Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Kalaki says goodbye...

Kalaki says goodbye…

I had been snoozing. I opened one eye, only to find a small crowd of people around the bed. Then I remembered where I was. I was in Ward C21 at the UTH, waiting for the operation tomorrow.  I opened the other eye. I could see immediately that the people around my bed were my regular readers. All seven of them. I looked at them angrily. ‘Who told you I was in here?’
          ‘It’s not a secret that you’re in here,’ said Sally Chawama, ‘There’s even a story in today’s Daily Nation saying Kalaki says goodbye to all his readers as he leaves Kalaki’s Korner.
          ‘So if I’ve already said goodbye,’ I snapped, ‘what are you all doing here? You want me to say goodbye again. Goodbye. Shalenipo. I’m off!’ I pulled the blanket over my head.
          ‘That’s no way to talk to us,’ retorted Stella Sata. ‘All the years we’ve been reading you and then you just up and off like you don’t even care! And daddy’s very annoyed, he says you’re the only columnist who really understands him.’
          ‘Stella,’ I said, ‘what nonsense you do talk. If anybody understands your daddy it’s only you, the rest of us are completely mystified.’
          ‘You’re being very rude and most unfair,’ snapped Ruth Henson, who never minces her words. ‘The story in this morning’s paper says that you’ve left Kalaki’s Korner, and that you’re in the UTH for a serious operation. We’re very concerned. We want to know what’s wrong with you.’
          I popped up out of the blanket and pointed a finger at Ruth. ‘I know your little farm is boring, with nothing to do except talk to the goats, and that you farmers count hospital visiting as a form of high entertainment, but you can’t come here asking me what’s wrong with me. I’m not one of your damn goats to be given a medical examination!’
          ‘Tut tut,’ said Dodson Siabwanta, as he turned in amazement to Mwila Zaza, ‘this fellow is just as insolent in real life as he is on the page!’
          ‘I knew that already,’ cackled Mwila, ‘He’s probably been at the brandy again. In fact you can be sure that’s why he’s in here. He’s got an enlarged liver. That’s what happens when you get hooked on the brandy.’
          ‘You can’t just all stand there talking to each other as if I’m not here!’ I shouted angrily.
          ‘Why not?’ sneered Symon Zulu, looking round at the other beds. That’s what all the other visitors are doing, so why should we be any different?’
          ‘More likely it’s an enlarged belly,’ declared Hope Nyambe as she unceremoniously prodded me through the blanket. ‘Look at the size of his gut! There could be all sorts of suspicious enlargements in there.’
          ‘It’s definitely not an enlarged heart,’ laughed Stella. ‘This old man is famously mean with his money.’
          ‘If it’s not an enlarged liver,’ declared Dodson, ‘it’s more likely an enlarged prostate. He’s just about the right age for that sort of thing. That’s why he doesn’t want to tell us what’s wrong. These old men will never admit that their equipment isn’t working.
          ‘Shut up, shut up, shut up!’ I sat up and shouted. ‘If you must know, the problem is that I’ve been suffering from an enlarged sense of humour.’
          ‘What nonsense,’ retorted Ruth. ‘It’s us that suffer from your sense of humour, not you.’
          ‘Look,’ I growled, ‘my job was to use my sense of humour to criticize politicians by making them look ridiculous. But with this current batch, it just wasn’t working.’
          ‘Why not?’ wondered Sally. ‘Are they not ridiculous?’
          ‘Of course they’re all entirely ridiculous,’ I admitted. ‘But the main problem is that they are extremely dangerous. While I have been making people laugh at them, I have deflected attention from the serious threat they pose to the nation.’
          ‘So you need an operation?’
          ‘You see, as my sense of humour has become enlarged, so it has squeezed all the other critical organs. My heart has been squeezed smaller, leaving me with diminished moral sense. My brain has been squeezed, limiting my analytical abilities. My nails can no longer scratch, my teeth can no longer bite, and my eyes are now so faded that I can see only the laughable and not the disastrous. My sense of humour has become so enlarged that it has encroached on all my other senses! I have no option but to have it amputated! First thing tomorrow morning!’
          The next evening they all came to see me again. They found me sitting up in bed, glass of brandy in hand, reading the Complete Works of Jurgen Habermas.
          ‘My God!’ exclaimed Mwila, ‘this is very disappointing! We expected you to be still in a coma, and on a drip!’
          ‘Don’t interrupt me,’ I hissed, ‘I’m on the crucial chapter of Legitimation Crisis.’
          ‘Can’t we at least see the stitches?’ pleaded Stella.
          ‘There aren’t any,’ I replied.
          ‘No stitches,’ they all said sadly. ‘After we’ve come all this way!’
          ‘How can there be no stitches?’ said Ruth sternly.
          ‘Not necessary,’ I replied curtly. ‘When it saw the surgeon’s knife, my sense of humour immediately and completely disappeared.

