Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Plunder Awards

Plunder Awards

The ZNBC news had just finished. 'What a load of lies and half baked propaganda!' I snorted. 'We must be the last people in Zambia who are still watching this rubbish!'

'Lets turn to Sky News,' said Sara gently, trying to calm me. 'They might have some news about Zambia. Maybe there's been a coup d'etat, or at least at food riot. Something must be happening.'

But imagine our surprise when we switched to Sky News and actually found a news story from Zambia. There was Frank Mupimpila, microphone in hand, saying 'As Master of Ceremonies for tonight, I am pleased to welcome a world-wide audience to the very first Zambian Plunder Awards!'

The camera panned to an expensive audience of the fat and wealthy, all gathered around tables laden with champagne and lobster, and chatting excitedly amongst themselves, wondering who amongst them would be honoured with a coveted Plunder Award.

'America is famous for its films,' began Frank, 'and therefore hosts the famous Oscars Ceremony. Britain is famous for its writers, and has the Booker Prize. But Zambia is a very different place. In terms of natural resources Zambia is estimated to be the richest country in the world, but has the great majority of its citizens living in abject poverty. This famous and startling contrast is entirely due to the extraordinary talent and relentless hard work of our world famous plunderers, most of whom are with us here tonight at the Mulungushi Hall, right here in Lusaka.' With this high praise, everybody present gave themselves a loud round of applause.

'And without wasting any more time,' declared Frank, 'the first Plunder Award is for massive misappropriation, far beyond the call of duty. In this area of endeavour there was no performance which exceeded the expenditure of a hundred million on the purchase of three thousand coffee tables. These tables were supposedly bought for a state funeral, but none of them were ever seen, and they are therefore presumed to have gone to heaven with the late departed. So this year's winner of the Plunder Award for massive misappropriation is, of course, our beloved Minister for Massive Deception, the infamous Mr Mouth Mulufyanya!'

The crowd roared their approval as Mulufyanya stepped up to the stage to accept his well deserved Plunder Award, in the form of a golden key mounted on a polished mukwa base. 'Each Plunder Award takes the form of this Golden Key,' explained Frank, 'which will open the winner's new safety deposit box at the Credit Swisse Bank in Geneva!

'The next Plunder Award,' announced Frank, 'is for the shabbiest form of plunder. This goes to the former minister who claimed payment for staying ten nights at the Red Light Guest House in Luanshya, although all ten receipts show the same date!'

'Hurray!' laughed the crowd! 'It was a long night! He didn't see the red light!'

'This award goes, of course, to Mr Pong Mpongo,' announced Frank, as the crowd booed.

'And now,' said Frank, 'we come to an award for which there is considerable competition. This is the award for ignoring tender procedures, and I have four nominees, as follows: Firstly, the Police Farce, who failed to arrest themselves; secondly, King Kong, for ordering invisible fuel; thirdly, Dollar Sillier, who was sillier than the attorney general; and lastly, Silver Masapo, who ordered a hundred hearses for her own funeral.

'And the winner is … Miss Dollar Sillier.'

'Sillier and sillier!' cheered the crowd as a huge woman, squeezed into a tight red suit, came to collect her prize. She tottered dangerously on her high heel shoes as she climbed the steps onto the stage. 'Her position is precarious,' sniggered Frank, as the crowd cheered, 'she may fall at any moment!

'Now we come to the two big prizes of the evening,' announced Frank. 'Firstly there is the Life Time Achievement Award, which goes to the incomparable Mr Kafupi Mupupu. He started life as a mere bus conductor stealing bus fares, but rose to the position of National Plunderer-in-Chief, where he invented the modalities for looting the Treasury. He is an example to us all.

'Secondly we have Mr Round Belly Nyamasoya, who is given the Legacy Award for giving the word legacy a new meaning. He has faithfully kept his promise in following the legacy of his predecessor by maintaining and even exceeding the previous levels of plundering.

'Unfortunately, neither of these illustrious award winners is able to be with us, so I invite any member of the judiciary here tonight to come and collect their awards on their behalf.' The crowd cheered long and loud as the nation's most notorious magistrate rose to collect the awards.

Now the camera moved to the reception area, where Henry Ngalati was interviewing the President of Transparency International, Mr Rueful Lifulo. 'Well, Mr Lifulo, how do you see this evening's proceedings? Were the awards fairly allocated, or was there corruption in the selection of winners?'

'We are very pleased with the results,' answered Lifulo. 'As you know, the judging was based on the reports of the Auditor General, and we are very satisfied that she carried out her work with he utmost transparency and accountability.'

'So these awards have given recognition to her good work?'

'Very much so. In the past we have complained that her annual reports were simply ignored. But now at last action has been taken.'

