Tuesday, August 31, 2010


The Good Saudi
The priest walked up to the lectern and opened the bible. ‘The lesson this morning is taken from the Gospel according to St Kalaki, Chapter 10, Verse 25 to 37, otherwise known as the Parable of the Good Saudi.
‘A man lay stripped and bleeding at the side of the road to Mecca. An ayatollah happened to be driving down that road, but he accelerated past, pretending not to see. Then came a busload of Palestinian pilgrims, but the driver said We have no time to stop, we shall be late for our prayers in Mecca.
‘Then along came a rich Saudi in his Cadillac. He stopped his car, lifted the poor man onto the back seat, took him back to his palace, bandaged his wounds and gave him antibiotics. And when he was well, he asked the man for his story.
I am a Yemeni, he explained, and I have been working as a watchman at an oil well for the past ten years. I had managed to save ten thousand dollars to take back to develop my village, to buy goats and plant olive trees, and to save my starving people. But I have been robbed and beaten, and now I might as well die, for my village will surely die.
‘Now the Saudi prince, who had never previously done a good deed in his life, suddenly saw a good chance to get to Heaven. My dear friend, he said, here is another ten thousand dollars to replace what you have lost, and another five hundred on top as transport money. Go back and develop your village. And if you have any more problems, just let me know.’
‘What is the moral of this story?’ I whispered to Sara.
‘We don’t have to worry about that,’ she replied, ‘the priest is employed to explain everything.’
‘And so it came to pass,’ continued the priest, ‘that a few years later the Good Saudi got an e-mail saying Village now doing better, exporting goats to Djibouti, but need village school for increasing number of children.
‘Now the Saudi saw the chance of an even better house in His Father’s Mansion, so he sent another ten thousand dollars. And so, as time went by, the Saudi had sent money for the borehole, for the clinic, and even a hundred thousand dollars to improve the road to Al Adan.
‘Hadn’t he read Dambisa Moyo’s book?’ I whispered to Sara.
‘All this happened before she was born,’ she replied.
‘And with the fullness of time, the good Saudi grew into an old man, and thought he’d better check on his direct foreign investment in Heaven. So he took a plane from Jiddah to Al Adan, and then a taxi to the village of Nyama El Soya, up in the hills of the Hadramawi.
And there, in the middle of the Empty Quarter, he found a sign saying Paradise on Earth, Funded by Prince El Riyal Bin Difid. He drove up a long palm drive, and came to a huge white marble mansion. A white uniformed servant opened the carved door into the mansion, and ushered him into a lush green garden. There he found his old Yemeni friend, now grossly fat, wearing only a towel, roasting a suckling pig on a huge mbaula. Round the huge swimming pool, fat old men were chasing naked young women.
Come in, come in, cried Nyama El Soya. Welcome! Another customer from Mecca! Taking a rest from the Haj! Ha ha! Have a glass of champagne! Sit down and choose your girl! Freshly imported from the Reed Market in Manzini! Only five hundred dollars a day! Ten thousand for take away!
‘Then the Good Saudi roared with indignation. Don’t you know who I am? I’m the one who saved your life, and invested in the development of your village. Where is the road, I found only desert? Where is the school and the clinic? Where are the goats and olive trees! You are a liar and a crook! I demand my money back!
‘Then the Yemeni roared with equal indignation. Don’t you come here poking your nose into my business! Yemen is a sovereign country, and we don’t want colonial foreigners telling us what to do! Pack your bags and go quickly, before I have you thrown out!’
Now the priest finally looked up from the Holy Book. ‘What,’ he asked, ‘do we think is the moral of this parable?’
Suggestions were quick to come from amongst the congregation…
‘Don’t try to help strangers.’
‘Don’t give money to crooks!’
‘Foreigners should be deported.’
‘Don’t try to buy a place in Heaven!’
‘Only rich people can help the poor.’
‘Foreign aid is the cause of corruption!’
‘Foreigners can’t understand the local culture!’
‘We must love our neighbours, especially the Swazi girls!’
‘No,’ said priest. ‘You’re all wrong, as usual. The moral of this story is that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Now, the collection plate is coming round, and I invite you to contribute to the bishop’s new church.’
‘Not me,’ I whispered to Sara. ‘He might be building a swimming pool!’

