Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The End of the World

The End of the World

'The First Lesson this morning,' intoned the priest, 'is taken from the Gospel according to St Kalaki, Chapter 27 Verses 12-37.'

In those days the people were sore oppressed by the cruel King Nyamasoya, But the Lord heard the prayers of the people, and sent the Prophet Pong Mpongo to give them a Great Prophecy.

When the Prophet Mpongo appeared from the Great Forest of Kafulafuta he had a wild beard and unwashed appearance. But the fears of the people were soon allayed because his words had a celestial sweetness, arising from his long years in the forest eating nothing but honey and dictionaries, preparing himself for his brief appearance in the scriptures.

'Verily I say unto you,' began the Prophet, 'the End of this World is nigh.'

Now the people were sore afraid, saying one to another 'Oh dear, how soon is nigh?'

'Fear not,' replied the Prophet, 'for ye shall experience a Great Rapture and shall ascend into Heaven. But King Nyamasoya and all his Court of Bootlickers shall face Judgment Day and afterwards shall be consigned to Hell.'

On hearing the prophecy the people were overcome with joy, dancing and chanting 'Serve the bastard right!' But others amongst them were doubtful, saying 'You are just the Prophet but where is our Saviour?'

Upon hearing this question the Prophet Mpongo drew in a great breath and declared with heavenly and prophetic conviction 'There cometh one after me the latchet of whose shoes I am unworthy to unloose.'

And sure enough it came to pass as the Prophet had foretold. For the very next day there appeared in their midst a man from Mpika, a small village north of Galilee, who announced himself by saying 'I am your Saviour Cycle Mata, come to rescue you from the ungodly Nyamasoya!'

Then the people were mighty mystified, and shouted at him, saying 'We were expecting a young man, but you have completed your three score years and ten. You are just a recycled leader, coming here every year with a different message.'

But the Saviour answered them, saying 'Previously I have spoken with many voices, but now I have found my true voice, and all that I now speak shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.'

But the Pharisees were doubtful, saying unto him 'How can we believe this? Where does this new voice come from?'

And Cycle Mata, having been made Saviour, now had answers for everybody, saying unto them 'After so many years of trying different voices, I have found my true voice. I just listen to the needs and suggestions of the people, and then I voice their concerns. I am the Voice of the People.'

And the people marveled, saying one to another 'At last the old man has found wisdom, for we the people are the Children of God, and the Voice of the People is the Voice of God. So Cycle Mata is truly our Saviour.'

Now the newly appointed Saviour climbed up Mount Sinai and spoke unto a great multitude which stretched from Antioch in the north to Aquabah in the south, saying to the people that 'King Nyamasoya is living in a Heaven of luxury and plenty. By stealing our wealth he has cast his people into poverty and starvation.'

When he heard report of these words Nyamasoya was sore annoyed, saying that all the disciples of the Saviour were men, and that they were all sleeping together in the Garden of Gethsemani, a despicable act of pornography in the sight of the Lord. But when the people heard this they were roused to a great anger against the King for insulting their Saviour.

And so the Saviour again addressed the multitude, saying that a king who annoyed his people would be swept from power, his world would end, and he would go to Hell.

But the King was not afraid of such threats, saying that his palace was on top of Mount Arafat where the people could not reach. Scorning them, the King declared that they should ask their God to perform one of his miracles, so that they could sail their fishing boats across the desert if they wanted to attack Mount Arafat.'

Now the Lord their God, being aroused to righteous fury at hearing his mighty powers being challenged by a mere mortal, immediately conjured up a great flood out of thin air.

And so the people sailed across the desert, all except for the Saviour, who walked across the water. And when they reached the palace they all shouted together 'We want Change', and the walls of the palace fell down, for the Voice of the People is the Voice of God.

And the day that the boats sailed across the desert to Mount Arafat became known as the Day of Pabwato. And the next day, when the people walked into the palace and entered Heaven, became known as the Day of Rapture.

And seven days later came the Day of Judgment, when the king was brought before the six judges that he had previously corrupted, and was therefore immediately convicted of corruption.

And so the King was sent to Hell, which was the name given to the horrible prison that he had built specially for his enemies.

The priest now looked up from the Good Book. 'In this lesson, the Lord shows us how to bring an end to the world of dictatorship.'

'The way I remember the story,' I said to Sara, 'the Saviour got crucified.'

'The Good Book', said Sara, 'is full of different stories.'

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Divorce Court

The Divorce Court

The judge leant towards the beautiful woman sitting in front of him. ‘Zambiana,’ he said in a kindly voice, ‘please explain to the court why you are seeking a divorce from this man.’