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Floods of Investors

Floods of Investors

‘You’re a bit late,’ I said, as Sara finally arrived and plonked herself upon the sofa. ‘You’ve even missed the news.’

‘Ha!’ she laughed. ‘Was it as infuriating as usual?’

‘Up to standard,’ I admitted. ‘We had the beautiful but empty Miss Angel Visilili, blabbering endlessly.’

‘Visilili? Who’s she?’

‘You know, she’s the Little Minister for Little Lies and Petty Propaganda. We don’t usually see her because she gets hidden behind the Large Minister for Larger Lies and Preposterous Propaganda, the monstrous Shifty Shikashiwa.’

‘So did little Visilili make a fool of herself?’

‘Just a little,’ I laughed. ‘She officially opened a workshop on training journalists to tell the truth, but instead she advised them to portray a rosy picture of the country so that we attract floods of investors.’

‘Never mind floods of investors,’ I laughed, ‘what about the annual disaster of floods in New Kanyama? And how do journalists write a good story about that, especially when the government never does anything about the problem?’

‘Well,’ said Sara, ‘you could write a nice story about the government’s plans to set up a National Crisis Conference to investigate the causes of the flooding. You could write that the government is very busy drafting a supplementary budget, to pay all the necessary expenses and allowances for the five hundred delegates who will come from all over the country for the conference at the Pa Modzi Hotel.’

‘Very good,’ I laughed. ‘Perhaps the next episode in this very remunerative story could be the NCC division into ten different delegations, each to visit a country with flooding problems, to see at first hand the alternative technologies available. Then, by 2015 at the latest, a report could be…’

‘No no no!’ Sara laughed. ‘Investors want to see an active and competent government that is properly in charge of the country, not a government that is just play-acting.’

‘Quite right,’ I said, ‘we need definite action. Then perhaps the story should be that all MPs will be given their own personal-to-holder Hummers so that they can visit their constituencies to see the extent of the flooding.’

‘Half-a-minute,’ Sara objected, ‘only sixteen constituencies have flooding, so why buy Hummers for all hundred and fifty MPs? We don’t want to upset the investors with any nasty stories of corruption!’

‘That’s not corruption,’ I protested. ‘According to the Kunda principle of consistency in government expenditure, a perk given to one MP must also be given to all of the other one hundred and forty-nine. That’s what we mean by good governance!’

'Actually,’ Sara cackled, ‘investors are not interested in empty devious claptrap about good governance, they just want government to identify development projects in which they can invest.’

‘But can we have development projects in New Kanyama?’

‘Of course we can!’ she exclaimed. ‘For example, the government could promise a new project to turn New Kanyama into a gigantic fish farm, to export trout to Britain.’

‘Would that be feasible?’ I wondered.

‘Oh yes,’ laughed Sara. ‘It’s very feasible for government to make such a promise.’

‘I meant is the project feasible, not is the promise feasible.’

‘Oh, that’s quite different,’ Sara laughed. ‘The feasibility of a project can only be tested by a feasibility study, which is a completely separate and preliminary project. RB Capital Partners Ltd can do that sort of job for as little as ten million dollars. A marvellous investment.’

‘But would the feasibility study be feasible?’

‘Investigating feasibility is always feasible,’ Sara laughed, ‘so we can write lots of optimistic stories about feasibility studies. For example, we could write a story about the feasibility of Chinese investors turning New Kanyama into one huge rice paddy. This would solve the unemployment problem, with all the residents becoming rice farmers, and all the overflowing sewage acting as fertilizer for the rice.’

‘That would make a very good story,’ I agreed. ‘But what about cholera?’

‘With a bit of entrepreneurial imagination,’ said Sara, ‘a problem can always be reinterpreted as an opportunity, which makes a much better story. We could imagine Baptists missionaries investing in schools and orphanages for all the children who have lost their parents. Even better, they could export all the children to America, thereby solving the problem of overcrowding in our schools.’

‘Or we could write a story about New Kanyama becoming a new site for development tourism,’ I suggested, ‘where rich people from the North pay a small fortune to observe the desperate plight of the poor in the South.’

‘Marvellous!’ Sara laughed enthusiastically. ‘With all these good stories coming out of Zambia, we shall be made Journalists of the Year by little Visilili!’

‘And all the investors will be so happy!’ I exclaimed, ‘when they read about the government’s marvellous schemes for solving the problems of New Kanyama!’

Just then our grandson Khoza came wandering in. ‘Who will be happy?’ he asked.

‘The investors,’ I explained, ‘will be so happy when they hear of our government’s heartwarming projects for solving the problems of poverty and unemployment!’

‘Don’t be silly,’ sneered Khoza. ‘Investors prefer poverty and unemployment, so that they can get away with paying starvation wages.’

‘We know that!’ I snapped.

