Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Long Voyage to Democracy

Long Voyage to Democracy
Last night we were just about to lock up when there was a faint knock on the front door, and a weak cry of ‘Odi!’
‘Odini!’ I replied as I opened the door, and in staggered Aunt Cathy, barefoot and covered in dust. I helped her onto the sofa, upon which she collapsed. ‘What’s happened?’ cried Sara. ‘Has your son come back?’
‘A cup of tea!’ croaked Aunty Cathy, ‘and I’ll tell you all about it.’
Within fifteen minutes Aunty was somewhat revived, after having finished a large plate of chicken stew and nshima.
‘What a terrible experience!’ said Aunty Cathy. ‘It all started about a week ago, when I was promised a trip to Democracy!’
‘Is there really a place called Democracy?’ I wondered.
‘Even me,’ said Aunty Cathy, ‘I’ve always wondered. I’m fed up with being bullied and insulted by call boys, kaponya, party cadres and other thugs. So when my friend Enela said she’d got two tickets to Democracy, I jumped at the chance.’
‘So you’d previously heard about Democracy?’ asked Sara.
‘I’ve been hearing about this marvelous place since before independence,’ sighed Aunty Cathy, ‘but I’ve never managed to get there. Now at last, this was my chance.’
‘And did you reach Democracy?’ I asked.
‘A journey of a thousand miles,’ said Aunty Cathy solemnly, ‘begins with a single bus. We found our bus at Kamwala Bus Station. A beautiful big blue bus, with the large letters RB painted on the side.’
‘Rogue Bus,’ she explained. ‘The notice in the front window said Democracy, stopping at Peace, Freedom and Justice. After sitting and waiting for only six hours, off we went.’
‘Was the bus full?’
‘It was only half full of passengers,’ she replied, ‘all the others were staff. There was a Conductor for Passengers, a Conductor for Tickets, a Conductor for Luggage, a Conductor for Seating, a Conductor for Entertainment, and so on. There were about thirty of them.’
‘Thirty!’ I exclaimed in disbelief. How could there be thirty?’
‘Maybe there were more,’ said Aunty Cathy. ‘Every Conductor was assisted by a Deputy Conductor and an Assistant Conductor. Then there were the Senior Conductors, who were supervised by the Director of Conductors, and who of course was assisted by two Deputy Directors. In overall charge was the Supreme Leader. They all sat on large luxurious leather seats at the front of the bus. We passengers, all thirty of us, were squeezed onto thirty small canvas stools at the back.’
‘Who was the driver?’
‘The Supreme Leader was the driver. He was called RB.’
‘Meaning Rogue Bus?’
‘No, Round Belly.’
‘So did you reach Democracy?’
‘After about three hours on the road, the bus stopped at a village in the middle of the night. All the staff got off, telling us to wait. They came back at daybreak, rather the worse for wear, some with girlfriends that they had found in the village. RB now drove the bus with a big fat girl called Tujilijili sitting on his lap.
‘Three hours later we stopped at another village. The conductors asked us for money for their entertainment allowance, but we refused. So they removed all our luggage and took it into the village, after which we heard much singing and squealing. The next morning they came back with baskets of fish and off we set again.
‘By then we were thirsty and starving, but the Conductors said that per diem was only for the staff, and we would be off-loaded at the next police station if we protested. So we kept quiet. At the next stop they unloaded the fish and disappeared into another village, coming back six hours later with several sacks of mbanje. By now they were all drunk. RB was lying on the floor and Tujilijili was driving, as the bus swerved all over the road. Finally we came to a juddering halt. The bus had run out of diesel!’
‘So what happened then?’
‘All the conductors disappeared into a nearby village to look for kachasu, but RB just sat on top of Tujilijili and began to cry.’
‘So what did you do?’
‘A bus came along from the opposite direction and we flagged it down. It was a strange vehicle, shaped like a boat, with Pabwato written on the side. The boat was built upon sixty bicycles, and all the passengers had to pedal, their legs protruding out of the bottom of the boat. The driver was the Cycle Master, but he didn’t pedal, he just steered.’
‘So did Cycle Master give you a lift?’
‘He told us that we were on the wrong road for Democracy, and we had been taken in completely the wrong direction. He said that his bus was people powered, and he would allow us to help pedal the boat back to Lusaka. He said that when we reached Lusaka he would show us real Democracy.’
‘So democracy was here in Lusaka after all?’
‘It was awful,’ she sobbed, ‘when we got back to Kamwala Bus Station, all the RB buses were going up in flames, and all the conductors were being chased and beaten. And we said to the Cycle Master, This is terrible, we must stop all this, what are you going to do about it, shall we call the police?’
Never mind all that, he replied, this is what happens when you mislead people, promise them you will lead them to Democracy, and then take them somewhere else!
‘But we shouted at him, saying You said that you would show us real Democracy! Now look at this, this is Anarchy!’
‘Slowly he took a map out of his pocket, and spread it over the handlebars of the Pabwato, and looked at it carefully. You’re quite right, he said, Democracy is not here. I’m still looking for the right road, then I’ll take you there!’

