Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Parable of the Popo

The Parable of the Popo
It was Saturday afternoon in Chainda, and a group of people were sitting in a circle under a large acacia tree. ‘Mubanga,’ said one of the group, ‘I think you had volunteered to give us a reading from the New Kalaki Testament.’
Mubanga opened a well-thumbed volume and began. ‘The reading this evening is from the Gospel According to St Kalaki, Chapter 13, Verses 1-27, often referred to as The Parable of the Popo.’
‘And so it came to pass,’ began Mubanga, ‘that the word of God became difficult to read in Europe, because they had reached the Dark Ages, and it was very dark indeed. But there arose amongst the people one who called himself Popo, who went amongst the people and spoke unto them, saying I am Popo, appointed by your Father in Heaven as Light of the Lord to read the Word of God in this terrible darkness.
‘And Popo said unto them, I shall read and interpret the Word for you, and give you the rules on how you should live. Put your trust in me and I shall get you into Heaven. Otherwise you are stumbling and bumping around in the dark and you will surely fall down into Hell and burn forever.
‘And so it came to pass that Popo soon had a thriving business, for the people were sore afraid of falling down into Hell. Before long he had built his own meeting place, which he called a church. This is where the Christians came to receive their instructions, for which they would pay Popo, who soon became very rich.
‘And so the Popo Church soon became the most successful franchise of its day, much bigger than MacDonalds or Coca-Cola. Within ten years Popo had churches all over Europe, for which he had appointed managers whom he called priests, bishops and cardinals, according to the amount of money they collected. And like Moses, he lived for over a thousand years, because he could afford all the best medicines.
‘But all good things come to an end. After a thousand years of prosperity, the Popo Franchise was hit by an unexpected recession. All this came to pass after Marco Polo came back from China with some one-finger gloves, made of the finest silk. These were called ‘condoms’, being named after the Chinese manufacturer, Chon Dom.
‘For lo and behold, this magic condom, when unfurled upon a rampant manhood, could prevent the conception which resulted from the bouncing carnal embrace which was the main nocturnal pleasure of the people.
‘But agony for Popo, for this simple condom soon caused a slump in the fortunes of the once prosperous Popo Franchise. The revenue from christenings and funerals was down, and the population was shrinking. So the Pope wrote an Encyclical Letter explaining that the condom was the work of the devil, and that carnal unions were intended by God to produce more Christians, and not for providing pleasure. The condom was banned.
‘But the ways of the Lord are strange, for more trials and tribulations now befell old Popo. The Christians preferred more pleasure and less children, so they didn’t like his instructions and stopped coming to Popo’s church. So his revenue fell further.
‘But in these times of tribulations, worse was to come. People began dying from a strange disease, further reducing Popo’s takings in the collection plate. And since this disease was transmitted during carnal union, only the condom could stop the disease spreading. Now old Popo fell into serious error. Instead of permitting the condom, he instead banned all carnal union except for the purpose of procreation, and when issued with a licence by Popo.
‘But the disease stubbornly refused to obey Popo’s commands, instead spreading rapidly amongst the priests, bishops and nuns, strangely defying their chastity. With a shortage of both priests and congregations, the Popo Church now couldn’t even collect enough money to feed the bishops’ children in the Popo Orphanage.
‘Poor old Popo was now in despair. As a last resort, he decided to do something he hadn’t done for years. He knelt down to pray.
‘And even for Popo, if you have faith, the Lord will give you a miracle. No sooner had Popo knelt down than Jesus appeared before him. And Popo spoke to him, saying Jesus, thank God you’ve come. These people are refusing all my commands and doing as they please. What shall I do?
‘And Jesus spoke gently to him, saying Poor old Popo, you have misunderstood my Testament. I spoke in parables in order to prod the moral conscience of the people, and to remind them of the Word of the Lord, but then I always left them to make their own decisions.
‘And so it came to pass that the next day old Popo issued his last Encyclical, in the form of a brief statement in which he declared that In all matters of morality, Christians must decide their own course of conduct, according to their own conscience, their own reading of the Word, their own special circumstances, and their own relationship with God.’
