Tuesday, March 29, 2011


A young fly was feasting on a huge pile of rotting garbage in Chainda, along with a million other flies. He turned to his neighbour, an older fellow and wiser in the ways of the world and its rubbish dumps. ‘Chilunshi,’ he said, ‘how lucky we are to live in a world full of stinking rubbish, with so much to eat. We must praise the Lord that he has blessed us with such a glorious mess!’
‘Kalunshi,’ replied the wise old fly, ‘you are new in the world, and never knew the hard times. There was a time, before the Lord in His wisdom provided us with all this sewage and rotting flesh, when everything was clean and sweet smelling, when there was nothing for us to eat, and when the humans waged senseless war on us innocent flies.’
‘So how did the world manage to change so miraculously in our favour?’ wondered the innocent Kalunshi.
‘It wasn’t easy,’ replied Chilunshi, ‘we had to take over the government. ‘Come with me, let us fly to State House, and I’ll show you what I mean.’
‘My belly is too full with this dead man’s eyeball,’ whined Kalunshi, ‘can’t we just catch a mini-bus?’
‘The pot-holes are terrible,’ replied Chilunshi, ‘the only way to get there is to fly.’
And so it was that, only thirty minutes later, the two flies were sitting high on the wall in the banqueting room in State House, looking down on the very centre of government. Below them, lolling on two huge armchairs, were two monstrous pigs.
‘The one on the right is King Nyamasoya,’ explained Chilunshi. ‘The other is his Minister for Slavery and Starvation, the dreaded Austerity Litako.’
‘Ha ha,’ laughed Kalunshi, ‘how can a man called Austerity be so disgustingly fat, he looks like one big fat buttock!’
‘Austerity for everybody else has given prosperity to him,’ explained Chilunshi.
As they were talking, Nyamasoya suddenly squealed at the closed door ‘Bring him in! Bring him in!’
The door opened, and into the room was thrown a big White Poodle dog, who skidded to a halt as he hit the fat wooden leg of the banqueting table, and lay there whimpering miserably.
‘You useless White Poodle!’ squealed Nyamasoya. ‘What kind of investor are you? He held up a copy of The Boast, ‘it’s all over the front page! Shoplift workers on strike! Complaining to government about starvation wages!’
‘You said your humans were docile and stupid,’ whinged the poodle, ‘but they began to toyi toyi all over my shop shop!’
‘When you came here from Pretoria, didn’t my minister here, the Honorable Litako, tell you to keep their wages down? Would they have had the energy to toyi toyi like this if you had kept them on a starvation diet? Don’t you know strikes are illegal here? Allowing a strike is a criminal act! Why can’t you do like the Chinese and shoot them?’
Kalunshi turned to his friend rather puzzled. ‘I can’t understand why humans elect these horrific pigs into government!’
‘They don’t,’ laughed Chilunshi. ‘They turn into pigs afterwards!’
The Great Pig Nyamasoya continued to rant at the White Poodle. ‘And now they are even demanding pensions! Pensions! Ha! Don’t they know they’ll never live long enough to collect pensions! And it’s two years since you donated to the party!’
‘Er, ah, you see,’ blubbered the White Poodle, ‘we haven’t been making a profit!’
‘Of course you haven’t been making a profit! You’ve been feeding the workers instead of the party! Get out! Get out!’ screamed Nyamasoya, as the dog scooted through the door, leaving behind a puddle of wet shit.
‘Ah ha!’ said Kalunshi, ‘now I see why the country is in such a delicious stinking mess. But how did the government manage to sink so marvelously low?’
‘Simple,’ laughed Chilunshi. ‘We flies took over the government!’
‘I thought these mad pigs were in charge!’
‘Yes, they are. But we are the ones who sent them mad. We lay our eggs in their ears. Our maggots have corrupted their brains.’
‘How do you get into their ears?’
‘Pigs are very greedy and gullible. You just whisper I know how to make you very rich, and they will let you creep right into their ear to tell them the secret.
Now Nyamasoya was shouting at the Honourable Litako. ‘Get hold of Mr Ching Chang and tell him he can take over Shoplift. Tell him I’ll nationalize it tomorrow because of mismanagement, and I’ll sell it to him for nothing on Thursday. Then he should fire all the native slaves for causing anarchy and chaos, and replace them with Chinese convicts. As for the White Poodle, the Chinese can eat him! I’ll invite them all here for the braii!’
‘Monstrous pigs!’ exclaimed Kalunshi. ‘Why don’t the humans vote them out?’
‘Don’t be silly,’ laughed Chilunshi, ‘we’ve also corrupted the Electoral Confusion of Zed. Their brains are now so full of maggots that they count maggots instead of votes. We’ve also corrupted the Judiciary of Stinking Judgements and the Parliament of Crooked Constitutions. The country is now a nightmare for humans, but a paradise for flies. Shit and rubbish everywhere.’
‘And rotting human flesh,’ said Kalunshi, licking his lips.
‘Yes,’ said Chilunshi. ‘Parasites in Government! The PIG is back!’
‘But can it last?’ wondered Kalunshi.
‘Nothing lasts for ever,’ sighed the wise old Chilunshi. ‘Some people say that when the Chinese have eaten all the dogs, they’ll start on the pigs.’
[This story incorporated some ideas from Mayani Changala and Simasiku Kashweka]

