Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Dealer

The Dealer
Yesterday I decided to have a look at the new presidential investment, Pick n’Steal, at Woodlands Roundabout. But as I peddled past Plot One I was surprised to find PPA, in large brass letters, fixed to the gatepost. Being of an enquiring nature, I got off my bike to have a closer look. ‘Muli bwanji, Ba Kalaki!’ barked the two smartly uniformed soldiers, as they drew themselves to attention and saluted.
‘At ease, gentlemen,’ I said amiably. ‘This is not an official visit, so there’s no need for the usual formalities. I just stopped to ask, is this still State House, or is it now the Planned Parenthood Association?’
‘Neither sah!’ replied one of the soldiers. ‘It’s now the Office of the President of the Procurement Authority.’
‘Very good,’ I said, as I saluted the soldiers, and rode my bicycle in through the gate. When it comes to Pick n’Steal, I thought to myself, this should make the bigger story.
As I walked into the presidential office I found somebody sitting behind the huge desk, but hidden behind a copy of The Post.
‘You’re holding that paper upside down,’ I said.
‘It’s the only way I can make sense of it,’ replied a voice from behind the paper. Then he put the paper down and looked at me.
‘Kalaki!’ he exclaimed. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘Nyamasoya!’ I exclaimed. ‘What are you doing here? I thought this was now the Procurement Authority!’
‘So it is!’ he laughed, his huge frame wobbling merrily. ‘In these hard economic times, we can’t be using a place like this just for feasting, dancing and useless talk. So I’ve moved the PPA here, and made myself the president of it!’
I took my notebook out of my pocket. This looked like a good story. ‘But surely,’ I said, ‘as head of government, you’ve got so many other things to do! Can you really devote enough time to being President of the Procurement Authority?’
‘The job of president is to make deals for Zambia Ltd,’ he explained. ‘I have to procure investment, loans and grants. I have to procure investors and investment to buy our ailing industries. I have to procure the materials and equipment for the country’s advancement.’
‘Like procuring mobile hospitals?’ I suggested.
‘Exactly. We have to think big, and I’m the man to do it! Instead of sick people moving around looking for a hospital, I shall have mobile hospitals moving around looking for sick people! This is why we have so many sick people in this country, because the hospitals have never been able to find them. Now the hospitals are going to go out there and look for them!’
‘Do you have any other brilliant ideas like that?’
‘I’m full of them. Currently I’m thinking of abolishing schools and replacing them with computers for self-learning, I can get a good deal from South Korea on that one. I’ve got a splendid offer from Japan that would replace judges with robots that can follow instructions properly. Iran is offering nuclear warheads that would completely replace the army. All this is simple economics.’
‘Brilliant!’ I exclaimed, as I busily scribbled in my notebook. ‘But while you’re in charge of procurement, what happens to the rest of the government? Who’s in charge?’
‘Look, Kalaki, procuring investment also means finding investors to privatise all these useless ministries, and turn them into profitable enterprises.’
‘You mean you’ll sell off the entire government, just like you sold Zamtel to the Libyan government?’
‘Exactly. There are endless possibilities. ‘I’m thinking of selling off the Ministry of Education to the Swedes. They have a great interest in education, and want to help the Third World. I’m selling the armed forces to the Americans, they’re running short of men in Afghanistan. I’m selling the Ministry of Health to the British, they want all our patients for testing their new medicines. And there’s a fellow in Cape Town who wants to buy our railway system, he’s planning a high speed train from Cape to Cairo.’
‘What’s his name?’
‘Cecil Rhodes.’
‘We could even re-name the country Rhodesia!’
‘There you are Kalaki! Even you, you’ve got ideas!’
‘But with all this, can you win the next election?’
‘You can’t grasp it can you, Kalaki? The next government will be in charge of nothing, except decisions on where to put the drains, and how to collect the rubbish. I, as President of Zambia Ltd, will be in charge of everything!’
‘What about parliament?’
‘I’ll sell it to the British Museum.’
Just then the door opened, and in came a thin little woman with a sad face. ‘The nurse is here dear, and it’s time for your daily check-up.’
Nyamasoya meekly got up, and left the room without a further word. She turned to me. ‘The poor man, this job is too much for him, he’s being driven to distraction. I’m sorry, Kalaki, Please don’t report what you’ve seen.’
I tore the page from my notebook and threw it in the bin. ‘Don’t worry,’ I said, ‘nobody would believe it.’