Monday, September 19, 2011

I Knew He'd Lose!

I Knew He’d Lose!
Tuesday 20th
Dear Diary, My poor dear husband is so sure he’s going to win. Last night he threw a big party. All his cronies and bootlickers were eating T-bone steak and guzzling beer until the early hours of this morning, celebrating their expected victory.
When he came down to breakfast his eyes were all bleary and bloodshot. ‘Can you really win with such a gang of thieves and crooks?’ I wondered, as I hid The Post newspaper under the table.
‘Of course we shall win,’ he laughed confidently, as he poured a pint of beer over his cornflakes with one hand, while grabbing a few pork ribs with the other. ‘Crooks and thieves are the best people for this sort of work. They even helped Muwelewele to win, so how can they fail with me?’
He’s such a jolly and confident fellow, my husband, but it’s difficult to hold a serious conversation. But I keep trying. ‘It’s in the nature of thieves and crooks,’ I persisted, ‘that they cannot be trusted.’
‘Don’t worry,’ he cackled, ‘It’s in their own interest. I’ve promised twenty-five of them that they’ll be vice-president, and the other twenty-five that they’ll be minister of finance. They’re all employing every trick in the book to ensure my majority!’
‘Suppose,’ I said, ‘that they compare notes on what they’ve been promised?’
‘Impossible!’ he hooted as sank his teeth into a pigs trotter, ‘there’s not one of them can trust the other!’ So saying, he wiped his greasy fingers on the back of his trousers and stood up. ‘I must be off to the polling station, I’m due to cast an entirely clean vote for the benefit of the cameras and overseas monitors!’
Wednesday 21st
This afternoon the entire gang was out on the patio celebrating victory. The champagne was flowing like water, and a complete ox was being turned on the spit.
My poor dear husband wasn’t even watching the results on TV, because he’s not very good at arithmetic. Even after five bottles of beer he loses count of how many he has drunk. But even so, I thought I’d better try to explain that things were not going well. So I went out onto the patio and whispered in his ear, ‘With most of the results in, you’re still four hundred thousand behind!’
‘Hah!’ he laughed. ‘You women can’t understand numbers! Wait until the numbers come in from Konama, where we’ve got more votes than registered voters!’
The dried up Velvet Mango fixed one wonky eye on me and the other on his glass of champagne, and laughed out of one side of his lop-sided mouth. ‘Not only that,’ he said smoothly, ‘but I’m reliably informed by impeccable but anonymous sources that in Konama we have more polling stations than registered voters!’
‘So don’t you worry your little head,’ said my husband, giving my bottom a friendly slap. ‘Go inside and watch your Nollywood movies. You women can’t understand these complicated matters.’
Thursday 22nd
This morning I found him at breakfast, his head in his hands. He hadn’t touched the pork trotters.
‘I told you not to trust them,’ I said. ‘All that Donchi Kubeba, you said it was just an opposition slogan. But I warned you, didn’t I? It was aimed at your side. Nobody would tell you. They would just agree with you, then do the opposite. There was no fading ink. No ghost voters. No pre-marked ballots. No fake polling stations. No dodgy counting. No aerial arithmetic. No shushushu anywhere. You declared a national holiday, so they all took a rest.
‘Shut up!’ he said.
‘I’ll start packing,’ I said.
Friday 23rd
This morning when he came down to breakfast he was a bit more chirpy. ‘I’ve just accepted my first official duty as the Former Leader. I’m going to open the new Ndende Prison on Chilubi Island. It was one of my favourite projects, and it’s only right that they should let me open it
‘Be careful,’ I said. ‘They might know that you were building it specially to lock up Cycle Mata on fake treason charges.’
‘Don’t worry,’ he laughed, ‘all those prison commissioners are my appointees.’
Monday 26th
Oh Dear Diary, I am now back on the little smallholding in Chipata. All the pictures were in the newspapers this morning. Showing how my dear husband cut the lovely blue ribbon at the new Ndende Prison. Blue flags flying. Blue chitenge everywhere. Everybody waving one finger, as he went in to inspect the marvelous new facility.
Although it looked as though the place was not quite finished. Lots of walls and prison bars, but not yet fitted out with any furniture. No kitchen, canteen or anything like that. No sanitary facilities. No warders. But he insisted on going in to see the facilities.
He didn’t sense the danger until the cell door clanged behind him. He didn’t suspect anything. They had all been sworn to Donchi Kubeba.
Otherwise, apart from that, life is much as it was before. I spend most of my time watching Nollywood movies.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sexual Politics

Sexual Politics

As we turned on the TV, there was Mampi belting out our favourite number, Swilili. ‘ZNBC is improving,’ laughed Sara, ‘usually they give us only Tujilijili.’