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Magic Mathematics

Magic Mathematics

Yesterday I had the privilege of interviewing Professor Kafupi Wabufi PhD (Philosopher of Dribbling), Vice-Chancellor of the University of Magic Mathematics Development (MMD).

‘Tell me Professor Kafupi,’ I said, ‘what is Magic Mathematics?’

The huge glass windows looked out onto the lush green lawns of the newly established university. The little professor, popularly known as Kadoli to his students, sat high on a pile of cushions in a large armchair, waving his arms excitedly as he spoke.

‘Look Kalaki,’ he said, ‘Magic Mathematics is nothing new, it has always been with us. Magic Mathematics is our own indigenous mathematics. For too long we have suffered under the yoke of Colonial Mathematics, which has controlled our monetary system, our budgeting and even our development plans. We are a sovereign nation, and the time has come to throw off this foreign inference in our domestic affairs.’

‘I’m very impressed with your intellectual fervour,’ I said. ‘But what has prompted this sudden national interest in indigenous mathematics?’

‘The coming election was the turning point,’ he declared. ‘We were about to suffer the indignity of having foreigners flooding into the country to add up the results from polling stations. They were about to ask impertinent questions about whether our loyal Election Corruption of Zed would be correct when they inevitably declare that our Beloved Leader has again been re-elected.’

‘Prompting Nyamasoya to issue his famous presidential decree declaring mathematics to be illegal.’

‘Don’t try to be funny, Kalaki,’ Kadoli frowned. ‘It was only Colonial Mathematics which was declared illegal. For years we have been studying this colonial hangover in our schools, but nobody has ever understood it. It has caused a series of Ministers of Finance to get into a riotous numerical muddle while trying to announce the budget.’

‘A colonial trick to make our ministers look ridiculous.’

‘Exactly, Kalaki, you’ve got the point. So Nyamasoya decided to ban Colonial Mathematics, and set up this new University of Magic Mathematics Development. In future, nobody is allowed to practice Mathematics unless he has a degree from this university and a Licence to Practice Mathematics from the Department of Indigenous Culture.’

‘Half a minute,’ I said. ‘If we can go back to the beginning, what was wrong with the election monitors tabulating the votes from polling stations?’

‘Look,’ said Kadoli in exasperation, ‘isn’t it obvious? It’s the same problem that makes numerical discussions so hilarious in parliament! People are trying to talk Colonial Arithmetic, but inside their heads they are actually busy with traditional indigenous Magic Arithmetic.’

‘The Election Corruption of Zed had the same problem?’

‘Let me explain,’ said Kafupi patiently. ‘Traditionally, counting for a chief uses decimal arithmetic. So 11 votes for the president means 1 ten and 1 one, or eleven. But counting of opponents is done in binary arithmetic. Therefore 11 votes for an opposition candidate means 1 two and 1 one, making three. Not understanding this intrusion of Magic Mathematics, monitors would read these two numbers as the same, therefore drawing all sorts of wrong conclusions.’

‘Like claiming that opposition votes had been under counted?’

‘Exactly. Or claiming that the numbers of votes was higher than the number of registered voters. Thus causing alarm and chaos in the nation, and a potential breakdown in law and order.’