Monday, August 30, 2010

Uncle Kalaki, by Salma Ginwalla

Uncle Kalaki
Salma Ginwalla
The piteous misdemeanours and terrifying transgressions of our leaders
You unfailingly unfurl and propogate for your reliable readers
No doubt, your political satire to many does provide comic relief
But for me, I shake my head in despair and disbelief
And ask: who appointed this upstart bespectacled spectator
To be our exalted nation's hell-raiser?
Why! Unbeknownst to us, this gadfly of our sluggish state
Has made our politicians a laughing stock for the world to berate
I declare that this fossilised relic of our painful past, we must deport
For he loathsomely likens our judicial system to a kangaroo court
And this whisky-imbibing sanctimonious scribbler
Audaciously derides our revered former leader as Master Dribbler
King Movious has proclaimed from his regal throne
Spectator Kalaki - GO HOME!
An Ode to Sister Salma
by Kalaki
How I wish your barbs had missed
This tormented satirist,
How your hilarious words do drop
From a new-found Malaprop,
And how I wish you'd find a scooter
To go back home to Mazabuka

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Contempt of Court

Contempt of Court
‘I sit here today,’ declared the Judge, ‘to make a decision on an application from the Attorney Degenerate, to register in Zambia the London judgment against Kafupi Mupupu.’
‘Is this the notorious Judge Contempt?’ I whispered in Sara’s ear.
‘Some say his full name is Contemptuous,’ she replied. ‘Others say he is really Contemptible’.
‘First of all,’ declared the judge, ‘I shall call upon the Attorney Degenerate to summarise his arguments in support of his application.’
Up stood a wig and gown, looking more like a penguin. ‘Your horror,’ he began, ‘I stand here on behalf of the good people of Zambia. The London judgment finds that Mupupu, whilst posing as a servant of the people, actually stole fifty million dollars from them, which he used to buy fancy suits and high heeled shoes, only keeping out of jail by bribing the judiciary.’
‘Mmmm,’ an angry murmur rose up from the packed audience.
‘Silence!’ shouted the judge, ‘or I’ll have you all locked up for contempt of court.’
‘That’s why he’s called Judge Contempt,’ whispered Sara.
‘The Foreign Judgments Act,’ continued the Attorney Degenerate, ‘can be used to register the London judgment, and recover the people’s money. Your horror, I rest my case.’
‘Doesn’t he mean “your honour”?’ I wondered.
‘Difficult to say,’ she whispered. ‘People are losing respect for judges.’
‘And now,’ said the judge, ‘I call upon the Defiant Defence to put the case for the Defective Defendant.’
‘Thank you My Lewd,’ said another wig and gown, this one looking more like a huge glass of milk stout. ‘I just rise to point out that my learned colleague the Attorney Degenerate is quite wrong to claim that my client was a servant of the people. As a matter of fact, he was the king. A king is entitled to take money from the people, so that he can live like a king, and have natty suits and lovely little sparkling shoes, as befit a king.
