Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Birthday Party

Birthday Party

One of the perks of being a journalist is getting invitations to the lavish functions of our leaders. Huge feasts given by people who wouldn’t offer you a cup of tea before they entered public life, but who are now enormously generous with public money.

And so it was that last Saturday I was sitting with other members of the press at the Birthday Bash for our Great Leader, His Excellency the Ancient Dinosaur Nyamasoyaurus, to celebrate his 74th millionth birthday. The Master of Ceremonies was a wizened little fellow by the name of Mouth Mulufyanya, who had to stand on a chair in order to be seen.

‘Why’s he so shrunken?’ I asked Sam from The Boast, who was sitting next to me.

‘Verbal diarrohea,’ cackled Sam, as he swilled down another cold Mosi. ‘He used to be full of big fat words, but now he’s left with only small thin ones.’

‘We are here this afternoon,’ began Mulufyanya, ‘to celebrate the birthday of our Great Leader, who has graciously cancelled his three week trip to Libya in order to be with us this afternoon.’ Everybody clapped politely, and nobody

dared to laugh.

I leant over to Sam. ‘Is this event being organized by the party, the government or the state?’

‘If they know the difference,’ laughed Sam, ‘they’ve never shown any sign of it.’

‘We shall proceed as follows,’ Mulufyanya was saying. ‘First the arrival of His Excellency, then the arrival of the cake, then the cutting of the cake and

finally the distribution of the cake.’

As he was speaking the Great Dinosaur’s arrival began, as the huge monster limped clumsily towards his massive throne, surrounded by a huge gang of thugs all wielding machetes.

‘Those are the Brown Shirts,’ whispered Sam. ‘They’ve just been recruited from Egypt, where they are now surplus to requirements.’

‘Now we bring on the cake,’ announced Mulufyanya, as a small army of starving slaves, dressed in rags, carried in the huge sumptuous cake on a silver platter, and placed it on the table in front of His Excellency the Monstrous Dinosaur. ‘This Birthday Cake,’ announced Mulufyanya, ‘has been provided free of charge by the Chinese Bakery, in gratitude to His Excellency for his wise suspension of all labour laws.’

As he spoke, the Brown Shirts used their machetes to chase away the starving slaves, who had been trying to pick a few crumbs from the table.

‘Your Excellency,’ said Mulufyanya, bowing low, ‘it is now my humble duty to ask you to cut the cake and distribute it according to our democratic party tradition. Your Excellency, with all due respect, I am aware that you have only recently arrived from the United National Intolerance Party, and may not be fully aware of our democratic traditions…’

As he spoke there was a deadly silence, broken only the swishing of machetes and the hissing of the deadly Red Lipped Snake.

Apparently undeterred, Mulufyanya continued ‘… according to the democratic principles of the Movement for Multiple Distribution, we must first elect twelve representatives who will be responsible for the fair distribution of the national cake, as stipulated in the rules of our constitution. So after the election of representatives, I shall ask His Excellency Nyamasoyaurus to step forward and cut the cake into twelve equal pieces.’ But as he spoke the Brown Shirts with their machetes surrounded little Mulufyanya, as if they were going to divide him into twelve pieces.

But Mulufyanya, who was apparently oblivious to the danger of his predicament, proceeded with his confident prattle … ‘I therefore call upon all those amongst you who would like to stand as candidates to raise your hands and make yourselves known.’

As he spoke, the Brown Shirts began to move amongst the crowd, and people tried to become invisible. Some slid off their chairs and sat under tables. Others lay flat on the ground with their faces down. Others covered their heads with table cloths or table napkins.

But still undeterred, Little Mulufyanya raised his own hand. ‘Somebody has to take the lead,’ he declared, ‘so I put myself forward as the first candidate, to help His Excellency the Dinosaur to distribute the… ’

He was interrupted by a terrible roar from the Dinosaur. ‘I am the Sole Candidate, and it is my job to eat the cake!’ So saying, he picked up the whole cake and swallowed it in one gulp. Then he picked up Mulufyanya and also swallowed him in one gulp.

At this point Colonel William Bandit and all his Brown Shirts raised their arms towards the Dinosaur in a flat hand salute and chanted the National Praise Song to the Great Leader:

Our Fuhrer, who art in power,

Hallowed be thy name;

Your kingdom has come,

Your will must be done

In Lusaka as it is in Mongu,

Give them their daily dread

And whip them for their trespasses

As we shall whip them who trespass against you.