‘So what does this parable mean to us?’ asked Mubanga, as she closed the book.
‘It means,’ said Prisca, ‘that we have no need of priests, bishops and Popos.
‘It means,’ said Bwalya, ‘that we have no need of churches, alters, or statues.
‘It means,’ said Phiri, ‘that we are members of the New Democratic Church’.
‘It means,’ said Chaloka, ‘that we can sit under a tree and decide things for ourselves.
‘It means,’ said Luwaya, ‘that we can be Christians every day of the week, and not just on Sundays.’
‘It means,’ said Suwilanje, with a gleam in her eye, ‘that we can use condoms.’

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Presidential Trip

Presidential Trip
At last I was able to appreciate One Zedia One Nation. At last I was sitting in the great aeroplane, waiting for take-off.
And at last President Nyamasoya finished saying a long farewell to all the leaders who were being left behind on the tarmac, all of them shedding genuine tears of sadness that the 747 could take only 400 free-loaders. So now the president and his party came aboard and settled down in the presidential suite upstairs. The hatch was closed and One Zedia One Nation finally began to move. A cheer arose as the mighty craft finally lifted into the air.
In One Zedia One Nation all sections of society were represented. The starving student leaders, who had always been complaining about meager meal allowances, could now feast themselves and forget about the burden of leadership. Similarly the union leaders were now comfortably cushioned from the plight of the workers. The religious leaders could forget about the troubles of their starving flock, and experience the weighty moral dilemmas of the parasitic class. The lawyers, who had railed against corrupt judges, could now begin to understand how easy it is to get corrupted. And even sour Kalaki, after a few free brandies and a plate of prawns, could begin to appreciate why One Zedia One Nation was such an enormously expensive venture.
Soon the president’s press secretary, Dickhead Jelly, came down to address us. ‘In four hours we are due to arrive in Bahrain, where the president has been invited by the Prince to discuss funding for the new mine in Mukuba. For the three days in Bahrain you will be given an allowance of ten thousand dollars to cover your per diem, food allowance, drink allowance, spending allowance, entertainment allowance, travel allowance, titillation allowance, incidental expenses, and of course any unforeseen expenses which may suddenly arise late at night. When you disembark, just collect your brown envelope from the tin trunk marked Global Fund.
A couple of hours later Dickhead appeared again. ‘Due to a navigational error our destination is now Brazil. So in four hours we shall be landing in Rio de Janeiro, where our president has been invited by President Lula da Silva to discuss the funding of the new mine in Mukuba.’
Of course this announcement put the plane into a buzz of chatter. I turned to the PS on my right. ‘This is what happens when you appoint your Ngoni nephew as the pilot.’
‘If you don’t have any constructive criticism,’ he said sternly, ‘it’s better to remain quiet.’
I turned to the Pentecostal bishop on my left. ‘What do you say about this unexpected U-turn?’
Rio should be much more fun,’ he chuckled.
And sure enough, a few hundred bottles later, we all landed in Rio. The president and his party got off first. Through the window I could see him being greeted by a long line of dignitaries, then solemnly inspecting a line of luggage trolleys. Then he squeezed his awkward bulk into a Benz, and drove off.
The next morning I went to the Ministry of Presidential Affairs and spoke to the man at the reception. ‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘Could you tell me where I can find the meeting between President Lula and the visiting President Nyamasoya?’
‘I think sir,’ he said politely, ‘that you may be a bit out of date. Our president is now Madame Dilma Rouseff. Mr Lula da Silva retired two weeks ago.’
‘Really?’ I said, kicking myself that I had believed something that Dickhead had told me. ‘Do you happen to know his new address?’
‘He’s moved to 36 Retirement Avenue,’ he replied.
So I took a taxi, and within twenty minutes I was knocking on the door of a neat little semi-detached house in the suburbs. A nice lady in an apron opened the door. ‘Mrs da Silva?’ I asked.
‘If you want Lula,’ she replied, ‘he’s in the garden planting his potatoes.’