‘A criminal act!’


‘In what other ways do people count?’

‘Traditionally we count money as six goats equal one cow. Six cows equal one wife. Six wives equal one Merc. Six Mercs equal one mansion.’

‘So when a ministry is given an allocation of 100 billion kwacha, how do they see this money?’

‘The minister probably works it out as forty Mercs and twenty mansions, and starts distribution accordingly.’

‘And does Magic Mathematics also have Magic Geometry?’

‘Of course it does,’ said Kafupi sternly. ‘In Magic Geometry there’s no such thing as a straight line. The shortest distance between two points is a very complicated curve which only experts can understand.’

‘That’s how you became Professor of Dodging!’

‘Exactly,’ he laughed. But as he spoke, the secretary put his head round the door. ‘Excuse me Vice-Chancellor,’ she said, ‘the Great Leader is here to see you.’

‘Tell him to come in,’ said Kadoli.

But nobody came in. Instead we saw Nyamasoya walking outside on the lawn. He made for a tree, walked round it three times, then headed for Kadoli’s office and came in through the French Door.’

‘He’s a great student of mine,’ Kafupi whispered. ‘He never does anything straight.’ Then he whispered to me ‘Traditionally you have to shake his hand twenty-seven times, because he now holds twenty-seven positions, which means that has to be treated as twenty-seven different people.’

‘Twenty-eight,’ laughed Nyamasoya, as he shook my hand. ‘I’ve just appointed myself Chief Justice.’

‘What brings you here?’ asked Kadoli.

‘I’m thinking of sacking the Auditor General,’ he replied.

‘Go ahead,’ laughed Kadoli. ‘Arrest her for secretly practicing Colonial Arithmetic!’

‘Inde! Yebo!’ laughed Nyamasoya, as he ambled three times round the sofa, jumped happily in the air and then hopped out through the French window. ‘Now I shall also be Auditor General!’

‘So now he’s in charge of everything!’ I exclaimed.

‘Yes,’ laughed Kadoli, as he took a remote control from his pocket. ‘And I’m in charge of him!’

‘You’re heading,’ I said, ‘for a Monstrous Mathematical Disaster!’


[Based on a story idea provided by Sydney Imasiku and Mayani Changala]

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Marriage of Convenience

A Marriage of Convenience

‘It was,’ I began, ‘the Wedding of the Year at the Great Shed of the Child Jesus. Everybody was there to hear the priest solemnly declare What God has joined together, let no man put asunder!’

‘Mummy always says,’ said Thoko, ‘that it’s always another woman who puts asunder.’

‘And after that,’ I continued, frowning at Thoko, ‘the priest bent his head towards the couple, and whispered You may now kiss!’

‘Aren’t they allowed to kiss before they get married?’ asked Thoko.

‘Of course not,’ said Thoko’s friend Lindiwe, ‘otherwise the bride would get pregnant.’

‘Look,’ I said irritably, ‘whose story is this, yours or mine?’

Thoko turned to Lindiwe. ‘Shut up and listen to Grandpa’s story.’ Then turning to me she said ‘Come on Grandpa, tell us who was getting married. Was it a rich handsome prince and a beautiful girl from the forest who had only one dress and no knickers? All stories should have a happy ending.’

‘That’s right,’ said Lindiwe. ‘We always insist on a happy ending.’

‘This is not a fairy story,’ I said. ‘The people getting married were the Chief of the North, Cycle Mata, and the Chieftainess of the South, Ha Ha.’

‘Ha Ha,’ laughed Thoko, ‘was she called Ha Ha because she was always laughing?’

‘Not at all. Right from birth she had a miserable unsmiling face, with mouth always turned down. But her parents, being of an optimistic nature, named her Ha Ha in the hope that one day she would laugh. But she never did.’

‘So did the happy couple kiss when the priest told them to?’ asked Lindiwe eagerly.

‘They tried but failed,’ I admitted. ‘Afterwards Ha Ha claimed that she refused to kiss Cycle Mata because he had such bad breath. But Cycle Mata said that when he took hold of Ha Ha, intending to plant a kiss on her miserable face, he found that her entire body was as cold and clammy as a dead fish.’