This is the last edition of Kalaki’s Korner. Next month, beginning Wednesday 4th June, Kalaki begins his new career as a political analyst, with a weekly blog entitled The Spectator.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Let Them Yap!

        Let Them Yap!

Last Saturday night Sara and I were at the Playhouse to see the Lusaka Musical Society’s latest masterpiece – ‘Let Them Yap’.  As the curtain rose, there in the middle of the stage, on his gold throne, sat the magnificent Emperor of Zed. He was wearing his shimmering golden Chinese suit, a glittering crown on his head, as he looked down imperiously upon his domain.

As the orchestra in the pit struck up with a jolly tune, the Emperor rose to his feet and burst into song:

I am the Emperor of the Promised Land,
My promises are very grand.
I am an autocratic democrat,
I sit and order this and that.
And if they say I can’t do that,
I don’t care! Let them yap!

As he was singing, a motley crowd of people dressed in rags had gathered at the foot of the golden steps leading to the golden throne. And they answered the Emperor with their own song:

          You are the Emperor of the Promised Land,
          Your promises slip away like sand.
          You promised a constitution new
Not a constitutional stew.
          You cannot give us that,
          This is crap! This is crap!

But the Emperor answered them, singing:

          To ‘fifty percent plus one’ I can agree
          But only if that one is me!
          I much prefer ‘first past the post’,
          If it’s me that gets the most!

          I promised freedom of expression
          Except for those in opposition.
          And freedom to assemble anywhere
          Except in any public square.
          So be careful where you yap
          Lest you walk right in my trap

But the good people of Zed were not impressed:

          You promised you’d save the kwacha,
          But the kwacha came a cropper.
You promised all prosperity,
          But all we have is poverty.
          You are the Emperor of Zed,
          But all your promises are dead.

Now the Emperor looked a bit sad, and tried to explain himself…

          I promised more hospitals, but the curse is,
          I have no medicines, doctors or nurses.
          As all my promises slip away,
          I have other things to fill my day.
          As my ambition grows and grows
          I just build more roads and roads.
          Roads to here and roads to there,
          I build roads everywhere.

But as he was singing, a gang of thugs in fake military uniforms and red berets came shouting into the palace, and the protesters ran screaming for their lives. The audience clapped and cheered, shouting ‘More! More!’

So now the Golden Emperor walked to the front of the stage, danced a little jig, and then sang a confidential little song for our additional entertainment:

          I promise employment for the youth,
          Especially those long in the tooth.
          I’ll put an end to all corruption,
          But for my friends I’ll make exception.
          The rule of law I will preserve,
          Except for laws which don’t deserve.
          I grant to women the freedom to be bold,
          So long as they do as they’re told.
          The number of my ministers will be fewer,
          Except for those coming from the sewer.
          Once a year I’ll meet the press,
          Once a year, more or less.
          I shall maintain law and order,
          Except for panga mayhem and murder.
          And I grant to all the right to yap!
          Let them yap! Let them yap! Let them yap!

He danced a little jig as the curtain came down, and we all stood up and clapped and cheered.

‘It’s all so easy in the theatre’ said Sara. ‘But in real life, it’s a big problem to bring down the curtain.’

