Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ninety Days

Ninety Days

This morning I had nearly finished my breakfast before my dear husband appeared. D’you know why? He was trying to decide which tie to put on. Sometimes he tries on twenty different ties before he comes to a definite decision. He changes his ties even more often than he changes his ministers.
I had nearly finished my toast and marmalade when he finally appeared, flicking specks of invisible dust from his lapel. ‘Good morning, darling,’ I said.
‘If you say so,’ he replied. ‘What’s in the papers this morning?’
The Boast has got a long editorial…’
‘That’s nothing new,’ he chuckled, ‘It always has a long editorial. Nobody to edit the editor, that’s the problem.’
‘Ninety days of broken promises.’
‘What did you say dear?’
‘That’s the title of the editorial. Ninety days of broken promises.’
‘Would you mind, my dear,’ he replied, ‘pouring me a cup of tea.’
‘Ninety days of broken promises,’ I repeated, as I poured him a cup to tea.
‘Who’s been breaking their promises?’
‘You, my dearest. He’s talking about you.’
He hung his head for a moment. Then looked up, and looked me straight in the eye. I’m very worried. Everybody will be talking about it.’
‘Talking about what, darling?’
‘This green tie. My mother always told me never to wear green with blue. Does it clash? I had put on the red one, but it seem rather dull. Rather Mwanawasarish. Should I change it before I appear before the cameras?’
My poor darling, I thought. All these years he’s been preparing for this job, but now he’s finally got there, it all seems too much for him. All those years he was out of work, and I was buying him all those suits and ties, so he could parade in front of the mirror, practicing how to look presidential. All those years of practice, but still he can’t quite get it right.
‘Look darling,’ I said slowly, ‘I’m sure you’ll get over your tie problems eventually. But in the meantime, the editor seems to be worried about other things. All those things you promised to do in ninety days, and they just haven’t happened.
‘What is the silly fellow talking about?  I’ve appointed ninety commissions to investigate ninety members of the previous government. Already they’ve worked for ninety days and found Dollar Sillier with ninety motorbikes, Shitulene Musokelela with ninety salaries, and Nyamasoya with ninety houses. We even found Awful Litako with ninety billion in his belly after he tried to swallow the evidence. This editor had better shut up, or I’ll come looking for his ninety strange motor vehicles!’
‘But what about the new constitution in ninety days?’
‘No problem there. Within the stipulated ninety days I had appointed a commission of non-experts to make recommendations on the composition of a committee of experts to make recommendations to me personally on a road-map for a constitutional process so that I can, at my sole discretion, put these recommendations before the cabinet who can then, if they so wish, make recommendations to parliament so that parliament can then decide whether or not we should have a referendum so that the people themselves can decide whether or not we should have a new constitution making process which will then…’
But my poor dear husband’s voice tailed off, as his attention seemed to wander. After a long pause, he suddenly said ‘If I’m going to keep this green tie, then I should change into my dark brown suit.’
‘You know best darling,’ I replied. ‘The editor is also raising the question of your directive to authorise street trading, which he says contravenes the law. He is wondering whether the law is still made by act of parliament, or is now being made by decree in State House.’
My dear husband was now looking philosophically at the ceiling. ‘When it comes to wondering, there are so many thinks to wonder about. After my very successful minibus trip in Livingstone, I am now wondering whether to save fuel by travelling by bicycle.’
‘But darling, what about security?’
‘I could still have the six Mercs and twelve motorcycles in front and behind, and a helicopter overhead, in case of any act of subversion by the treasonable chiefs in North Western Province.’
‘But darling,’ I persisted, trying to get him back on track, ‘don’t you need to  answer the editor when he complains that you promised people that if they all voted for you then they would all be given jobs.’
‘That’s a deliberate misquote,’ sighed my dear husband. ‘What I actually said was that if they all voted for me then they would all give me a job. I must say I’m so grateful to you, my dear, for looking after me during those long years of unemployment.’
‘Thank you, darling. You know I love you so much. But just one last thing, before you go off and do a bit of hiring and firing, don’t you think you should make some response to these complaints about ninety days of broken promises?’
‘If you like, my dear, I shall appoint a commission of enquiry to investigate which newspapers have been complaining during the past ninety days, and to make recommendations on which editors should be fired.’
‘But before that, darling, don’t forget to change your tie.’
‘Not my tie. My suit. I’m going to change the suit.’
‘Yes, dear. You know best.’