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Rise and Fall of the Octopus

The Rise and Fall of the Octopus
I was sitting at my desk at the New Vision newspaper, desperately trying to focus. It was a stinking hot morning in December, 2011. The door opened and the Editor put his head around, ‘What are you writing about this week Kalaki?’
‘Dunno,’ I said. ‘I’ve got a terrible hangover.’
‘Then I’ve an idea for you,’ he said. ‘Go through the back numbers of the New Vision, and give us a series of snippets, from the World Cup until now, to trace the story of the Octopus.’
So I did as he said. And here is the strange story of the Rise and Fall of the Octopus…
9 July 2010: Octopus Predicts World Cup Results
The world is captivated by the story of an octopus who has successfully predicted seven out of eight results in the World Cup, including the prediction that Spain would be the eventual winner. Professor Brainmann Wiserbugger, curator of the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen says that octopuses are very clever because they have nine brains.
16 July 2010: Dotty Scotty Has An Idea
Dotty Scotty on Monday caused laughter in parliament when he suggested that we should make Paul Octopus our president. We have never, said Dotty, had a president clever enough to predict the inflation rate, or an election result, let alone a World Cup result.
6 August 2010: Octopus for President!
It seems that, for the first time in his life, Dotty Scotty has come up with a good idea. Every day this week there have been crowds outside parliament with placards and T-shirts demanding OCTOPUS FOR PRESIDENT.
13 August 2010: World Cup Benefit for Africa
Contrary to worldwide criticism that the World Cup was of no benefit to Africa, BBC football commentator Drivel Windbag has pointed out that the World Cup has identified Paul Octopus, a genius who could solve all the problems of Africa. Meanwhile, in Zambia the campaign for Octopus continues, with demonstrators continuing to camp outside parliament.
23 August 2010: Psychologist Joins Octopus Campaign
Eminent Yunza Psychologist Professor Doctor Rubble Supple has apparently joined the Octopus for President Campaign. On Tuesday he gave a lecture entitled Objective Octopus, explaining that an octopus was peculiarly well placed to take an objective and rational view of human affairs, because it did not have any human relatives needing employment, nor did it own property or bank accounts. Students received the lecture enthusiastically, shouting Honest Octopus! and Octopus for President!
3 September 2010: Octopus Heads for Zambia
On Monday this week the Minister for Continuing Disasters, Mr Redlip Snake, announced that President Nyamasoya had bowed to public pressure and had flown to Germany to negotiate for the purchase of the famous Octopus. However, at the time of going to press, latest reports were that Nyamasoya was still in Cape Town having his knees massaged in the Naughty Girls Massage Parlour.
29 October 2010: Octopus Arrives in Zambia
Independence celebrations were the biggest since 1964, as Octopus finally arrived in Zambia, and greeted the nation by waving all eight tentacles. The Minister for Disasters, Mr Redlip Snake, explained to the welcoming crowd that President Nyamasoya had spent more than six weeks in Paris and New York negotiating a loan of $100 million to buy Octopus. He had remained in the Bahamas to complete the details of this complex deal, and was expected to arrive back in Zambia in about a week's time.
5 November 2010: Octopus Given Job at State House
The Minister for Supervising National Disasters, Mr Redlip Snake, on Tuesday announced that Paul Octopus was taking over as Chief of Staff at State House, and that one of his nine brains would concentrate on formulating strategy for the next election, whilst his other eight brains would concentrate on reconstructing the economy.
14 January 2011: Octopus is Presidential Candidate
The long awaited MMD National Convention, held in Chipata on Wednesday, has unanimously elected Paul Octopus as Party President and President-Elect, and agreed to re-name the party as the Marine Monster Democracy. This was after the unpopular Nyamasoya declined to stand against Octopus, and even failed to attend the Convention. He had, however, sent a message pledging his support for Octopus.
10 April 2011: Octopus Elected President
Paul Octopus was on Monday sworn in as Republican President after his landslide victory in the Presidential Election on Thursday. In his inaugural speech he promised a new era of honesty, accountability, good governance, and zero tolerance to corruption, to the cheers of thousands of supporters at Independence Stadium, now re-named Octopus Stadium.
11 November 2011: Sad End
On Tuesday this week, at the end of a six-month trial, Nyamasoya was found guilty of abuse of office, grand deception and theft, and sentenced to twenty years with hard labour. More specifically, Nyamasoya was found guilty of embezzling a loan of $100 million, pretending to bring Paul Octopus to Zambia when in fact not, and then impersonating the said Paul Octopus for the purpose of using long tentacles to extract funds from the public purse.
When asked for a comment, President Kafupi Mupupu said there could be no question of acquittal or pardon, because his government believed in the rule of law and the fight against corruption.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Strange Marriage