‘Futhermore,’ continued the Defiant Defence, ‘I am entirely puzzled at the constitutional confusion of my learned colleague, when he claims that he is here to represent the people. Was he not appointed by the present king? Did he not swear loyalty to the king?
‘And how will kings ever be able to rule in future, if former kings can be brought to court like common criminals, to have their lawful decisions reconsidered? We are even brought to court to hear tittle tattle about the king buying himself a suit! Is not the king a law unto himself? Is not all law signed into law by the king? Then how does my learned friend come here to misuse his legal training, to misuse the law he got from the king, to try to undermine the very king to whom he swore loyalty! He blatantly abuses his office to represent the people against the king, whilst simultaneously accusing others of corruption. My Lewd, I rest my case.’
The crowd sat there, silent and baffled, scratching their heads. ‘Are we living in a monarchy or a democracy?’ I whispered to Sara.
‘That’s the question,’ she replied, ‘which will be answered here today.’
‘The case now comes to judgment,’ announced the judge. ‘ Firstly, I find the arguments from the defence to be entirely inadequate. The constitution is very clear that the law is made by the people, through their representatives in parliament. Therefore the king is not above the law.
‘But there are also inadequacies in the arguments of the Attorney Degenerate. He claimed that the money in question, purported to be stolen, was used to corrupt the judiciary. But if believed his own claim, then he would not be wasting his time bringing this case to court.’
‘But perhaps he is wasting his time?’ I murmured.
‘That’s another question to be decided today,’ Sara chuckled.
‘Furthermore,’ continued the judge, ‘the Attorney Degenerate has not explained how ten year old suits and shoes can have any present value, bearing in mind that they are now frayed and worn, and only big enough to fit a dwarf. So how is this money to be recovered?
‘More fundamentally, whereas the Attorney Degenerate has correctly cited the Foreign Judgments Act, he has entirely overlooked the relevance of the Importation Act of 1971, which makes no provision for the importation of foreign judgments. The application is therefore denied, and the London judgment cannot be registered.’
‘Booo! Corruption! Bent as a cucumber!’ We all stood up, shouting.
‘Contempt of court!’ squealed the contemptible judge. ‘I sentence you all to ten years in jail!’
But by this time there were bags of rotten eggs and tomatoes being passed down our row, so we all started hurling them at the judge. ‘Sell out! Bought and paid for! Traitor!’
As the judge fled, we all rushed out to the carpark, just in time to catch Judge Contempt scrambling into his limo. More eggs and tomatoes flew. ‘He’s now a rich man!’ somebody shouted. ‘He’s retiring to the Bahamas!’ How we all laughed and cheered!
I turned to Sara. ‘The night is still young, let’s go back in for a drink!’
Everybody was in jovial mood in the Playhouse Bar. ‘That’s the best comedy I’ve seen in years,’ I said to Sara. ‘Participatory theatre! So realistic!’
‘You should go to the real court,’ she laughed. ‘It’s even more ridiculous!’