I walked through, into the back garden. ‘Mr da Silva?’ I said. ‘I’m Kalaki from the Zedia Watchdog.
He wiped his hand on the back of his trousers, and we shook hands. ‘How can I help you?’ he asked.
‘I’m told you invited President Nyamasoya to visit you?’
‘He also claimed that to me, and he was only two hours from landing. I had to tell him that there must be some misunderstanding, and I’m no longer president.’
‘But he seemed to be expected,’ I said. ‘When he stepped down from the plane he was greeted by a long line of dignitaries.’
‘My brother is in charge of catering at the airport, so I phoned him and asked him to quickly improvise something, Those dignitaries were just a long line of waiters and porters, who also invented the splendid ceremony of inspecting the trolleys!’
Three days later and I was back home watching the TV News, when on came Dollar Sillier. ‘Our beloved Nyamasoya,’ she announced, ‘has just returned from a very hardworking and successful trip to Brazil, where his friend Lula has pledged to invest in the new mine at Mukuba.’
‘Is that true?’ asked Sara.
‘Not entirely,’ I laughed. ‘Lula is also the nickname of Lulu Lala, the famous lap dancer at the Red Light Nightclub in downtown Rio. She’s the one who signed the agreement.’
‘Can she afford such a big investment?’
‘Oh yes,’ I laughed. ‘She’s now a very rich girl.’

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


The Police Station
It was Saturday afternoon, and I was slumped in front of the TV with only a glass of brandy for company, when I heard a knock, and then a voice said ‘Odi?’
‘Odini,’ I replied, as into the room stepped a flashily dressed young man in a white linen suit, red silk shirt, and long pointed shiny black shoes with gold buckles.
‘Hullo Unko Kalaki,’ he said, stretching out a hand, ‘where’s Aunty Sara?’
‘Gone off somewhere to put the world to rights,’ I sighed.
‘I know you don’t remember me,’ he said, as I directed him towards a battered sofa. ‘I’m your nephew Dingiswayo, Aunty Jane’s second born!’
‘Now I remember,’ I laughed. ‘You’re Dirty Dingi, the one that got expelled from Lunami Secondary for killing and cooking the headmaster’s dog.’
‘That was long ago, Unko,’ he grinned, showing me several gold teeth. ‘I’m now a policeman! I’m Inspector Dingiswayo Kanunka, Officer-in-Charge at Lingalonga Police Post!’
‘Well done!’ I said, as I poured him a brandy. ‘I knew from your early days of thievery that you’d do well! But how did you manage to rise so quickly to such an elevated position in society?’
‘I bought the business for only 200 million last year!’
‘For 200 million?’ I gasped. ‘How is that possible?’
‘It wasn’t difficult,’ he laughed. ‘The previous year I had brought in four hot Mercs from Joburg. So I thought I’d invest the proceeds into a respectable little business.’
‘No, I meant how is it possible to buy a police post?’
‘You’re so out of date, Unko,’ laughed Dirty Dingi. ‘It’s all part of the government’s privatisation policy, introduced by little Kafupi. The Police Farce is now run on a franchise system, just like O’Hagans or Rhapsody’s.’
‘How can a police post be like Rhapsody’s.’
‘Simple,’ laughed Dirty Dingi. ‘Rhapsody’s is part of a franchise company that provides the menu, training and d├ęcor. In the same way Lingalonga Police Post is an independent business, except that it is provided with uniforms, guns and tear gas canisters by the franchise company, the Police Farce.’
‘So you went for special training?’
‘Of course. I had to learn how to hit people with batons, stamp on them, fire tear gas at them, shoot them, and so on. All the essential police services that the government provides to the people.’
‘So how does your business make money?’
‘In all sorts of ways. With our road blocks we charge motorists for passing through Lingalonga. We charge unlicensed liquor traders for protection from prosecution. We charge complainants for the service of locking up suspects, and then charge the suspect’s family for letting them out again. The business is a little gold mine.’
‘Don’t you have to charge suspects and take them to court?’