But our enthusiasm was short lived, as the MC came onto the stage dressed in a hideous blue chitenge shirt, grabbed the microphone and shouted ‘Here at last is the woman you’ve all be waiting for, Dollar Tujilijili!’

The crowd jeered and booed as out onto the stage staggered a bulbous hippopotamus of a woman, wrapped in a huge blue chitenge which was knotted above her huge swinging breasts. The crowd groaned as she menacingly pointed one finger at them and shouted Your hour has come!’ They shook their fists at her, shouting Donchi kubeba!

‘Why don’t they leave, instead of waiting to be insulted?’ I wondered.

‘They’re hoping Mampi will come back,’ laughed Sara.

‘You starving illiterate peasants!’ screamed Dollar, still pointing her finger at the crowd, ‘You will never get any development here until you join RB, the Royal Bedroom!’

‘Give us our chitenge,’ they shouted back, ‘we’re ready to go home!’

In reply she did a little dance, swinging round to show them her vast rump, decorated with a huge RB, around which was written Royal Bottom.

‘That looks like a rumbustious rump!’ I declared.

‘You Nsenga men,’ taunted Dollar, ‘Come and fondle my lovely bums! Let’s see what you are capable of!’

But the men fell backwards, as if repelled by this moving mountain of pulsating flesh. ‘Ha ha, you useless men, you can’t do anything!’ she cackled.

‘I thought these Nsenga men appreciated a dancing derriere,’ I laughed.

‘A fully mature female Nsenga bum is reckoned to have 134 muscles, and is capable of dancing to 24 different tunes simultaneously,’ Sara explained. ‘But Dollar has an uneducated Ngoni bum which is over-matured, over-weight and over-used. It has become flaccid and droopy, and quite out of control.’

‘Doesn’t Dollar know this?’

‘Of course not,’ laughed Sara.

‘Why not?’ I wondered.

‘She’s drunk,’ said Sara.

‘The only way to become prosperous is to touch the Royal Bottom!’ declared Dollar. ‘Only by voting for the Movement for Moral Decay can you enter the Royal Bedroom, and join the ruling class in the endless pleasure of feasting, merrymaking and fornication.’

‘Sounds like a good deal,’ I said. ‘Maybe I’ll vote for them.’

‘Shut up and listen,’ said Sara. ‘This is something new. It sounds like the MMD has at last developed vision and strategy.’

‘The only way Eastern Province can take over the whole country is by strategic fornication,’ Dollar declared, as she caressed her own bums lovingly, having failed to find anybody to assist her in this fairly innocent sexual pleasure. ‘We women must go out there and seduce men from other provinces. As their families have to adopt our muchigololo, so we easterners shall infiltrate their families, and the Royal Bottom of Nsengaland will begin to waggle throughout the Land of Zed.’

‘And you men must go out and impregnate the wives and daughters of foreign tribes, so that we infiltrate their families with our Royal Bottoms, and unity in the east will become the unity of the nation. But you dried up men are too lazy and impotent to join the Men for Massive Deflowering. Even my own miserable husband, when he looked at my vast beauty, the poor man would just collapse and shrivel to nothing!’

‘He was scared of suffocating between her huge breasts,’ laughed Sara.

‘Or having his bits bitten by her barbaric bottom,’ I suggested.

‘That is why our beloved Father of the Nation is working every day at his duty of fathering the nation, because you dried-up men do not have the courage to rise to the occasion. If you do not give him some assistance, he may have to send out the Red-Lipped Snake to sneak under blankets and deliver the royal donation!’

At this the women screamed and began to flee, but Tujilijili went on regardless. ‘Let me now see if you men are ready to join the Royal Bedroom, and deliver the royal donation. Let me see if you can be aroused!’

So saying she undid the knot on her chitenge wrapper and cast it aside, revealing all. But instead of rushing forward to fondle her many dangling extremities and attributes, the men all screamed and ran off into the bush.

She stood there naked, shouting ‘Am I not beautiful? Are you all homosexual?’

But there was nobody left to answer. Even the camera crew must have fled, because at this point the screen went blank.

‘Their election strategy is hopelessly and laughably counterproductive,’ I cackled. ‘All the voters are completely repelled, and have fled into the arms of Cycle Mata.’

‘On the contrary,’ replied Sara, ‘Dollar has a very shrewd strategy which will prove most effective.’