And lead us not into democracy,

But deliver us from elections,

For you art our Fuhrer,

With guns and machetes,

For ever and ever,



[Based on a story idea from Hilary Mulenga, with assistance from other Facebook friends, especially Patrick Pami, Humphrey Milimo and Alexander Mwalula]

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wind of Change

Wind of Change
What fun it was, last week, watching those daily weather reports on Aljazeera as the political hurricane blew through North Africa, blowing away thieving presidents, first from Tunisia and then from Egypt.
And then more excitement at the end of the week, with the weather man standing in front of the map of Africa and moving his stick southward, ‘Hurricane Nemesis is now gathering momentum over the Red Sea, and is threatening to blow a gang of criminals out of the presidential palace in Yemen.’
‘Ooh Hoo!’ squealed Sara in delight, ‘it’s moving south, maybe it can swing our way!’
But by Sunday the Aljazeera weather man had moved his stick east, announcing that ‘Hurricane Nemisis has crossed the desert from Aden, picked up speed over the Persian Gulf, and is causing extensive destruction in the island Kingdom of Bahrein, where the king’s fleet of one hundred and thirty-four gold plated Cadillacs have all been blown into the sea.’
‘Hurray!’ I shouted.
‘How can you be celebrating?’ Sara complained. ‘The damn thing’s going the wrong way!’
But on Tuesday the news was better. ‘In an unexpected development, Hurricane Nemesis has picked up energy and speed over the Indian Ocean. It has moved rapidly east, crossing back into Africa, and has caused massive political chaos and disruption all across the Congo, from Goma to Kinshasa…’
‘Huh,’ snorted Sara, ‘who will notice the difference?’
‘… latest reports coming in,’ continued the weather man, ‘indicate that the hurricane has now moved south into Barotseland, causing panic in the government, rioting in the police force, and the arrest of all the local meteorologists who have been charged with causing bad weather.’
‘At last, at last!’ said Sara, dancing on the coffee table, ‘it’s coming our way!’
But the next night, when we turned on the Aljazeera news, the screen was blank. ‘You silly bugger,’ Sara shouted, ‘you bought that brandy instead of paying Multichoice.’
‘Just turn on ZNBC,’ I said calmly, as I refilled my brandy glass.
Now onto the screen came the sly old rhinoceros, the Dishonourable Reverend General Rotten Shikashiwa, Minister for Refuting the Truth and Disseminating Propaganda. He was reading from a piece of paper, and licking his lips as he came to the next delicious lie,
‘… State House has announced the suspension of the Chief Meterological Officer in order to investigate charges against him of causing alarm and despondency by circulating false rumours that Hurricane Nemesis is about to hit Zambia. He is also to be investigated by the Auditor General, after a demonstration by orderlies and cleaners, in which he was accused of receiving far more rain that he ever distributed.
‘The government would like to assure the nation that everything is under control, and that all meteorological officers belonging to a certain opposition party have now been replaced by Mobile Meterological Disseminators, or MMD, which have been supplied by the Chinese Government, and which are now disseminating good weather to all parts of the country. But I would be failing in my duty if I did not caution all dissidents that, if necessary, the MMD can also disseminate tear gas and bullets to all those who find themselves unable to appreciate the good weather that this government has brought.
‘On the subject of the unsubstantiated and subversive rumour that Hurricane Nemisis has already entered this country, I can assure the nation that government will not allow this. No entry permit or visa has been issued, and any Foreign Destructive Intervention, or FDI, has to pass through formalities at State House before being let loose on innocent citizens.
‘In addition, no hurricane can be allowed to gather force on the street without first being given a permit by the police, and no such permit has been issued. In the meantime, all citizens are advised to stay in their houses and lock their doors. All foreign TV stations have been cut off, and all private media closed, in order to protect citizens from incorrect and mischievous information. The entire police force is on the street to enforce the 24 hour curfew. Apart from these measures, citizens should go about their normal business, and there is nothing to worry about.’
‘Hurray!’ shouted Sara. ‘The hurricane has arrived!’
The next morning we turned on BBC radio, thinking it would be blocked. But imagine our surprise when we heard the latest news. ‘SMS’s coming in from the Autocracy of Zed are reporting that Zed has finally been hit by the full force of Hurricane Nemesis, where it first hit State House and blew the president all the way to Saudi Arabia…’
‘Oh good!’ laughed Sara. ‘He loves flying!’
‘Since ordinary citizens were all ordered to stay indoors, there are no reports of casualties. However, the entire police force, which was patrolling the streets, has been blown into the Zambezi. Reports say the hurricane has now passed, and the people are out in the street rejoicing.’
‘Let’s turn on ZNBC TV,’ I said. ‘Maybe there’s an announcement on who has taken over.’
The screen was filled with a huge desk, behind which stood a large imposing presidential chair. But the chair was empty! And yet a voice, which seemed to be coming from the empty chair, was saying ‘I promise you democracy, human rights, the rule of law, transparency, good governance, freedom from corruption and …’
‘That chair’s not empty!’ screamed Sara. ‘The dwarf is back!’
[Story based on an idea by Humphrey Milimo, with contributions from Ezra Kalala and Alexander Mwalula]

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Saviour

The Saviour

I was sitting on the veranda trying to make sense of a Post Editorial when I heard footsteps behind me. I turned round to find the rather ample figure of a man. ‘Hullo Kalaki,’ he said, ‘how’s it going?’