Tears welled into her eyes as she tried to explain. ‘Your honour, this man has ruined me. When my first husband died, his last wish was that I should marry the farm manager. He said that Nyamasoya was the right man to look after me and the family farm. So I respected my husband’s dying wish, even though my relatives warned me that he was not to be trusted. But they were right. He has stolen everything and left me destitute.’

The judge now turned to Nyamasoya. ‘Is this true?’

‘Your honour, it is the exact opposite of the truth. The late Muwelewele would be proud of the way I have developed the farm. I have gone into production of jhathropa for export, installed an irrigation system, invested in planting and harvesting machinery, and the annual turnover is now ten million dollars a year. When I took over it was just a subsistence operation, they were just scratching around with chickens, vegetables and a few pigs.’

The puzzled judge now turned to Zambiana. ‘There seem to be two very different sides to this story. Is the farm prosperous or ruined?’

‘Both, your honour,’ said Zambian sadly. ‘All this development was done with borrowed money. He has borrowed more than the value of the farm, which is now run by the Ching Chang people from whom he borrowed the money. All the money from sales goes straight to the Ching Chang for repayment of the loan. In the meantime all my relatives and workers on the farm are starving and dying. We are destitute.’

The baffled judge now turned back to Nyamasoya. ‘Is this true?’

Nyamasoya now treated the judge to a broad and genial smile. ‘Of course it is true, your honour. It is entirely normal to borrow money against the value of the land in order to invest in development...’

‘Yes yes,’ interrupted the judge irritably, ‘but is it true that all Zambiana’s workers and relatives are now destitute?’

‘I am in the awkward position having to contradict my dear wife,’ smiled Nyamasoya, ‘but she has little understanding of business. That’s why the late asked me to take charge. As a matter of fact, when I first took over, everybody on the farm was unemployed. But I have now given them all jobs.’

The judge now turned to Zambiana with a weary smile. ‘It seems that all your workers and relatives are fully employed. From what your husband has told us, we imagine that people on neighbouring farms must be jealous of your prosperity!’

Now Zambiana stood up shaking with rage, pointing at Nyamasoya. ‘This man has stolen our farm. They were once all self-employed farmers, growing their own food in a mixed farming operation and selling the surplus to the late. Now Nyamasoya has rented the land to the Ching Chang and all the farmers have now become wage labourers on what was once their own farm. They are paid only five pins a day, and they cannot eat jhathropa. We are all destitute.’

‘I notice,’ said the judge, ‘that your husband is dressed in a very smart suit, and arrived at this court in a new Mercedes. This appearance doesn’t seem to tally with your story of poverty and destititution.’

‘Him!’ shouted Zambiana, ‘the Ching Chang allow him to keep 10% of everything, so that they can externalize all of the remainder to Hung Hong. Nyamasoya is busy buying a farm in the Bahamas while the rest of us are starving.’

‘I also notice,’ said the judge, smiling at the beautiful Zambiana, ‘that you are wearing a very nice new blue chitenge, which I must say suits you very well.’

‘It’s the first time in years that my husband has bought me anything,’ sobbed Zambiana. ‘But he saw the danger of my appearing here in my usual worn out rags.’

‘I wonder if there is not more to this dispute than meets the eye,’ said the judge. ‘How are the marital relations between the two of you?’

‘There you’ve put your finger on it!’ shouted Nyamasoya. ‘She never wanted me, she was just following instructions from the late departed. But now she has fallen for some smoothy from the big city, a dubious character called Cycle Mata!’

‘Is there any truth in this story?’ asked the judge, as he turned towards Zambiana.

She blushed and cast her eyes down. ‘Yes, your honour. He doesn’t shout at me or insult me. He listens to me. He loves me. He doesn’t steal from me. He’s the one I want.’

‘I have come to a decision,’ declared the judge. ‘You, Nyamasoya, should not attempt to cling on where you’re not wanted. I grant Zambiana a divorce, and further order that the farm must be returned to her as the rightful owner. I further declare that Nyamasoya should be investigated for attempting to steal the farm when he was only given the job of looking after it.’

As Nyamasoya strode angrily from the court, the judge turned to smile at Zambiana. ‘Well, there you are my dear. What are you going to do now?’

‘I’m going to marry Cycle Mata,’ she replied. ‘He’s going to manage my farm properly!’

The judge put his head in his hands. Then he looked up, and there were tears in his eyes. ‘My dear Zambiana,’ he said softly, ‘I hope you’re making the right decision.’

Tuesday, May 10, 2011



It took me days to track him down. Finally I was directed to a crumbling house in Garden Compound, right next to the sewage pond. I knocked on the door and walked in.