‘This is called community policing, so we administer our own punishments as an immediate deterrent. After we’ve finished with them they’re in no condition to go to court.’
‘What about the women prisoners, do they get the same treatment?’
‘We are very gender aware,’ he leered, as he licked his lips and checked his zip. ‘For the ladies we provide a very special service.’
‘What about this recent riot in Sewage Compound, where the police had to flee?’
‘It seems the Sewage police were over zealous in their work. At KigaliTraining School we were trained to beat with sticks but not axes, whip with belts but not barbed wire, squeeze testicles but not pull them off. So I always follow the rules so as not to annoy the citizens.’
‘So you never take people to court?’
‘Only in special cases. For instance, if one of our thieves strays into Kabulonga and steals from the rich, then of course that’s a court case. If we don’t protect the rich from the poor then the entire economic system would collapse. And of course if the leadership wants to fix somebody, then it is our national duty to find something they have done wrong, and immediately hand them over to the court. These are not matters for our own profit, but our obligations to the overall franchise company, the Police Farce.’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘I must congratulate you on running such a profitable little business. I can see that, in the present political climate, you’re just the sort of person who is going to go far.’
‘That’s why I came to see Aunty,’ he answered in a confidential tone. ‘I’m planning to stand as member of parliament for Lingalonga at the next election, so I’ll need campaign funds for bribing voters.’
‘And what will be your campaign manifesto?’
‘I shall tell them that if they vote for me they will get electricity, a clinic and a school – all the things they have only dreamed about. And I shall tell them that if I find anyone who intends to vote against me, I shall set the thugs of the Merciless Mad Dogs upon them.’
‘There you are!’ I said. ‘You already have your established methods and principles. So why change now, and start bribing people?’
‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ he said, as he stood up to go. ‘But you’re right. My principle has always been that people must pay me, but I never pay them.’
‘Better to avoid bribery,’ I said, as I opened the door for him.
‘Thanks for the advice, Unko,’ he replied. ‘We must all continue the fight against corruption.’

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Slice It Off!

‘In this morning’s meeting,’ said the President, ‘we shall be looking at the new policy proposals being put forward by the Unhealthy Minister, Mr Kapeto Simple.’
A groan went round the cabinet room. The ministers had been busy with fixing elections and other illegal activities, so this was the first time the cabinet had met in six months. ‘Our policy,’ sighed the Minister for Dodgy Contracts, ‘is to praise our President and thank him for all he has given us. So what’s all this about a new policy?’
‘A good point,’ agreed the President. ‘Our health policy is that I should be praised for opening a new hospital every week. This policy has been very costly, especially for the Republic of Ching Chang. So what more do you want?’
‘I am most humbly grateful, Your Most Excellent Excellency,’ began poor little Kapeto. ‘That you have afforded me a chance to speak. I am proposing a new AIDS policy, called Male Circumcision, to prevent HIV infection.’
‘Silly little fart wants to slice off our dicks!’ sneered Shikashiwa, Minister for Refuting Stories in The Post. ‘He’s not touching mine, it has thousands of admirers and I’m not having it mutilated.’
‘And we must remember,’ said Velvet Mango, ‘that ours are not ordinary members, they are members of parliament, who must always be able to stand up for the people!’
‘And how can our members exercise their right to freedom of movement?’ wondered the Minister for Sexual Affairs, ‘if doctors are lurking everywhere, waiting to slice our foreskins?’
‘My point exactly,’ grunted Shikashiwa. ‘Our members must have freedom to move up and down.’
‘Well?’ said the President, turning to Kapeto, ‘have we circumcised your new policy?’
‘Ha ha!’ they all laughed. ‘It’s been completely emasculated! Absolutely castrated! The new policy has been completely sliced off!’
‘Half a minute,’ squealed Kapeto. ‘Circumcision would be entirely voluntary. So for Shikashiwa, whose foreskin has been admired and enjoyed by so many, I’m sure we can all agree that he should keep it as a national treasure.’
‘Oh well,’ they laughed, ‘that’s alright then! Why didn’t you say so earlier?’