‘Who are you?’ I replied, as I stood up to shake his hand.

‘I’m fine,’ he said.

‘I didn’t say how are you, I said who are you?’

‘I’m Alex,’ he said. ‘I’ve been your good friend for the past year, we chat almost every week on Facebook.’

‘Alex!’ I exclaimed, ‘I thought you lived in cyberspace! Sit down! Have a brandy! Make yourself at home! What brings you here?’

‘I was looking at the question you posted on Facebook this morning,’ he said, ‘asking why these senile old leaders insist on hanging on when the entire country is screaming for them to go.’

‘Then I’m glad you dropped in,’ I said. ‘What’s the answer? I’m supposed to be writing my story tomorrow.’

‘What’s your answer?’ he countered.

‘Nothing very original,’ I admitted. ‘Usual sort of thing. He’s so busy stealing and can’t stop. Got his hand stuck in the till. Wants to completely fill his Swiss bank account before he leaves. Just another fifty million and then he’ll quit!’

‘You mean he has to complete his programme,’ laughed Alex.

‘Exactly,’ I agreed. ‘Also he hasn’t yet identified a country which will provide him with a comfortable exile and protect him from extradition for theft. So far he has visited only 75 countries, and still has to check the other 87 to see if there might be just one that would have him.’

‘Your only problem,’ said Alex, as I refreshed his glass, ‘is that these are not the sort of explanations he can give to the voters.’

‘Well of course not,’ I cackled. ‘He can’t tell them the truth. He has to say he is bringing development, even though the people are getting poorer. He says that he has to continue the fight against corruption, when he’s actually fighting the fight against corruption. He promises a free and fair election, while at the same time training his private militia and subverting the election commission.’

‘Poor old Kalaki,’ sighed Alex. ‘You’re huffing and puffing like an Old Testament Prophet, or like Jesus on a bad day. You’ve been reading too many Post editorials. You view all problems as good versus evil, truth versus lies and God versus the Devil. The world is not that simple!’

‘Is it not? Are we not ruled by crooks who know very well they are crooks, and knowingly lie to us. They say one thing but do another. They are nothing but thieving hypocrites, who claim to be working for our benefit when they are working only for the enrichment of themselves! Is this not the simple truth?’

‘A couple of days ago,’ said Alex, ‘I was watching Mubarak on TV. It was rather sad. He had reduced the entire country to complete chaos, but he announced that he had to stay on to ensure stability. He said he had to do his duty, and that he intended to die in Egypt.’

‘Hah!’ I cackled. ‘There’s a few people who might grant him his wish on that one! And possibly within the next week!’

‘But contrary to your theory, he doesn’t seem to see himself as a crook, but rather as the Saviour of his people.’

‘He can see himself as Count Dracula for all I care!’ I shouted. ‘He’s got to bugger off!’

‘He may be a corrupt liar,’ said Alex calmly, ‘but I think he sees himself as working for the interests of his people.’

‘Poof,’ I said, as I refilled his glass. ‘You’ll need another brandy to argue your way out of that one!’

‘Take our man Nyamasoya,’ said Alex. ‘I think he probably means well. He sees himself and his clique as clinging onto power in order to protect the rest of us from the stink of corruption. If the ruling elite can keep corruption amongst themselves, then they can prevent the rest of us from indulging in bribery, rigging elections, illegal allocation of land, shooting of unarmed protesters, and so on.’

‘Isn’t this what I said! They’re just crooks and thieves!’

‘But I’m suggesting they really have our interests at heart. They know that we Zedians are honest people who can enjoy the simple life. They want to protect us from the stink and corruption of power and wealth. Nyamasoya sees us as our Saviour. By taking all power and wealth to himself, he has also lifted the burden of corruption from the rest of us, and carries it on our behalf, so that we may live in purity and peace!’

‘So he’s not just a simple crook?’

‘Not at all,’ replied Alex. ‘Like all true dictators, he is both imaginative and intelligent, and really believes that he is working for our benefit. He believes God has authorized him to carry all the evils of corruption on his broad shoulders. Believing himself appointed by God, he therefore also believes that he will be judged only by God. It is this theocratic ideology which explains his contempt for any mere Earthly judge or judgement.’

‘So he has God and ideology on his side!’


‘If that’s the case,’ I declared, ‘the problem is more deep rooted than I thought.’

‘Exactly,’ said Alex.

[Special thanks to Alexander Mwalula for his contribution to this story]

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Last Dinosaur

The Last Dinosaur

MMD is on its deathbed – Inonge Wina.

