Feja feja: an old gambling scam that never grows tired

Raymond Jaravaza

SWIFTLY moving a set of three soft drink lids like a magician mesmerising an audience with his trickery at a circus, a middle-aged man tries to woo passersby to take part in his game of ‘feja feja’ on a busy street in downtown Bulawayo.

The only difference between the man in Bulawayo and a regular magician is that he promises passerby ‘instant riches’ for partaking in his game.
Feja feja – as it is commonly known in the streets, is a game where an interested by-stander is asked to spot the soft drink lid with a small piece of stone in it among three lids, which are swiftly moved around before a decision is made.

The game is played for a fee, of course. The game has been played for decades in the streets of Bulawayo and has steadily spread to other parts of the country and despite warnings from the police to the public to desist from taking part, it still finds gullible willing takers.

B-Metro went underground recently and spotted a ‘feja feja’ kingpin in action along the busy Lobengula Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
Clad in blue jeans, a greyish T-shirt and a khaki hat, the mastermind of the game moves his fingers swiftly over the three soft drink lids while asking anyone in the small crowd that has gathered around him to spot the lid with the small piece of stone.

In an animated fashion, he asks a woman in the crowd to try her luck for free and she picks the lid in the centre, which happens to be the correct prediction and she is handed a R50 for winning.

Feja Feja scammers is action

One passerby, without stopping to watch or even glance at what is happening, mutters the words: “This is nothing but a scam, he thinks we are stupid’.
At a closer look, the woman who has just ‘won’ the R50 note together with four gentlemen that are milling around the feja feja kingpin, as if they are still deciding to play the game, look nothing more than a rented crowd.

B-Metro notices that a few metres from where the game is being played – both on the left and right – two men are nervously scouting the area, possibly on the lookout for the police.

A vendor later tells us the two ‘spotters’ and the rented crowd operate as the same crew, a group of scammers swindling innocent passersby of their hard-earned cash.
“When the two spotters see police officers approaching, they just whistle and in a split second the whole group disappears. People have lost money countless times here and we just watch because there is nothing we can do about it.

“No one is forced to play the game but I still don’t understand how a grown man or woman can play such a silly game in this day and age.
“These guys will quickly disappear when someone loses their money and demands it back,” said the vendor.

The other feja feja group operates near a popular hotel close to Batch Street and we learn they just made a hasty getaway when an elderly woman threatened to call the police after losing US$10 to the scammers.

Police in Bulawayo have time and again warned the public to stay away from get rich quick schemes. It always ends in tears when one believes that a man toying around with three soft drink lids can just hand them a quick buck, without putting in work for the money.

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