‘And after that, was there a nice wedding reception?’ Thoko suggested hopefully. ‘Where all the big people got drunk, and the children ate all the cake?’

‘No,’ I said. ‘The bride turned and went out through the South Door of the Great Shed, and held a party with her friends. The groom left through the North Door, and had a party with his friends. The cake remained uneaten, because they couldn’t agree on how to divide it.’

‘But despite these little difficulties,’ suggested Lindiwe, ‘The happy couple must have had a lot in common.’

‘Of course they did,’ I replied, ‘otherwise they wouldn’t have got married. You see, both of their chiefdoms were right next to the Kingdom of Mfuwe, a country of wild animals ruled over by Nyamasoyaurus the Dreadful Dinosaur, who would send his hyenas and wild dogs to raid both North and South.’

‘People lived in fear?’

‘These animals had no respect for human life. They stole all the copper from the North and all the trees from the South, and took people into slave labour to work for the Ching Chang. All those who protested were torn apart by the hyenas.’

‘So the people thought that if the North and South joined up they could defeat King Nyamasoyaurus?’

‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘All they had to do was to get Cycle Mata and Ha Ha to marry, then they could be King and Queen of the new Kingdom of Zed, with a big enough army to defeat the Dreaded Dinosaur. So it was a marriage of convenience.’

‘Surely,’ said Lindiwe, ‘all marriages are supposed to be convenient.’

‘But in this case,’ I said, ‘it was politically convenient.’

‘And did they both live happily ever after?’ asked Thoko hopefully.

‘Unfortunately,’ I admitted, ‘each found the other rather inconvenient. Ha Ha refused to sleep in the same bed with Cycle Mata, saying the man was too old and couldn’t do anything. But Cycle Mata claimed that it was he who chased Ha Ha out of the marital bed after she tried to sit on top of him, when her bottom was cold, and she has no previous training in such unusual athletics.’

‘But did they manage to co-operate in running the palace?’

‘Each claimed to be the Head of Household. They finished up with Cycle Mata living upstairs and Ha Ha living downstairs, and the two of them communicating only by written messages carried by their secretaries.’

‘But at least they managed to co-operate in uniting their two peoples to defeat the Dreaded Nyamasoyaurus?’

‘King Cycle Mata ran round and round in circles, saying that when Nyamasoyaurus was defeated, he would become Emperor of Zed, and would make Ha Ha his Minister of Gender. But Queen Ha Ha sat in her office doing endless calculations, trying to work out whether, if she sold all her cattle, she would have enough money to buy the entire area, become the Owner of Zed, and throw Cycle Mata to the hyenas.’

‘Oh dear,’ sighed Lindiwe, ‘It seems that the marriage of convenience became very inconvenient for both of them.’

‘Each wanted to swallow the other,’ I admitted, ‘but each proved inconveniently indigestible to the other. Of course it ended in divorce.’

‘Which was of even greater inconvenience,’ said Lindiwe sadly, shedding a tear, ‘to the good people of North and South, who continued to be eaten by the hyenas.’

‘On the contrary,’ laughed Thoko, ‘both the marriage and the divorce were very convenient. I see this as a very happy ending!’

‘Happy ending?’ I wondered.

‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘For Nyamasoyaurus.’


[Kalaki is grateful to the many contributors to the discussion of the ‘divorce’ in KALAKI’s KORNER on Facebook on 14th March 2011]

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Republic of Femnia

Republic of Femnia

As I sat opposite her in one of the plush armchairs of her huge office, I thought she looked a bit masculine. After all, she was wearing a trouser suit, collar and tie. What’s more, her face was rather hairy. I had come to interview the rather fearsome Minister for Propaganda in the Republic of Femnia, Ms Lysistrata.

‘Kalaki,’ she said, rather accusingly, ‘that doesn’t sound like a female name!’

‘Oh it is,’ I assured her. ‘In my language Kalak means ‘collect’. I was named after my maternal grandmother who was called Kalaki, meaning the collector, because she collected so many husbands.’

‘So what brings you here, all the way from Zambia?’

‘I’m writing an article for Femnet News, which is publishing an issue on gender equality for Women’s Day,’ I explained. ‘They suggested I come here, where women are in charge, to see how the system works. Would you say you have gender equality here?’

‘Very much so,’ she said, as she lit a cigar. ‘I’m pleased to say that here in Femnia we treat our men very well.’