‘How do you work that one out?’ I sneered.

‘It’s quite simple,’ said Sara calmly. ‘By the end of September, all of these jokers will have been arrested and charged with corruption and abuse of office!’


‘Dollar will plead not guilty by reason of insanity!’

‘Marvellous!’ I laughed. ‘An unarguable defence! She has already proved her case! Another nolle prosequi!’

Tuesday, September 6, 2011



The funeral service had already started as Sara and I slipped into one of the back pews of the Cathedral of the Child Jesus, a huge ugly cavern of a building. ‘It looks as if it was designed for grain storage,’ I whispered to Sara, as some of the Christians on the pew in front turned round to scowl.

‘Look at the high and mighty seated in the front row,’ said Sara, ‘the very thieves and hypocrites that misused their power to persecute and terrorise him.’

As we were entertaining ourselves with these subversive whispers, a priest walked towards the lectern and announced ‘All rise and sing Hymn No.396, What a friend we have in Jesus. There’s nothing more uplifting than a good tune, so I decided to give it a go…

What a friend we had in Duffy,

How his death is hard to bear,

What a burden he did carry,

Opposing all that was unfair.

O what peace he had to forfeit,

O what pain he had to bear,

All because he dared to tell us,

That our rulers do not care.

Had he trials and tribulations?

Was shushushu everywhere?

He would never be discouraged,

Took it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find another Duffy?

Who can all our sorrows share?

Duffy knew how we suffered,

And broadcast it everywhere.

We were weak and heavy-laden,

Raising voice we did not dare,

Duffy was our only ally,

Walked into the lion’s lair.

Raised his voice to high and mighty,

Now send him to the Lord in prayer,

Voice and courage he did give us,

Now his voice is everywhere.

As we sat down, I got more scowls from the row in front. ‘Why can’t you just stick to the words in the hymn book?’ Sara whispered irritably.

‘The original message was too conservative,’ I explained, ‘I was worried that Duffy might climb out of his coffin to contradict it.’

‘May his soul rest in peace,’ said Sara, ‘even without your assistance.’

Now we all sat down as some nondescript priest began some long rambling account of the life of Paul Duffy in an inaudible voice. Having left home without breakfast, I began to doze off, despite the hard wooden pew which had been specially designed to keep me awake.

But I was aroused from my slumber by a clear voice saying ‘the reading this morning is taken from The Epistle of Paul to the Lozis, Chapter 23, Verses 5-11…’

I looked up, and there was a bishop standing in the pulpit, dressed in white cassock, with a tall white mitre on his head. His skin was as white as his cassock, making him look more like a ghost. He certainly had my attention as he began the reading…

‘And a cancer has fallen upon this land, which is eating up the people, and leaving the land barren and spoilt.

‘But this is not a cancer of the body but a cancer of the economy, for this cancer which is eating away at the Land of the Lozi is called economic growth.

‘But some of the victims of this malignant cancer called economic growth are yet praising it, saying the country is richer every year, and we shall soon be free of poverty and disease.

‘But I say unto you that economic growth is the poverty and the disease. For when we were a poor country living on fish and wheat and goats we were better off, our children were well fed and healthy, and were schooled in the synagogues. But now that we have discovered the great riches of copper, we are poor and starving.

‘For King Herod tells us that the Romans will only come to mine our copper if we work for starvation wages. And all the copper is taken away by the Romans, and we see none of it. This wealth is used to build Rome, while Jerusalem is collapsing.

‘And Herod allows this because the Romans give him a cut, so that he can build his palace and live like a Roman, while the rest of us live as landless slaves in our own country.

‘The cancer of economic growth is eating into this country, corrupting our leaders and destroying the land and its people. But the Pharisees tell you to pray to the Lord for your salvation which is in Heaven. But I say to you that Jesus died to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth, not the Kingdom of the Devil in the Copper Mines.’

Now the bishop looked up from the Good Book. ‘Here endeth the first lesson,’ he declared, as he walked down from the pulpit, and seemed almost to float as he walked up the aisle towards the coffin, and disappeared into it.

I felt Sara’s elbow dig into my ribs. ‘Wake up!’ she said. ‘You’ve slept through the entire service! It’s time to go!’

‘Nonsense!’ I retorted, ‘I enjoyed the funeral service immensely! I’m even thinking of booking this venue for my own!’

‘So what can you tell me about the sermon?’ Sara asked suspiciously, as we walked out into the bright mid-day sun. ‘What did the bishop say?’

‘He said that the voice of Paul remains the voice of the people!’

‘Did he say that?’ Sara wondered. ‘If his voice remains, then perhaps he has resurrected?’

‘Not yet,’ I said confidentially. ‘The voice of the people is due to resurrect on 20th September.’