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


It was two o’clock in the morning, but the king couldn’t sleep. He was sitting up in his bed, his eyes looking into the gloom of his palatial bedroom. Then the hair on the back of his neck stood up as he heard an eerie high pitched whine, whoooo … whoooo ....whoooo. Then, as he stared into the darkness, he began to see the shape of a still figure in a long white robe, with large mournful eyes, staring at him…
‘Whooo do you think I am?’ whined the high pitched voice. ‘You know me, Nyamasoya. And I know youuuu …youuuu … youuuu. You said you would follow me! And you did! You followed me to my grave, Nyamasoya. Now I’ve come back to follow youuuu … youuuu …’
‘Aaarrghhh!’ the king screamed so loud that he woke up the queen, who also sat up in fright and turned on the light. ‘What’s happening? ‘Are we safe? Or are you having another of your funny turns?’
‘Over there in the corner!’ whimpered the king, ‘can’t you see him?’
‘There’s nobody over there.’ she scoffed. ‘It’s all in your head.’
‘Can’t you hear his voice, saying youuuu …youuuu … youuu?
‘It’s just the wind in the trees, my dear. It happens this time of year. Just go back to sleep.’ So saying, she turned off the light. ‘I need my rest. I’ve got an important meeting of First Ladies tomorrow. We’re trying to sort out the awful mess our husbands have been making.’
But the king could not sleep. He sat there staring into the dark, fearing that the ghost would come back. Which it did, the next night…
‘Youuuu … youuuu … youuuuu,’ came the high pitched whine from the ghostly figure in the corner. Youuuu … youuuu chased me from this palace, but I have returned. You promised to follow me, but I am following you. You followed me to my office, and chased me out. Followed me to parliament, and threw me out. Followed me even to the hospital, followed me to my death. So now, O Great King, I am your follower, I shall always follow you…’
‘Aaarrghhh!’ screamed the king, as the queen woke up very annoyed. ‘For Christ’s sake be quiet!’ she shouted, hitting him with her pillow. ‘I’ve got work tomorrow, even if you haven’t.’
‘The ghost has come back,’ he blubbered.
‘I told you not to go round fixing your enemies,’ she replied sternly. ‘You haven’t got the stomach for it. Now they’re coming back to haunt you!’
The next morning the king called his Chief of Staff. ‘Get the royal jet ready, I’m off to see the King of Namibia!’
‘Do we have an invitation?’ asked the poor fellow. ‘Is it an official state visit?’
‘Never mind all that,’ shouted the king. ‘I need a change of air!’
‘But there was no escape. Even in the faraway palace of the Namibian king, there was still no sleep for the hapless Nyamasoya. ‘Youuuu … youuuu … youuuu thought you could escape me,’ came the same whining noise. ‘Just as you followed me, I am following youuuu. Your thugs followed my mourners to the funeral house, and had them beaten. They even followed me to my burial, so that they could beat anybody found weeping. And so I shall follow you to your unhappy end. Sleep no more, O King, for I am following you!’
For all his foreign trips, Nyamasoya could not escape the ghost. And his unfortunate subjects could not understand why their king was flying round the world like a demented soul, too frightened to return to his own palace.
And it got worse. One day, when the king was in Addis, and about to shake hands with the Chairman of the African Union of Dictators, the Chairman suddenly turned into a ghost, saying ‘Youuuu … youuuu … youuuu thought you could run away from me, but I am still following you!’
The poor demented king ran screaming from the conference hall, straight to his aeroplane, and ordered the pilot to fly to Heaven. ‘I’m going to fix this little pipsqueak once and for all!’ he roared.
High in the sky, he stepped out to find St Peter standing in front of the Pearly Gate. ‘I’m looking for a certain Lament Chipotamutima, who I think has been given accommodation here.’
‘Quite right,’ said St Peter. ‘A very sad case. He had been sorely persecuted by some mad king, so he was given instant admission. He’s now known as St Lament.’
‘You think he’s a saint, but he’s been haunting me!’ Nyamasoya shouted angrily. ‘So I’m here to clip his wings! I’m a king, here on a state visit! Let me in to see the Boss! A man in my position can’t stand here wasting time talking to the malonda! Iwe, open the gate, and be quick about it, or I shall get back in my royal aeroplane and return to Earth!’
‘Your aeroplane has already left,’ said St Peter calmly. ‘I have instructions from the Boss that you should go downstairs, where you will be accommodated in the Other Place.’
‘What!’ shouted the king. ‘Downstairs! How far down? What’s down there?’
‘Don’t worry,’ said St Peter. ‘I have asked St Lament to follow you.’

[Story based on an idea from Michelo Simuyandi]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kangaroo Kourt