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Chilufya Comedy Show

The Chilufya Comedy Show

‘Come quick,’ Sara shouted, ‘you’re missing the Chilufya Comedy Show!’ I rushed to the sitting room, and settled down in front of the TV.

There on the screen, standing behind his famous desk, surrounded by his comedy team, with a stern expression on his face, was our favourite comedian, Constable Chilufya.

In front of the desk stood a bent old man with a bald head. His left hand clutched a stick to prevent him falling over, but his right hand was raised high, holding a bible. Saliva dribbled down his chin as he pronounced the sacred oath of office, ‘I solemnly swear to keep government secrets.’

‘And I hope you do,’ said Constable Chilufya severely. ‘I don’t want any loose or careless talk in my government. For example, yesterday I overheard somebody gossiping that the previous minister was receiving three salaries, that his qualifications were fake, and that he was previously fired from Yunza for stealing students’ bicycles. Now this is the sort of information which must be kept strictly secret, otherwise it could undermine investor confidence.’

‘Ha ha,’ I laughed. ‘His humour has a fine sense of irony.’

‘Yes,’ laughed Sara. ‘And I like the way he keeps a straight face.’

‘Yes, Your Most Sacred Excellency,’ said the poor old man, as he tried to step backwards but tripped over his own walking stick. The Protocol Officer managed to catch him as he fell, and carry him out of the room.’

‘You see,’ said Constable Chilufya, ‘how soft hearted I am to re-appoint these ancient hangovers from an earlier age. Their pension funds were looted by the previous fake government, so I can only keep them alive by giving them fake jobs in my government.’

‘Even his lackeys,’ I laughed, ‘they also manage to keep straight faces.’

‘It's all part of the discipline of the comedy team,’ explained Sara. ‘But see how some of them are looking at their boots, or looking out of the window. They’re actually bursting to laugh, but they know they mustn’t! The whole joke is to make it look serious!’

As we were talking, the consummate comedian turned with deadpan expression to his next victim. ‘Mr Kwindili, as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, you need to be respectful and diplomatic towards your subordinates. If you don’t respect your subordinates, they will never respect you.’ But having said that, Constable Chilufya looked slowly and menacingly around the room. ‘Talking of subordinates,’ he said, ‘where is my Secretary to the Cabinet this morning? The incompetent buffoon has been avoiding me ever since I discovered that he allowed a fake buyer to steal fake gold from right under his fat nose. Find the slippery fellow and bring him here immediately!’

Now up stepped up an old woman in a faded PF chitenge. She held the bible high, saying ‘I swear to find jobs for all my relatives.’

‘He’s actually appointing a woman!’ I exclaimed.

‘See what job she gets,’ Sara sneered.

‘Mrs Bwalya, I mean, er, Ms Kabanshi, I have appointed you to a very responsible position in the Ministry of Finance, as Chief Cleaner. But I have to warn you right now not to misuse your position in order to poke your nose in wrong places, or try to clean up this notoriously dirty ministry. Only yesterday I fired the previous Cleaner with immediate effect after she went into the fake Minister’s office and found him printing untold trillions of fake money on an old fake Gestetner duplicating machine. If news of this scandal had leaked out then the country could have suffered capital flight, a fall in the value of the kwacha, and possibly general financial panic.’

‘If people took him seriously,’ I laughed, ‘ he really could cause a financial collapse!’

‘Don’t be silly,’ laughed Sara. ‘Everybody knows it’s just a comedy show.’

Now up to the desk waddled a fat middle-aged man, whose open mouth and vacant expression belied the cunning in his beady little eyes. He held high the bible, saying ‘I swear to put an end to all the nonsense in this government.’

Constable Chilufya looked at him, seemingly puzzled. ‘Are you the new head of the DEC or the ACC? You can’t be the new Chief Justice, I’m not due to fire the crooked old fellow until next week. Were you given a letter of appointment? Let me see it. It might be a fake.’

‘I am Mr Sarcastic Sikota,’ he replied, ‘and I am here on behalf of my client Mr Sanctimonious Mumbo Jumbo, formerly Ambassador to Alaska, whom you have publicly accused of selling fake snow to the Eskimos. You have claimed that the evidence for these crimes was collected when the Director for Eskimo Corruption, the DEC, was sent on a fishing expedition to Alaska. Since these fake allegations have destroyed my client’s career as an ambassador, my client is claiming damages of one trillion to rebuild his career as a fake pastor.’