Your men?’

‘Oh yes, we give our men equal opportunity with women. So if they happen not to do well, it’s entirely their own fault.’

As she was talking, in came her secretary, wearing a see-through blouse and a short frilly skirt. As he bent down to put a tray of tea on the table, the Minister slipped her hand up his skirt. ‘Ooh you naughty boy,’ she said, giving him a little kiss, ‘you’ve forgotten to put your panties on again!’

‘That’s my boy Fluff,’ she said, as the secretary left, swinging his hips from side to side.’

‘I was just wondering,’ I said, ‘with women in charge, whether you have any problems with sexual harassment in the workplace?’

‘Never,’ she said, as she tenderly stroked her cigar.

‘So women and men get equal treatment?’


‘Then why do you think that women have all the top positions?’

‘These men are just not serious. They are more interested in lipstick and mascara, straightening their hair, shaving their faces and legs, painting their nails, and trying to look sexually attractive.’

‘Why? Is it difficult for a man to find a wife?’

‘That’s the problem,’ said Lysistrata. ‘You see, Kalaki, here in Femnia, prosperous women like a bit of young stuff, still full of sexual energy. Even then, he’ll probably be divorced by thirty when she goes for something younger. After that, he’ll be lucky to find a poor widowed grandmother.’

‘But why can’t men get jobs and earn their own money?’

‘We give them all the chances, but they’re too playful. They leave school early, trying to find rich older women. And some of these rich old women will pay a fat lobola for a young stallion.’

‘Nonetheless, you do have a few men in government. How did that happen?’

‘Because of the UN Convention on Gender Equality,’ she sighed. ‘We have to let in a few token men.’

‘So where do you put them?’

‘In the Ministry for Men, which was started especially for them. They organize small loans for men to start football clubs and hair salons, and that sort of thing. The programme is called Partners in Development, funded entirely by Sweden.’

‘So men can’t really get into mainstream politics?’

‘Not usually. But sometimes, when a famous woman dies without leaving a daughter as her heir, we may consider a widower or son to inherit the position. We dress him up in a suit and tie and he becomes an honorary female.’

‘But what about men who can’t inherit from their mothers?’

‘Then obviously they have to achieve it for themselves.’ she laughed. ‘They have equal opportunity with women, so if they fail then they have only themselves to blame. We can’t give them positions just because they are men, we can only appoint on merit. The problem with most of our men is that they’re too interested in sex, drink and football. It’s difficult enough to get them to behave responsibly in the home, never mind letting them into government!’

I leant forward and said confidentially into her ear ‘Look, we’re sisters here together, you can tell me. You keep them out, don’t you?’

‘Between you and me,’ she said, lowering her voice, ‘We have to. You see, it’s our tradition. Once a woman has chosen a husband, he’s supposed to stay at home, be available to fertilize his wife, and look after her children. This is how it was ordained by God when She made Eve, and then fashioned Adam from Eve’s rib so that she would have a helper.’

‘Are men not suited for government?’

‘They’re biologically unsuited. Their brains are too small and their genitals are too large, and when they get sexually excited then all the blood rushes from their brains to their genitals. Of course we love them for that, but we can’t have that sort of thing in government.’

‘And do the men also accept this?’ I wondered.

‘Of course they do,’ she replied. ‘Our men are well educated to know their place. That’s what schools and churches are for.’

‘But supposing one day they rebel?’

‘Between you and me,’ she said confidentially, ‘if they ever get into government, it would be a disaster.’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I know what you mean.’

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Divorce

The Divorce

‘Tell me a story,’ said Nawiti, ‘then I’ll go to bed.’

‘One upon a time,’ I began, ‘a long time ago, the land of Mfuwe was ruled

by King…’

‘King Muwelewele!’ said Nawiti. ‘Not that same story again!’

‘No,’ I said, ‘this king came after Muwelewele, and his name was Nyamasoyaurus, because he was the last of the dinosaurs.’

‘So how did he become king?’ Was he the most clever?’

‘Not at all,’ I laughed. ‘He was rather foolish. That was why Muwelewele

had made him his Chief Minister. Muwelewele always dreaded having clever people anywhere near them, in case they tried to grab the crown and the beautiful Queen Zambiana.’