‘Furthermore,’ said Kapeto, ‘this policy shows a new vision.’
‘New vision?’ asked the President. ‘What’s that? Does circumcision improve eyesight?’
‘It entails a new view of the patient. Previously the government has taken responsibility for protecting people from disease.’
‘Then how is circumcision different?’
‘With this new policy,’ said Kapeto Simple, ‘it’s the man who’s the problem, and the onus is on him to take action. This entails a new vision, of seeing the patient as responsible, not the government.’
‘Excellent,’ said His Excellency. ‘Now the government can be more irresponsible!’
‘And not only that,’ said Kapeto, ‘but there’s a big market for foreskins in the Republic of Ching Chang, where dicks are too short for effective fertilization, and the population is going down. People will pay well to have an extra foreskin sown on.’
‘Or four foreskins,’ suggested Shikashiwa, ‘would allow more room for growth.’
‘Furthermore,’ said Kapeto, warming to his theme. ‘We here see a new principle in health policy, of not giving anything to the patient, but instead slicing a bit off.’
‘Excellent!’ exulted His Excellency. ‘But when are you other dull ministers going to emulate the Great Nyamasoya’s New Vision?’
‘With all due respect,’ said Strangulation Mushikilila, ‘My ministry already slices off 30% from workers’ packages, then another 17% from what’s left. And we’ve sliced old people off the face of the Earth by the simple expedient of swallowing their pensions.’
‘Don’t forget Miseducation,’ boasted Dollar Sillier, ‘where we’ve entirely sliced off the books, desks and teachers, leaving only the pupils and the buildings.’
‘Even so,’ said the President, ‘There’s a New Vision in slicing off bits of the people themselves. Think of all we could make in exporting kidneys, eyes, and livers. Why are we bothering with selling foreskins to Ching Chang when we could be exporting hearts to America.’
‘From an economic point of view,’ said Strangulation, ‘the value of such exports could be more than copper, and all of us here could become billionaires. And as the number of people decreased, this would solve the unemployment problem. The New Vision of Slicing Off could be our salvation, especially if we concentrate on slicing off the opposition!’
But the Minister of Injustice, the dreaded Red-lipped Snake, had not yet said anything. But now he spoke. ‘The problem,’ he said, ‘is the Anti-Corruption Act, where public servants have to explain how they acquired their assets. If a minister is found with ten thousand eyes and seven thousand kidneys and five thousand hearts, then he will be caught by the provisions of Section 37 of the Act!’
‘Simple!’ they all shouted. ‘Slice it off!’

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Mobutu Prize


I was just about to turn off the TV news when up came the title of the next film: ‘President Nyamasoya wins prestigious Mobutu Prize at the Annual Awards of Corruption International in Kinshasa.’
‘Ha ha!’ I scoffed. ‘So Dickhead Jelly was right! He did win!’
As we watched, Henry Nglazi appeared on the red carpet outside the Plunderers Palace Hotel in Kinshasa. ‘The royal convoy of King Nyamasoya is arriving now’ announced Nglazi as twenty-four BMW limousines and four buses swept majestically towards the great portico of the Palace Hotel.
‘The poorer the country,’ said Sara, ‘the larger the retinue.’
‘We are expecting,’ said Nglazi, ‘the King to arrive with the Queen, all of his children from various wives, his ministers and advisers, as well as the entire Mama Yenge Dance Troupe.’
As the first car stopped at the red carpet, a uniformed lackey leapt out from the front, scurried round to open the rear door, and then saluted briskly as the huge Nyamasoya made several attempts to roll out of the car. But each time he rolled back in again. Finally he was pulled out by several members of the waiting delegation, and bussled into the hotel.
The next scene opened in the vast ballroom of the Plunderers Palace, where Nglazi informed us that the guests had just finished washing down lobster and ripe pheasant with gallons of French wine.
Now onto the stage climbed the Master of Ceremonies, Kateka Bakalamba, dressed as a large rat. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we now begin the presentation of the Mobutu Prize for Grand Corruption, the much coveted prize for which all Third World leaders have been competing for the past year.