Strange Marriage
The Cathedral of the Very Cross was full and the service had already started by the time Sara and I pushed our way in, and found a place to stand at the back.
‘Is that the bride in the long white dress?’ I whispered to Sara.
‘No,’ she replied. ‘That’s the priest. He always puts on his best dress for occasions like this.’
As we were whisperering, the priest was mumbling and droning away with some ancient medieval ritual understood only by himself and God. ‘What about those lovely little girls in white dresses, standing behind the priest?’ I asked Sara. ‘Are those the bridesmaids?’
‘No,’ Sara hissed, ‘they’re the choirboys.’
‘Maybe they’re the brides of the bishop,’ I sniggered, as heads in front of me began to turn.
‘Not so loud,’ Sara chuckled, ‘the Christians don’t like to talk about these things.’
‘I’m just trying to find out what’s going on,’ I persisted. ‘I can’t see the happy couple!’
‘They’re standing in front of the priest,’ she said.
‘They’re both men!’ I exclaimed.
‘I thought you had realised that.’ she laughed. ‘This is the marriage between Cycle Mata and his lovely young partner, the beautiful Ha Ha.’
‘Oh my God!’ I said. ‘I thought this only happened in Malawi! They should be doing this sort of thing in private, not in church!’
By now the priest had stopped mumbling to the happy couple, and his voice could be clearly heard saying ‘Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded wife?’
‘Certainly not!’ came the loud gruff answer.
‘Oh dear,’ said the priest, as he now turned to the other. ‘What about you, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded wife?’
‘Certainly not,’ snapped the other.
As they took their vows, Sara whispered more in my ear. ‘This isn’t a sexual union,’ she explained. ‘More like a business arrangement.’
‘What’s their line of business?’
‘Property development. Cycle Mata runs the Property Franchise, the PF. Ha Ha has got United Properties for National Development, UNDP. Both wanted to buy Plot One in Independence Avenue, but neither could afford. Then they discovered that if they were a married couple, the bank would give them a mortgage.’
‘Ah ha,’ I said. ‘They just want to join their assets, but not their asses!’
As we were whispering, the ancient ceremony was coming to its usual gripping climax, as the priest posed the crucial question: ‘Do you take each other for better but not worse, in health but not sickness, for richer but not poorer, until divorce does you part?’
‘We do!’ they both shouted in unison.
‘I thought so,’ sighed the priest sadly. ‘Then I declare you to be a typical married couple, joined together in Holy Mortgage. May the Lord’s blessing be upon you.’
‘Hurray!’ they both shouted, as they both kissed the lovely priest, then turned and ran down the aisle, racing each other to the exit, and then disappeared out of sight. Within seconds we heard the noise of two engines starting, and then a squeal of wheels as two cars raced out of the cathedral carpark.
As we finally came out of the cathedral we bumped into our old friends Gilbert and Liz. ‘Why did they race away like that?’ Sara asked. ‘What was that all about?’
‘Possession is nine tenths of the law,’ laughed Gilbert. ‘The first one to enter the house will take possession, and the other will have to stay in the servants quarters!’
‘I thought they were now business partners,’ said Sara.
‘Hah!’ laughed Gilbert. ‘The only thing they have in common is their desire to get their hands on Plot One.’
‘After that!’ Liz cackled, ‘They disagree on everything. Ha Ha wants to live in the big house, turn the 200 hectares into a cattle ranch, and live like a king. But Cycle Mata wants to subdivide the land for 2000 houses.’
As we were talking, a Merc drove into the carpark, and the driver got out and ran up the priest, who was still standing on the cathedral steps. Then the priest raised his hands and called for quiet. ‘It is my sad duty to inform you of a most unfortunate and untimely accident. Apparently in their haste to reach their new home the newly married couple took separate cars, one approaching through the back gate and the other through the front, causing a dreadful collision which entirely destroyed the front portico of their magnificent new house.
‘However,’ continued the priest, ‘the good news is that neither of the newly married couple was injured in the crash. But the bad news is that both of them were injured in the fight which ensued, and they are now in intensive care.’
‘It was a strange marriage,’ said Liz sadly. ‘It was sure to fall apart.’
‘Why do you say that?’ I asked.
‘Didn’t you hear the prophetic last words of the marriage service? When two men are joined together, God will surely put asunder!’