Suddenly, it was as if nothing had changed. There behind a large mahogany desk sat diminutive figure of the former Minister of Lies and Misinformation, the formerly Honourable Mouth Mulufyanya. In front of him on the otherwise empty desk were the usual six flashy cell phones and a little national flag. Behind him, hanging on the wall, was a picture of himself, looking like a crafty little rat.

‘Good morning Kalaki,’ he said cheerily, shaking my hand and directing me to a large armchair. ‘Make yourself comfortable. What brings you here?’

‘I just wanted to hear your side of the story on this precipitous fall from power.’

‘Well,’ he said, stroking his little pointed chin, ‘I certainly do find it sad that poor old Nyamasoya is facing such a precipitous fall. After all, I was the one who put him up there, got him elected and showed him how to do the job. Now that he’s thrown me overboard, all the other rats are abandoning the sinking ship.’

‘So you admit to being a little rat?’ I laughed.

‘Certainly not!’ he immediately objected. ‘Maybe by human standards I’m very small, but by rat standards I’m very large. In the company of politicians, nobody even realized I was a rat.’

‘Ha!’ I cackled, ‘I suppose politicians are humans who behave more like rats, and by comparison rats behaves more like a humans. But I didn’t expect you to admit all this to me!’

‘Nobody believes your stories, Kalaki. That’s why we can tell you the truth.’

‘So tell me the true story of you and Nyamasoya. How did it all begin?’

‘It began when Muwelewele sent me to fetch the old dinosaur from Mfuwe. He wanted to offer him the job of Number Two.’

‘I often wondered why he chose him.’

‘I was the one who advised him to follow the basic strategy: Choose somebody who’s so useless that he can never challenge the Big Man for the Top Job.’

‘But how did you, a mere rat, become so influential at the Palace?’

‘Don’t be silly, Kalaki, we rats have been advisers at the Palace since colonial days. Of course it’s not generally known because we come in and out through the tunnels.’

‘Rats as advisers? Why should government need rats as advisers?’

‘How little you know about politics, Kalaki. These politicians face one major problem. They talk fine words about democracy and serving the people, but what they actually do is help themselves.’

‘We know that. But where do you rats come in?’

‘Humans can’t understand themselves. They often genuinely believe their own fine words and get genuinely perplexed by their own opposite actions. And they suffer terrible agony when this causes them to become a public laughing stock. But we rats can observe humans from an objective point of view, and come to a scientific understanding of the strange gap between their words and their deeds. So we are in a position to propose more rational behaviour.’

‘Rats are more rational?’

‘Exactly, that’s where the word comes from.’

‘So was government rational under Muwelewele?’

‘We rats really helped him. We kept the words very beautiful, and the dirty deeds almost impossible to see. The only problem we had was the dreaded Red-Lipped Snake, who kept saying nolle prosequi when he was supposed to say justice, and saying corruption when he was supposed to say constitution.’

‘He was conducting the Fight Against the Constitution instead of the Fight Against Corruption.’

‘The poor man couldn’t quite grasp the contradiction between fine words and dirty deeds. But apart from him, everybody kept our dirty deeds very secret.’

‘But then Muwelewele departed without saying goodbye.’

‘Very sad. It was myself who proposed Nyamasoya as the new Great Leader.’

‘Where was the rationality in that?’

‘Any other candidate would have split the party. But Nyamasoya was not wanted by anybody, so therefore he was equally acceptable to everybody. A perfect compromise.’

‘And he was so grateful to you that he made you an MP and Minister. Despite being a rat you became honourable on the spot, by royal decree.’

‘I had done everything to make him look like a Great Leader. I dressed him in a nice suit and fitted him with contact lenses. Taught him the basic principles of rationality, and made him practice public speaking in front of a big mirror. I led his campaign, wrote his speeches and got him elected.’

You were on top of the world! What went wrong?’

‘After we had installed him, a strange thing happened. He suddenly imagined himself to be a Great Leader and a genius. He began to look up from the carefully prepared speeches, and to say what he actually thought!’

‘What a disaster!’

‘Exactly. Instead of using words to justify deeds and to conceal misdeeds, he started boasting of all his misdeeds, and justifying them on the basis that he was the Great Leader who could do as he liked! Complete irrationality!’

‘So now all the rats have deserted the sinking ship.’

‘Not exactly. The ship is sinking because rationality has deserted it. But the rats are still there, waiting in the tunnels for the next ship to come along.’

‘So soon you’ll be honourable again!’

‘I must bring back rationality,’ he said. ‘It is my duty to serve the nation.’