Kangaroo Kourt
The magistrate leant forward, pointing his finger at the prisoner in the dock. ‘Mr Pong Mpongo, on the first count, you are charged with swallowing a dictionary, thereby acquiring a voluminous vocabulary with which to insult the king. How do you plead?’
‘Not guilty, Your Honour.’
‘I shall record a plea of guilty since I’m not prepared to have guilty people wasting the time of this court.’
Sara and I were sitting in one of the new Kangaroo Courts which had been set up by the king to fix his enemies.
‘I think I’ve come with the wrong spectacles,’ I whispered to Sara. ‘The magistrate really does look like a kangaroo!’
‘He is a kangaroo,’ Sara hissed. ‘No self-respecting lawyer would take this job. But a kangaroo can leap over all the law books in one bound, and come down upon his victim with terrifying force.’
‘This court has already heard,’ said the magistrate, ‘from a witness, an office messenger in your office when you were Minister of Offensive Remarks, that everyday there was less dictionary on the shelf, because you had been eating it.’
‘I do have a voracious appetite for complicated vocabulary,’ Mpongo replied proudly.
‘Your answer would seem to reveal your guilt,’ sneered the magistrate. ‘Further evidence has shown that after swallowing all the words beginning with A, you were heard referring to our beloved king as an Avaricious Anachronism. But after you had eaten all the B’s you called the king a Belligerent Buffoon. And after C our beloved monarch had become a Capricious Casanova.’
‘Why is Mpongo already in handcuffs and chains?’ I whispered.
‘Because his fate is already sealed,’ she replied.
‘But I thought the judgement comes at the end!’
‘A Kangaroo Kourt is more like theatre,’ Sara explained. ‘The script is already written. We’ve all seen it before. Everybody knows the ending.’
‘We have heard the evidence from the doctor,’ continued the magistrate, ‘that one day you were brought in suffering from extreme stomach pains and constipation. Diagnosis showed that these were caused by swallowing very long, indigestible and pornographic words, which had lodged in your intestine, thereby creating a dreadful stench.
‘Therefore the second charge against you is abuse of office, in that your office was filled with foul gas and …’
‘Abuse of office,’ said Mpongo, ‘involves misuse of the authority given to me. As Minister of Offensive Remarks, I was supposed to be offensive and to…’
‘On the contrary!’ shouted the magistrate. ‘The king, using his prerogative to change the law as he deems fit, has re-defined abuse of authority as meaning anything that offends the king.’
‘I plead not guilty.’
‘Be quiet. I’m the one to decide whether or not you’re guilty.’
‘The third charge against you is theft of government property. A team of twenty-five officers spent ten days checking your office, and have given witness to this court that they found that the dictionary was missing.
‘The fourth count against you is that you tried to circumvent justice and the authority of this court by returning to your former office and replacing the stolen dictionary with an identical dictionary.
‘The fifth count against you is that this replacement dictionary was in fact stolen from a Mr Terrible Fiddle…’
‘I only borrowed it from him, Your Honour, and…’
‘Do not try to deceive this court!’ shouted the kangaroo. ‘We have heard evidence from Mr Terrible Fiddle that you wanted to borrow his dictionary for a few minutes. After sixty-one minutes had elapsed without return of the said dictionary, he had no option but to drive all the way to Police Headquarters and report the theft of his dictionary to the Chief Suspector, who had no option but to report immediately to the king on the rising rate of crime in the capital.’
‘Is this the same Terrible Fiddle who has now been appointed Minister for Offensive Remarks?’ I whispered to Sara.
‘He’s very well qualified for the job,’ Sara chuckled.
‘I therefore find you guilty on all five counts, and sentence you to six months in jail.’
Then the magistrate turned to the clerk of the court, saying ‘Do we have another case for this morning?’
‘Another dictionary theft, Your Honour. It has just been discovered that a dictionary has disappeared from the office of Ms Loose Change, Minister for Dodgy Deals.’
The magistrate pointed his finger at poor old Mpongo, just as he was being led away in chains. ‘Another dictionary gone missing!’ he shouted. ‘That’s another six months for you!’ Then suddenly, without warning, the kangaroo suddenly made a huge leap backwards, and disappeared through the door behind him.
‘One large leap for the court,’ said Sara, ‘but one enormous leap for dictatorship.’

