On Wednesday, word started going round that Safaricom had been ‘hacked’ and that its Okoa Jahazi platform was dishing out free money.
The idea of Safaricom services malfunctioning is not new or far fetched, which made it an easy sell. There have been previous times when the mobile service provider has been reported to issue more data bundles than paid for, bonga points etc.
With majority of Kenyans living hand to mouth and oftentimes broke before their next paycheck, getting free airtime was a deal too good to pass.
Normally, a person cannot borrow a second Okoa Jahazi loan before they have paid for their initial loan. But out of nowhere on Wednesday, people discovered that Safaricom was dishing out money multiple times before any debt was paid.
Word started spreading on WhatsApp groups and Facebook posts leading to a rush.
“Safaricom is hacked. Dial *131# and get okoa jahazi till you are tired. The Kenya we want..” one heavily forwarded WhatsApp message read.
Those who tested it and found that it was indeed true that the okoa jahazi taps had been left open continued to spread the good news to their friends.
Safaricom Heist is on.!!
You can OKOA JAHAZI as many times as you want. Even upto 100,000.
— Kiprono (@Onorpik) March 11, 2020
The general thinking was that they would only have to pay for the initial loan. They one they took before the system was ‘hacked’. Everything else after that was free money.
It did not take long for many to realize that they just dug themselves a huge hole. Those who often find themselves needing the services of Okoa Jahazi are usually not the wealthiest people, and even a small debt can incapacitate them for a few days.
Despite not having publicized the new modification to its Okoa Jahazi platform, Safaricom came out to clarify later that it was not a hack or bug. They were now allowing users to take multiple Okoa Jahazi loans before they could pay up for the first.
“Okoa Jahazi now allows Multiple borrowing. You can now access multiple Okoa Jahazi without having to first repay the initial debt. Each individual Okoa Jahazi has its own 5-day life span and will be available on both Okoa Jahazi and Okoa Internet just dial *131#” they tweeted.
Unlike Tala or Branch kind of loans which rely on your goodwill, Okoa Jahazi needs to be paid for the normal operation of your sim card. It’s very hard to escape from it.
Some found themselves with a few thousand shillings worth of airtime that has to be paid up in full within 5 days.
Once it dawned on them that they would have to repay, some attacked Safaricom for catching them in the act. They argued that they should be given a free pass since they thought it was a heist.. Lol.
The lessons to be learnt here are brutal as they are many.