuf’s small lounge.
There was never ever again any hint of the presence of evil spirits in the business.
I suppose the lesson for all of us is to at least understand other people’s beliefs, whatever we might think of them.