(The Post, 31 January, 2011)

‘Grandpa,’ said Nawiti, ‘it’s time for my bedtime story.’

‘One upon a time, a long time ago,’ I began, ‘the faraway country of Zed was ruled by an enormous old dinosaur, called MMD.’

‘What did MMD stand for?’ asked Nawiti.

‘Monstrous Malignant Dinosaur,’ I explained, ‘but he liked to be called His Excellency the Emperor, the Most Magnificent Dinosaur.’

‘And was he really the Most Magnificent Dinosaur?’

‘Oh yes,’ I said. ‘The Most Magnificent and also the Most Ugly, because he was the last dinosaur left alive. All the others had died off many years before.’

‘But why,’ wondered Nawiti, ‘did the people choose an old leftover dinosaur as their emperor?’

‘They had had a couple of bad experiences with previous emperors,’ I said, ‘and had come to the opinion that the job was too much for mere mortals, who tended to become too pompous and arrogant. So they thought that the old dinosaur, having survived for millions of years, must have achieved wisdom, and must have been humbled by the ups and downs of such a long life.’

‘And did the Dinosaur make a good emperor?’

‘It all began to go wrong at the first press conference, which the Dinosaur held under a huge tree in the grounds of his huge palace. A naughty monkey sitting at the top of the tree could not resist the temptation, and pissed on the Dinosaur.’

‘What a terrible humiliation for the MMD,’ said Nawiti.

‘Most people just thought it was a good joke.’ I said. ‘But perhaps the Dinosaur knew that this was the beginning of the end for him, for as the monkey’s urine hit him square in the eye he shouted Kanitundila!’

‘Meaning what?’ asked Nawiti.

‘Kanitundila,’ I explained, ‘is the dreaded disease which can cross the species barrier from monkeys to other animals, and cause a long lingering death.’

‘Is it a bacteria or a virus?’

‘It’s not a biological disease,’ I explained, ‘It’s a social disease. Just as monkeys are very naughty and delinquent, so those who catch Kanitundila become socially delinquent.’

‘Once a monkey has pissed on you,’ suggested Nawiti, ‘so you now start to piss on other people!’

‘It’s not as simple as that,’ I said. ‘The symptoms vary from one person to another. It’s actually an immune deficiency disease, which gradually destroys the victims’ resistance to other social diseases.’

‘So what social disease did the Dinosaur develop?’

‘He gradually began to do things that were socially unacceptable.’

‘Such as what?’

‘Well, the first thing people noticed was that he was eating and drinking too much.’

‘Rather like you, Grandpa, you drink too much brandy.’

‘Well, er, perhaps. But I’m not swallowing public money. And I don’t have to stay sober, because I’m not running the country.’

‘Even so,’ said Nawiti. ‘If Kanitundila just caused the Dinosaur to get pissed now and again, was that a national disaster? Some of these leaders are less dangerous when they’re plastered.’

‘That was only the beginning. Gradually the social diseases got worse. He became deaf to what other people were telling him, and just wouldn’t listen to complaints. Soon after that he developed Kamwendo Munjila, causing him to fly from one country to another for no apparent reason. Then he developed Amnesia, and couldn’t remember any of his promises. As things got worse he developed Kleptomania, and began to swallow anything and everything.’

‘His belly must have become very large.’

‘Far too large, even for a dinosaur,’ I agreed. ‘Then he began swallowing things which belonged to other people. Before long the extreme Kleptomania caused Acute Constipation, and he had to be admitted to the ICU.’

‘The Intensive Care Unit?’

‘No, the Intensive Corruption Unit.’

‘And did he recover?’

‘Things got worse. The massive constipation was now causing internal corruption. Foul gas began to escape from the ICU, and to corrupt entire social institutions. Nothing could escape the foul stink of corruption. It wafted into Mulungushi Hall, and corrupted the constitution. It crept into the law courts, causing the guilty go free and the innocent to be convicted. Then into the National Arsembly, which immediately declared corruption to be legal. And finally into the Election Commission, where all the Election Commissioners were turned into Election Corrupters. Now the entire social system was corrupted.’

‘So all the people now caught Kanitundila? Did they all start pissing on each other?’

‘A strange thing happened. The ordinary people, all choking with the stink of corruption, developed an allergic reaction, called Mubarakitis. A mass allergic reaction caused a massive shift to a new political climate, from Dinosaucracy to Democracy.’

‘So it’s true!’ declared Nawiti. ‘Climate change killed the Dinosaur! Where did they bury him?’

‘His body keeps flying round the world,’ I said, ‘Nobody will have him.’

‘Because of the stink?’

‘Exactly,’ I replied.


[In cooking up this story Kalaki was assisted by several Facebook friends, especially Joanne Ng’andu, Humphrey Milimo, Patrick Pani and Mayani Changala]