‘As usual the Academy of Distinguished Plunderers has drawn up a list of five nominees, which I shall announce in no particular order.’ As he spoke the spotlight swung to the table of a wizened little thief, sitting next to a woman covered in diamonds. ‘The first nominee is the King of Ethiopia, His Excellency King Haille Gleedie, who sold the entire national food reserve to buy his wife those diamonds.’
‘Hurray!’ shouted the crowd. ‘What courage! What sacrifice!’
‘He is credited,’ said Sara, ‘with single handedly causing the 2009 Ethiopian famine.’
‘Now we have King Zooma of Azania,’ said Kateka, as the spotlightw fell on two bald skulls stuck together. ‘King Zooma is famous for buying twenty FI fighter jets at five million dollars each, for no known reason.’
'Ha ha!’ shouted the crowd. ‘We know the reason!’
‘Next,’ shouted Kateka, as the spotlight illuminated a man entirely covered in a white sheet, ‘we have Prince Abdullah bin Nabiel el Salim al-Din al Ayyubi bin Saud of Arabia, who has successfully rented out his country to America…
‘Booo!’ booed the crowd.
‘…and with the proceeds built a thousand brothels in Las Vegas!’
‘Hurray!’ shouted the crowd.
‘And fourthly,’ announced Kateka, as the spotlight illuminated a grey hairy man in a long green cloak, ‘we have the Prime Minister of Afghanistan, Mr Bribehigh, who used the proceeds from the entire national heroin crop to buy his re-election!’
‘Good investment!’ sang the crowd. ‘What is money for?’
‘And lastly,’ said Kateka, as the small spotlight struggled to illuminate a large rhinoceros, ‘we have the famous King Nyamasoya of Zed, who risked his throne to save the President of this Academy from jail!
‘Hurray!’ shouted the crowd.
‘Our illustrious President Kafupi Mupupu was charged with theft!’
‘Disgraceful!’ shouted the crowd. ‘No respect!’
‘But King Nyamsoya, our fifth nominee, corrupted the judiciary and got him off!’
‘Judges are cheap!’ chanted the crowd.
Now the spotlight returned to Kateka, as he dramatically and slowly drew a card out of a white envelope. ‘And the winner is … King Nyamasoya of the Republic of Zed!’
‘A worthy winner! A true defender of corruption!’ they chanted, as the Great King Nyamsoya was pushed up onto the stage by the entire Mama Yenge ensemble.
‘Speech! Speech!’ bayed the drunken mob of dignatories.
‘I just want to say,’ said King Nyamasoya, ‘that colonialists have tried to impose their oppressive policies of accountability and the rule of law. But in the Kingdom of Zed we have defended our sovereignty! We have defied them by abolishing the rule of law! And next week I shall pass a new law making corruption legal!’
‘Hurray!’ shouted the crowd. ‘Free at last! Free at last!’
‘And now,’ said Kateka, ‘I call upon our dear President Kafupi Mupupu to present our very precious prize, the Long Gold Finger, to King Nyamasoya!’
Now little Kafupi Mupupu climbed onto the stage. But he was not holding any prize, nor did he approach King Nyamasoya. Instead he walked up to Kateka and whispered in his ear. Then Kateka frowned, turned to the crowd, and announced ‘Unfortunately, it seems that the Long Gold Finger has been stolen!’
‘Boooo!’ shouted the crowd.
But as they were booing, there slid onto the stage a thin ghostly figure wearing a leopard skin jacket and leopard skin hat.
‘It’s Sese Sese!’ Sara hissed.
‘I declare,’ said the Ghost of Mobutu, ‘that President Kafupi Mupupu has already taken the prize! Therefore he must be the winner!’
‘Hurray!’ shouted the crowd, as the champagne popped.
‘So it seems,’ I said to Sara, ‘that Nyamsoya didn’t win the prize after all.’
‘Of course not,’ laughed Sara. ‘He can’t compete with Kafupi Mupupu.’
‘That’s what I thought,’ I said. ‘I knew Dickhead Jelly must have got it wrong.’