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Apamwamba Disease

Apamwamba Disease

‘What are you doing nowadays?’ I asked my youngest daughter Kupela. ‘You’re always moving up and down, is it to any purpose?’
‘Poor old Dad,’ she sighed, ‘you’re losing your memory. I told you the last time I was here, I’m at Yunza studying public health.’
‘Ah ha!’ I cackled. ‘That won’t take you long to study! We don’t have any public health. What we have is apamwamba health and apansi death.’
‘On the contrary,’ retorted Koops, who makes a habit of contradicting me, ‘even the upper class get sick and die.’
‘Poof!’ I sniggered. ‘Those fat cats, even the few sick ones refuse to die. I’ve been waiting for some of them to die for these past ten years, and even today they’re still lingering on. It’s most annoying. Meanwhile poor people just pop off overnight. Here today and gone tomorrow.’
‘Say what you like,’ sighed Koops, ‘but the main health problem is amongst the ruling class. The apansi have minor diseases which merely kill individuals, but the apamwamba have major diseases which are killing the entire country.’
‘Huh!’ I scoffed. ‘Where’s your evidence of these apamwamba diseases?’
‘There’s plenty of evidence if you know where to look,’ said Koops. ‘Didn’t you see that newspaper photo of the Chief Injustice refusing to shake hands with Cycle Mata? Why do you think he behaved like that?’
‘Typical of you,’ I laughed, ‘trying to make simple things complicated. He didn’t want to shake hands because he doesn’t know him. As a judge, he spends all his day in court meeting thieves, tricksters and murderers. These are the people of his acquaintance that he has to greet on a daily basis. Since Cycle Mata is not a criminal, the Chief Injustice had never met him. He didn’t know who he was, so naturally he had no inclination to shake hands with him.’
‘Unfortunately the answer is not as simple as my simple father would like to believe,’ said Koops. ‘The awful truth is that there is a dreadful disease circulating amongst the ruling class, and the Chief Injustice was frightened of catching it, or of passing it on.’
‘Now which is it?’ I laughed. ‘Catching it, or passing it on?’
‘That’s the problem,’ explained Koops. ‘Nobody knows whether they’ve got it or not. It’s a hidden disease, whose behaviour is peculiar. Although it’s a pathological condition spread by a virus, its broader effects are both political and economic.’
‘Does this mysterious disease have a name?’
‘It’s commonly known as Sticky Finger Disease, because the symptom of the disease is government fingers sticking to donor dollars.’
‘So is the disease caused by sticky fingers?’
‘That’s what the donors say. But the government calls it the Sticky Dollar Disease, because they say the donors are deliberately introducing sticky dollars which are designed to make ruling class fingers become sticky, as a way of making third world governments look like a bunch of crooks.’
‘And what does the medical profession say?’
‘They call it HGV, meaning Human Greed Virus. Apparently a small greedy virus infiltrates the skin on the end of the victims fingers, then makes its way to the victim’s heart where it multiplies until it has destroyed all their moral fibre. Then it secretes a nasty sticky stinky glue on the end of each finger, causing the unwitting victim of this terrible disease to collect thousands of donor dollars intended for the poor and needy.’
‘So does this virus cause an immune difficiency?’
‘Quite the opposite,’ explained Koops. ‘It is caused by immune deficiency. Just like the indigenous people in America were vulnerable to syphilis because they had no natural immune defence, so our apamwamba have no natural defence against Sticky Dollar.’
‘So where does this immune deficiency come from?’
‘That’s one of the things I’m looking at in my research. There is a theory that the victims of HBG have previously been infected by a Human Greed Vulnerability Virus, HGVV, first introduced into Zambia by a pigmy politician who brought it from the Congo forest, where sticky fingers were very useful for climbing tall trees. This HGVV makes people vulnerable to the Human Greed Virus which then causes Sticky Fingers.’
‘And you say the poor Chief Injustice is scared of shaking hands because he doesn’t know whether he’s infected or not. But don’t we have an HGV test, just like the HIV test?’
‘There is an effective test,’ replied Koops, ‘but people are scared of taking it. The Auditor General has a test called AIDS, the Audit Investigation Diagnostic Survey. But naturally people are very nervous of being publicly exposed as suffering from Human Greed Virus.’
‘So how exactly is the disease diagnosed?’
‘Victims are found with thousands of dollars sticking to their fingers.’
‘And is there a cure?’
‘Not really. The only remedy is to protect the uninfected remainder of the population. Those infected have to be separated, or quarantined, so they can’t infect the others.’
‘You mean they have to be jailed?’
‘That’s the problem,’ she said, ‘its not possible to jail them.’
‘Why not?’
‘Because,’ she explained, ‘the infection has already spread to the judiciary.’