At this point Constable Chilufya leant forward and shook the hand of Sarcastic Sikota. ‘Ah, now I remember. I am swearing you in as Leader of the Task Force. Your job is to clear out all the nonsense and corruption from my government!’

‘Didn’t he appoint a new Task Force Leader last week?’ I laughed.

‘That one,’ laughed Sara, ‘turned out to be a fake.’

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Beast of Lingalinga

The Beast of Lingalinga

Lingalonga was a very strange land. It consisted of two cities, Lingalinga and Longalonga. But these two cities were complete opposites. Longalonga was a huge city of massive mansions and large green gardens, all built on rolling hills, but with very few people. These few people looked down on the little city of Lingalinga, where millions of people lived in little houses all squashed together, with no gardens at all. And no green grass, only dust.

The few people of Longalonga never did any work. They were the ruling class. If they wanted any money they would just phone Washington, and money would come. But although they never worked, they were never idle. They were always busy with cocktail parties, golf tournaments, charity feasts, recitals and that sort of thing. They very much liked organizing conferences to discuss the appalling problems in nearby Lingalinga. It hardly needs to be said that the people of Longalonga lived much longer than those in Lingalinga, which was why it was called Longalonga.

Things were very different in Lingalinga, where people had to work all day from morning to night. They had to provide the bricks and cement and gates and pipes and all the materials to build the huge mansions in Longalonga. And they also provided domestic services, and sometimes even sexual services for the nearby ruling class. They worked hard for little money, and could only afford to build tiny houses for themselves. There was so much sickness and poverty that the people of Lingalinga did not linger longer, which was why it was called Lingalinga.

But the main problem was the Beast of Lingalinga, which was so-called because it lingered in Lingalinga and was never seen in Longalonga. During the daytime there was no problem. The people went about their work happily, looking after the ruling class, laughing and singing as if they had not a care in the world. But at night came the Beast.

By eight o’clock at night the good people of Lingalinga would lock up their houses and turn off the lights and go to bed and hide under the blankets, because they knew the Beast was on the prowl. Parents would warn their children that if they misbehaved, the Beast would come and get them. And he would.

Any man walking on the road at night might be pounced upon by the Beast, and taken away to the monster’s lair, where the Beast would pull the man’s balls until he admitted being a thief. If the Beast could catch a lady of the night, she would be dragged away to his filthy lair and raped. If the Beast was in a bad mood, he could shoot bullets out of his nose, and kill you on the spot.

Sometimes a gang of hotheads would spot the Beast at his evil deeds, and would try to chase him away with stones. But then the vile Beast would raise his enormous rear into the air and let fly with a poisonous gas, to lie over the land like a yellow blanket, causing all the good people of Lingalinga to spend the next day coughing and vomiting, or in some cases dying.

And when such disturbances and riots occurred, the ruling class would become very agitated, complaining one to another about having to make breakfast for themselves because the maid hadn’t turned up. And later in the day they would be found at their cocktail parties, tipping gin martinis down their fat throats and discussing the problems of Lingalinga, saying such things as ‘They all drink too much, that’s their problem!’ Others would say ‘They should work harder and build themselves proper houses’. But the more shrewd would say ‘This is a good opportunity to get a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to research into their problems’, to which another might reply ‘Oh My God, I shall have to charge five hundred dollars a day to go into that stinking place’.

But the good people of Lingalinga already knew the cause of all their problems. It was the Beast! The only question was, how to get rid of it? And where did the ghastly thing come from? Then up stood a young man, Mr Obama Kaponya, and said ‘this Beast has been sent by the King to terrorise us!’

‘But the people answered him, saying ‘No, no, why should our lovely King do such a thing to his beloved people?’

And Obama Kaponya said ‘Because he wants to kill us all, and give all our building work to the Chinese!’

And the people said ‘That’s it! Now we see it! Manje tachiona!’

But others protested, saying ‘But what can we do? We don’t appoint the King! We can’t do anything!’

‘Yes we can!’ declared Obama Kaponya. ‘Next week is the election! Vote him out! We shall appoint a new King! A King who loves us, and doesn’t send the Beast to terrorise us!’

And of course the people of Lingalinga were many, and the ruling class were few! So they voted in a new King who really loved the people. And when the new King was sworn in by four Catholic Bishops, the whole of Lingalinga rose in celebration. They celebrated all through the day, and they celebrated all through the night, and they continued to celebrate all through the next day. And they were quite ready to continue celebrating all through the next night.

But then the Beast came back.

The Beast of Lingalinga