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Blood in the Bathroom

Blood in the Bathroom

Michael Pistorius, Defendant: My Lady, I heard a noise from the bathroom, I thought somebody was climbing in through the bathroom window.
Kalaki Nel, Prosecutor: Why should anybody want to climb in through your bathroom window?
Michael: My Lady, so many people wanted to kidnap my girlfriend, the beautiful Constitution. My lady, I had sworn to protect my Constitution, but I had enemies who wanted to abduct her and misuse and abuse her. So when I heard a noise from the bathroom, My Lady, I was terrified. In the pitch black of the night, I picked up my gun, then picked up my legs, and moved stealthily to the bathroom.
Kalaki Nel: Mr Pistorius, who are these enemies you are so afraid of?
Michael: They are so many, My Lady. But the worst is Technical Committee. He has sworn to steal my Constitution from me, and subject her to his will and base lusts and desires, and to turn her into his slave. My Lady, I had to protect my beautiful Constitution.
Kalaki Nel: And tell, Mr Pistorius, why were you so in love with your Constitution?
Michael: My lady, when I am with my Constitution I am a real man. She gives me my power. With my beautiful Constitution everybody looks up to me, I command the universe, and people obey my every command. This Technical Committee wanted to steal my power.
Kalaki Nel: So now, without your Constitution, you are a broken man?
Michael: Yes, My Lady. (Sobs for a couple of minutes into his handkerchief)
Kalaki Nel: OK, so now you reach for your gun and make for the bathroom. Was Constitution lying on the bed?
Michael: No, My Lady, she was not on the bed.
Kalaki Nel: Ha ha, how do you know that? You said the night was pitch black!
Michael: She always slept under the bed, My Lady, she was so afraid of Technical Committee.
Kalaki Nel: So did you look under the bed to check if she was there?
Michael: Yes, My Lady. But I couldn’t see her because the night was pitch black.
Kalaki Nel: So you went to the bathroom door and fired four shots straight through it.
Michael: Yes, My Lady. I had to protect my Constitution.
Kalaki Nel: Did anybody scream?
Michael: Yes My Lady, I screamed because I was terrified. Then I screamed at Constitution to phone the Panga Force on 991. But she didn’t reply. It was then that I became terrified that I had shot my beloved Constitution.
Kalaki Nel: Then you went and got your panga and hacked a hole in the door, only to find our beautiful Constitution blown to pieces, with blood all over the bathroom floor.
Now a court official obligingly placed a green plastic bucket in front of Michael, so that he could have a prolonged vomit. After he had finally recovered himself the cross-examination continued…
Kalaki Nel: I put it to you, Mr Pistorius, that you have misled this court. I put it to you that our beloved Constitution did not come to your house of her own free will, but you kidnapped her and brought her to your house.
Michael: No, My Lady, it’s not true. I always respected my beloved Constitution, she came to my house to give me a Valentine’s present.
Kalaki Nel: I put it to you, Mr Pistorius, that you wanted an opportunity to accuse her of breaking her promises to you. You were jealous because she had left you and was instead dating Technical Committee. And you were also in a rage because Technical Committee had transformed her by the power of love. She was so now so beautiful and so admired by everybody that she became known as People’s Constitution. But you were so jealous that you kidnapped her, to get her back.
Michael: It’s not true, My Lady. I never kidnapped her. She came to visit me because she loved me.
Kalaki Nel: I put it to you, Mr Pistorius, that you had a shouting match with Constitution that night, because you had fallen into a jealous rage after she left you for Technical Committee. When she refused to come back to you, you threatened her with a gun.
Michael: No, My Lady. That was not possible. I loved my Constitution.
Kalaki Nel: And when she tried to run away from you, and locked herself in the bathroom, you fired through the door and murdered her.
Michael: (Head in hands, sobbing) No, no, no, My Lady. I thought I was protecting my beloved Constitution from Technical Committee who had come to abduct her.
Kalaki Nel: No, no, no! It seems that everything is no, Mr Pistorius! But perhaps on one thing we can agree: The People’s Constitution is now dead.
Michael: (Now slowly looking up towards the judge) Yes, My Lady, on that we can agree. The People’s Constitution is now dead.
Kalaki Nel: And you murdered her.
Michael: No, My Lady, it was an accident.