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


The March Past

On Sunday, like all good journalists, I was there at the Freedom Statue to see the marching of our loyal workers past their Great Leader, the carrying of banners and the great speeches. What a glorious and impressive occasion of state, enough to stir the patriotic heart of all loyal citizens! Bugger the Royal Wedding, we have Labour Day!

I was standing on the pavement opposite the Great Leader’s dais, where the Beloved Father of the Nation stood to take the salute from each marching cohort. First down the road, behind a big red banner proclaiming Chambeshi Exploitation, marched a brigade of identical ill-fitting brown suits. As they drew level with the Great Leader their commander shouted Eyes Right! Salute! and the Great Leader picked up his microphone and shouted Starvation Wages for All! Whereupon they all responded in hearty unison Thank you Sah!

Now came the next cohort, behind a bright yellow banner announcingSlavery PLC. The sequence was very similar.

Eyes Right! Salute! shouted the commander, as the brown suits all saluted.

Strikes are illegal! declared the Great Leader.

Thank you Sah! sang the workers joyfully.

Then came another cohort of ill-fitting suits behind a bright blue banner reading Work, Sweat and Blood and Company Ltd,

Eyes Right! Salute!

I give you batons and bullets!

Thank you Sah!

I turned to Ample Mapulanga from The Digga Deepa, who happened to be standing right behind me. ‘Why do the workers keep saying Thank you Sah! when they are promised death and destruction?’

‘What workers?’ asked Ample, looking around with the keen eye of an investigative reporter.

‘The workers marching past our Beloved Leader!’ I hissed angrily.

‘They’re not workers,’ he laughed. ‘Workers were banned from Labour Day years ago, after one cheeky worker shouted at the Great Leader and asked for a wage increase.’

‘So who are all these people in horrible brown suits?’

‘They’re all Chinese managers from the new extractive industries,’ explained Ample.

‘Extracting copper?’ I suggested.

‘Extracting flesh and blood,’ sneered Ample, ‘and possibly a few kidneys.’

Finally all the identical cohorts of identical brown suits had given their identical salutes, and now stood at attention to hear further gems of wisdom from the Great Leader, our Beloved Father of the Nation.

‘We are gathered here today,’ began the Great Leader, ‘at the Freedom Statue, which represents the figure of Capital breaking free from the chains of regulation and workers rights, in order to be free to accumulate wealth.’

‘Ching Chang!’ cheered the Chinese managers

‘Only by keeping down wages can we encourage more investors to come to this country. And only by brutally putting down protests and strikes can we keep down the wages down.’

‘Hing Hong!’ cheered the identical brown suits.

‘How does the Great Leader expect the workers to vote for him when he says such things?’ I whispered to Ample

‘That’s why he imported two million Chinese,’ said Ample. ‘They’ve all been given the vote.’

‘I am taking this opportunity,’ continued the Great Leader, ‘to announce that Desertification Unlimited of Shanghai are investing 500 million dollars in a new project to clear all the trees from Northern Province. This will create 10,000 new jobs, provide a dollar a day for the workers and a further dollar a tree for the treasury.’

‘Ho Ho Bling Bling!’ cheered the brown suits, now jumping up and down with excitement, as the surrounding crowd stood there in sullen disbelief.

‘It seems everything he says and does,’ I said, turning again to Ample, ‘is intended to please the Chinese rather than us!’

‘What d’you expect?’ laughed Ample. ‘He’s a Chinese puppet!’

‘But how did he become a Chinese puppet?’

‘Same way as other Chinese puppets,’ laughed Ample. ‘He was made in China!’

‘You mean they’re pulling the strings?’

‘Exactly,’ said Ample. ‘You see the canvas canopy on top of the dais? That contains the Chinese puppet master. He’s pulling the strings. If you look carefully, you can even see the strings. But the puppet is a brilliant imitation, every roll of fat and obscene gesture is replicated perfectly. See that Chinese lorry behind the statue? That’s where they keep all the gear!’

‘A mobile Great Leader! He must have imported it from China!’

‘He imported nine of them,’ laughed Ample. ‘One for each province. That’s why you see him on the TV every night, laying foundation stones in ten different places. The election campaign will have ten Great Leaders, but only one Cycle Mata!’

‘So if this Great Leader is just a Chinese puppet, where is the real one?’

‘You know our Great Leader is very fond of traditional ceremonies. I’m told he’s gone to Solwezi for the Dance of the Naked Virgins. This is the time of year when they initiate their young girls into womanhood. You know he takes his duties as Father of the Nation very seriously.’

‘Couldn’t one of the puppets do the job?’

‘Oh no,’ laughed Ample. ‘That one needs the real thing.’