‘And that’s why,’ said Khoza, ‘we’re cursed with a flood of mean and greedy investors.’

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jackup Zooma

Jackup Zooma

Amock unscrewed the top and poured the first round. It was Sunday afternoon, and our task was a powerful bottle of Klipdrift brandy.
‘Well,’ said Jennifer, as she took her first sip, ‘what’s been happening in the world that’s worthy of our attention?’
‘There’s Jackup Zooma,’ said Sara. ‘He’s just had to pay damages to another young girl.’
‘What’s he paying damages for?’ I laughed. ‘Did he break the bed?’
‘He broke all his promises to the people of Azania,’ said Sara sternly. ‘Its very embarrassing to have a president caught with his trousers down.’
‘He’s reputed to have the fastest zip south of the Sahara,’ I smirked. ‘His nation must be very proud of him, he’s a sexual athlete of Olympian proportions.’
‘Rather than giving him a gold medal for sexual athletics, he should be given a brass gong for hypocrisy,’ said Sara. ‘His government’s HIV policy is that everyone should stick to one sexual partner …’
‘He sticks to them one at a time,’ laughed Amock.
‘… and also should use a condom,’ persisted Sara.
‘He can’t find one big enough,’ Amock chuckled.
‘What he does for recreation is his business,’ I said, ‘so long as he doesn’t do it in parliament and frighten the speaker.’
‘That’s not true.’ laughed Amock, ‘The private behaviour of the president is always a matter of public interest. But what Sara has overlooked is that the public love to see their president enjoying himself. He is their representative, enjoying life on their behalf. He becomes their superstar, indulging himself in all the expensive and illicit pleasures that ordinary people cannot afford.’
‘The people will get angry, and kick him out!’ exclaimed Sara.
‘That’s not the way it works,’ explained Amock. ‘People experience vicarious pleasure at seeing the lustful, greedy and gluttonous behaviour of the ruling elite. They enjoy, at second hand, the marvellous spectacle of sumptuous degradation.’
‘Like the Roman mob cheering the disgusting excesses of the Emperor Caligula,’ sneered Sara.
‘Exactly,’ said Amock. ‘Our presidents behave like kings. When the king grabs a man’s wife, the man does not protest, but praises the king for his good taste, and hopes to be appointed as an induna now that he has joined the royal family.’
‘How you stretch the facts to fit your theory,’ scoffed Jennifer, as she took another sip of brandy. ‘The behaviour of Jackup Zooma is best understood as African democracy rather than decadent aristocracy. When Jackup was told that a democratic politician must have a close relationship with his people, he immediately saw how to make good use of his special talent.’
‘So that every woman would have the opportunity of a relationship with the president?’
‘Exactly,’ replied Jennifer. ‘Equality of opportunity is the basic principle of democracy. Similarly, all men should have equal opportunity to surrender their wives and daughters to the president, just as they should have equal opportunity to marry the president’s daughters and granddaughters…’
‘Of which there must be thousands,’ suggested Amock.
‘Of course,’ said Jennifer. ‘In a democracy a leader must provide services to his people. In Azania, this means the president’s duty is to provide sexual services to all of his people, so that, as time goes on, all citizens become his children. This is why he is known as the father of the nation.’
‘Thus getting rid of tribalism,’ said Amock.
‘Exactly,’ said Jennifer. ‘The official policy of presidential philandering enables the entire nation to become one family. It also ensures that the president is always re-elected, by his own children.’
But now Sara growled, and took another gulp of brandy. ‘All this talk of African democracy is nonsense,’ she declared. ‘Jackup is a clear example of African phallocracy.’
‘Women are ruled by the male members.’
‘The male members?’
‘The male members,’ she emphasised, holding the brandy bottle in the air. ‘Men retain their power in government by their dominance in the bedroom. Male sexual power keeps women pregnant or in the nursery.’
‘Huh,’ said Amock, as he reclaimed the bottle and poured another round. ‘What a mighty theory just to explain naughty old Jackup putting it about a bit!’
‘Don’t you see?’ said Sara. ‘In the phallocratic state of Azania, Jackup is the alpha male. He has the job of representing male political power by demonstrating sexual dominance over his harem of subordinated women. The hidden slaves of the harem exist not merely for his private and domestic pleasure, but also to ensure their exclusion from public life.’
‘So women cannot enter politics?’
‘In phallocratic politics, women can serve only as handmaidens or concubines.’
‘Can’t she escape from the harem?’
‘If she does that,’ said Sara grimly, ‘then she has no supervising male, and is immediately recognised as a threat to phallocracy. If an independent woman dares to venture into politics she faces the public humiliation of gang rape by members of the Male Marauding Defilers.’
‘She must feel the power of the male members,’ I suggested.
‘So political power is like an aphrodisiac, stronger than Viagra,’ suggested Jennifer, ‘enabling male leaders to stand proud and tall.’
‘Yes,’ said Sara, as she laid the empty brandy bottle flat on the table. ‘But take the power out of them, and they become empty, flat and useless.’