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

King Movious

King Movious
‘Now close your eyes and go to sleep,’ I said, as I tucked Nawiti into bed.
‘Grandpa!’ she said, sitting up, ‘You know you’re supposed to tell me a story before I go to sleep.’
‘A long time ago in the land of Zombia,’ I began, ‘there was a king called King Movious, because he was always moving up and down, visiting other kings in other countries.’
‘And did the people like King Movious?’
‘Not much,’ I laughed, ‘because the poor people of Zombia had to pay for all his expensive trips to other countries in his big aeroplane.’
‘Didn’t he want to visit his own people?’
‘In the villages there was nowhere for his big aeroplane to land.’
‘So how did he ever win an election?’
‘In those days the king always won the election, because he was the one who counted the votes. But when he found people who hadn’t voted for him he would get very angry and start shouting If you don’t vote for me you’ll get no development!’
‘What is development, Grandpa?’
‘In those days they thought development was hospitals, because everybody was sick, except the king who had his own private hospital. So whenever the king’s messengers visited them, people would shout at them, saying Tell the king we’ll vote for him if he gives us a hospital!’ But the king would send the message back I know you crafty lot, once I’ve given you the hospital, you’ll vote against me! And then the people would send the message back We can’t vote for you because you refuse to give us a hospital!
‘But,’ said Nawiti, ‘isn’t a king supposed to look after all of his people, even those that don’t like him? And how can they like him if he won’t look after them?’
‘Yes Nawiti, you know that and I know that, but the king didn’t know that because he was very stubborn. You see, the king was a hippopotamus who…’
‘A hippopotamus!’ exclaimed Nawiti. ‘Why didn’t you say so earlier? Isn’t that supposed to come at the beginning of the story?’
‘Sorry, I thought you realised,’ I said apologetically. ‘In those days kings were always hippopotamuses, because kings ruled by fear, and people were very frightened of hippopotamuses. But the problem with hippopotamuses is that they are very stubborn, and don’t hear any advice because their ears are too small.’
‘And they’re too movious,’ said Nawiti. ‘Always moving from one place to another.’
‘And so heavy,’ I said, ‘that they need a very large aeroplane to carry them from one place to another.’
‘So how does the story end?’ asked Nawiti impatiently. ‘Did the hippo ever manage to provide a single hospital for his long suffering people?’
‘When King Movious visited his friend King HoHo of Ching Chang, he was amazed to find that King HoHo had put hospitals on huge trailers, each pulled by fifty elephants. Where people voted for him he would immediately send them a mobile hospital. But if they voted against him in the next election, he would take it back again. So now, at last, King Movious thought he had found the solution to his problem. So he bought fifty mobile hospitals and took them to Zombia.’
‘So now people could be given a hospital if they voted for the king?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘But if they voted against him they would wake up the next morning to find that their hospital had disappeared.’
‘So the only way to keep your hospital was to keep voting for the king?’
‘That was the king’s intention. But what happened was that the warriors from a district without a hospital would raid a neighbouring district at the dead of night, and steal their hospital. Soon the entire country was engulfed in the Horrific Hospital War!’
‘So the king still wasn’t popular?’
‘Much more unpopular! People blamed the war on the king, and voted against him. Soon the mobile hospitals were all parked at Mfuwe, because only his friends in the game park had voted for the king.
‘Then the king called a big indaba to try to find out why he was so unpopular. And this was where the People’s Friend, Cycle Mata, plainly told King Movious that he was too movious, and that the hospital policy had proved a disaster. On the other hand, explained Cycle Mata, the king could now use Mobile Ching Chang Technology to put his palace on a huge trailer. With this modern technology, the Monstrous King Movious could now move around his own country to meet his subjects, and explain what he had been doing.
Very good, said the hippopotamus, I shall tell them that I am the king, and whether or not they get hospitals is my decision, and none of their business.
‘And so came the day when the Mobile Palace moved out through the Palace gates, with King Movious waving out of a movious window, amidst cheers from the crowd shouting Goodbye! Your Hour Has Come! Then the People’s Friend guided the elephants to the Zambezi River, where they dumped the Mobile Palace into the mobile water.’
‘Oh dear,’ said Nawiti. ‘Did King Movious drown?’
‘Of course not!’ I laughed. ‘He may have been very bad as a king, but he was very good as a hippopotamus.’