‘So when Muwelewele died, how did this foolish fellow become king?

‘It was most unfortunate,’ I admitted. ‘The citizens called a Great Indaba, where the main contenders were Crocodile Ng’andu, Rhino Shikashiwa, Pong

Mpongo and Eunuch Kapimpinya. But whenever one of them was proposed as King, the other three all objected. So instead they made a compromise, and all agreed on Nyamasoyaurus.’

‘A compromise? What does that mean?’

‘They all agreed on Nyamasoyaurus because he was equally unacceptable to all of them. This is what the word compromise means.’

‘A very silly word indeed,’ declared Nawiti.

‘And since he was very foolish, they all thought they could control him. After being made King, Nyamasoyaurus’ first duty was to marry Queen Zambiana, the Great She-Elephant who represented all the animals in Mfuwe.’

‘So was Nyamasoyaurus a good king?’

‘Terrible,’ I said. ‘Right from the beginning things started to go wrong. He spent all his time wining and dining, throwing parties, and traveling to other countries. Instead of eating the fruit from the forest, the monkeys now had to

put it in tins and export it across the Zambezi. Then he called in the Ching Chang to cut down all the Mukwa and Mukusi trees, and export them to Hai Shang. Then the Ching Chang began to cut off all the rhinos’ horns and export them to Kong Hong.’

‘What made him think he could get away with such things?’ wondered Nawiti.

‘The snake,’ I said. ‘That was the problem. Nyamasoyaurus had fallen

under the spell of the Red Lipped Snake, an evil slimy little fellow, who used to sit coiled up inside the dinosaur’s huge ear. Whenever the king said Can I really do this and get away with it? the snake would answer him, saying You are the king, you can do whatever you like!

‘And when the king would say Isn’t this against the law? the snake would whisper in his ear, saying You are the king, you can change the law to suit yourself!

‘And whenever the king would say Isn’t this stealing? the snake would hiss in his ear, saying You are the King, everything belongs to you!’

‘Didn’t all the animals protest against the destruction of their country?’ wondered Nawiti.

‘They would crowd round him waving red cards. But the snake would whisper in his ear, saying They love you so much they are waving Valentine cards.’

‘So they couldn’t get rid of him?’

‘One day, the Queen decided she had had enough. She sent a petition to the Court, demanding a divorce. As Mother of all the animals, she declared, I ask the Court to release us all from this foolish monster.

‘But when the King appeared, he laughed in the face of the Court and in the face of the people.

The Queen says, charged the Judge, that you are too movious and never

stay in the palace.

‘But the King just laughed, saying the Queen is the problem. She has fallen in love with Cycle Mata, the Ugly Gorilla in the forest. Don’t worry, I shall soon deal with him!

The Queen is worried that her people are starving, said the Judge.

This is now the richest country in the world, laughed the king, I am now worth billions.’

‘He was very boastful,’ said Nawiti.

‘He had done everything to infuriate the people,’ I said, ‘but seemed completely unaware of their anger.’

‘Because he listened only to the voice of the snake hissing in his ear,’ said Nawiti.

‘Exactly,’ I said.

You are accused, continued the Judge, of butchering all the buffalo and

exporting them to America.

‘Ha ha, laughed the King, ‘this is just a lie from the Gorilla, who has an ugly face and an evil heart.

‘You have not looked after Zambiana and you have murdered her subjects, declared the Judge. I therefore grant the Queen a divorce.’

‘Poof, scoffed the King, you forget that I am the King who appointed you.

You are dismissed as judge with immediate effect, and all the animals in this court are under arrest for treason!

‘And you forget, said the Judge, as the people surged forward menacingly, that Queen Zambiana represents all the animals. Being divorced from all the animals, you are therefore no longer their King.’

‘Nyamasoyaurus could hardly believe the judgment. He staggered out of the Court, sat down on the steps, and wept.’

‘And did the Red Lipped Snake explain to Nyamasoyaurus,’ asked Nawiti, ‘why things had gone so wrong, and why he had lost his throne?’

‘Of course not,’ I laughed. ‘He was already busy whispering into the ear of the Ugly Gorilla.


[Thanks to Christopher Nshindano for suggesting the analogy of a divorce to portray the behaviour of a rejected leader]