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

An Educated President

An Educated President

'Well Khoza,' said Sara, 'now you're in Grade 12, what are your ambitions when you leave school?'
'I'm going to be president,' he replied confidently.
'Ooh, that's nice,' I said. 'You're going to need a wise Grandpa as your presidential advisor.'
'According to the latest from the National Certification Conference,' laughed Sara, 'you'll need more than wisdom from Grandpa, you'll need a degree from Yunza.'
'A degree is not the same as thing as wisdom,' declared Khoza.
'Perhaps not,' I said. 'But since you have neither, you're poorly placed to judge.'
'On the contrary,' retorted Khoza, 'Since I have neither, I am very well placed to take a disinterested and unbiased view of the matter.'
'Well,' said Sara, 'from an objective point of view, is it not better to have a president with a degree, rather than without?'
'Well, Grandma,' replied Khoza, 'is it better to have a thief with a degree, or an honest person without a degree?'
'What are you saying?' asked Sara, now getting exasperated. 'Are all these clever arguments a mere cover for your unwillingness to enrol for a degree?'
'Not at all,' replied Khoza. 'I was merely pointing out that you haven't established any convincing connection between the wisdom necessary to be a president and the knowledge acquired in a degree.'
'We didn't claim any connection,' I laughed. 'What we said was that the NCC is making it a requirement, so you'd better study for a degree.'
'Oh, but there is a connection,' said Khoza calmly.
'Really?' we both replied at once. 'What's that?'
'Just look back to colonial times,' said Khoza. 'Welensky always explained that the whites had power and wealth because they were the ones with the education.'
'But that was a lie!' Sara exploded. 'He was just discriminating against blacks!'
'I know!' laughed Khoza triumphantly. 'And most people realised that. But they still managed to believe that the whites had the top jobs because of their superior education. That's why we spent billions on building schools and universities, thinking that education would bring us our own power and development. But now we find that we're more impoverished than when we started!'
'Are you saying that all our education was useless?' wondered Sara.
'Of course not!' laughed Khoza. 'It's invaluable. It enables the ruling class to hold on to power on the basis that they're the ones with the qualifications!'
'But nowadays,' I objected, 'a child of poor parents can get into university, and get to the top.'
'My poor dear old grandparents,' sighed Khoza, 'you're so out of date. The poor can't afford university. But even if they do, they remain unemployed, because they haven't got rich parents to give them jobs.'
'That's not true,' said Sara. 'The university gives you useful skills for employment, so you can become a teacher, lawyer, engineer or doctor.'
'Yunza is providing skills for an imaginary and non-existent world,' sighed Khoza. 'Teachers learn to impart knowledge, but the purpose of schools is to withhold knowledge and produce drop-outs. Lawyers are taught about the rule of law, which exists nowhere in practice. Foreign investors bring their own engineers, and ours remain redundant. The only career prospect for a doctor is to go abroad immediately.'
'Are you really claiming that Yunza provides no proper understanding of how the world actually works?'
'Much worse than that,' laughed Khoza. 'It would give them a view of how the world ought to work, instead of how it actually works, which is quite opposite.'
'But if university education is so counterproductive,' said Sara, 'then why is the NCC demanding a degree from Yunza?'
'They're not,' retorted Khoza. 'Apparently you didn't hear Mwangalila Zealousness on TV last night. The NCC is going to set up its own National Certification College to provide degrees for presidential candidates.'
'So NCC members will continue to receive their allowances for ever?' I suggested.
'Exactly,' said Khoza. 'They'll all become lecturers in Presidential Studies, since they're all very experienced in how government actually works. They'll give lectures in bribing, ballot rigging, contract rigging, tribal loyalties, silencing critics, banning protests, buying judges, ruling by fear, and using rape as a political weapon. It will be a four year curriculum, leading to a Master of Misrule.'
'An entire college?' wondered Sara. 'Have they forgotten that we need only one president every five years?'
'But we also need,' explained Khoza, 'to educate corrupt councillors, parasitic MPs, monstrous ministers, dismal commissioners, impermanent secretaries, professional bootlickers and political thugs. Only graduates with a Distinction in Villainy will be eligible to stand as presidential candidates.'
'So do you expect to do well?' I asked.
'I hope so,' Khoza replied smugly. 'I expect to rise quickly to the top of this new educated elite. Lesser mortals will merely follow our orders, out of respect for our superior qualifications and intelligence.'
'And this was the system used by Welensky?' asked Sara.
'That's right,' he replied.
'Have you heard what happened to him?' asked Sara.
'No,' he said. 'What happened?'