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.’

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