Tuesday, March 27, 2012

When the King is Sick...

When the King is Sick…

‘Grandpa,’ said Thoko, ‘Why don’t all countries have kings? Wouldn’t it make everything simpler? The king takes all the big decisions, and the rest of us can just get on with our work!’
     ‘It’s not that simple,’ I said. ‘For instance, supposing the king gets sick, what happens then?’
     ‘He goes to the hospital, just like anybody else,’ retorted Thoko. ‘What’s the problem?’
     ‘Have you never heard the story,’ I asked ‘of what happened in Ancient Egypt when the Pharaoh Mighty Mouth fell sick?’
     ‘What story is that? I know you Grandpa, you just make up stories as you go along.’
     ‘So you may think,’ I said. ‘But I am referring to the Parable of the Sick Pharaoh which is found in the Gospel According to St Kalaki at Chapter 23.’
     ‘What happened to the Pharaoh?’
     ‘He fell sick.’
     ‘Obviously,’ said Thoko irritably. ‘But why was that a problem? We all fall sick!’
     ‘It was a problem because the Pharaoh was in control of everything. Everybody had to obey his orders, even if those orders were the opposite of what he had said the day before.’
     ‘Mighty Mouth,’ laughed Thoko, ‘what a strange name!’
     ‘In those days people were named according to what they were. People had names like Messenger, or Runner, or Brains and so on. The Pharaoh was Mighty Mouth because his word was law.’
     ‘And then he got sick?’
     ‘Mighty Mouth got so sick that he suddenly stopped talking.’
     ‘And that was the problem?’
     ‘It was a big problem! How would his obedient people know what to do if he suddenly stopped issuing instructions? Without Mighty Mouth they wouldn’t know whether to jump up or sit down.’
     ‘They should have just have sat down and had a rest,’ laughed Thoko, ‘and waited for the Mighty Mouth to get well enough to issue more instructions. But surely the Pharaoh must have had ministers to run the country, and to continue giving instructions?’
     ‘That was another big problem,’ I explained. ‘You see, in those days a Pharaoh was always in great fear of being toppled by one of his ministers. So a Pharaoh was always careful to appoint as ministers only those whom he considered to be incapable of threatening his position.’
     ‘You mean he had to choose ministers who were not very clever?’
     ‘Not so clever, you might say, to put the matter politely. So Mighty Mouth had appointed ministers called Dotty, Dummy, Puppet, Shambles and Sleepy.’
     ‘He was the Minister of Money, and whenever he was in a meeting he fell asleep.’
     ‘Then how did he manage to talk to the others?’
     ‘He would wake up to talk, but then all the others would fall asleep.’
     ‘So when Mighty Mouth fell sick, did the dummies make a mess of running the country?’
     ‘The first silly thing they did was to say that Mighty Mouth wasn’t sick, he had just gone away on holiday to Samaria.’
     ‘Why did they lie?’
     ‘Partly because they were all compulsive liars, and couldn’t even recognize the truth if they saw it. But mainly because the people thought that the Pharaoh was a God, and couldn’t get sick, so they didn’t want to admit that he was actually human.’
     ‘But weren’t the people entitled to know that the Pharaoh was sick? Wasn't he their leader? Hadn’t he gone to Samaria using their money?’
     ‘In those days the people had no rights, and the ruling class just took the people’s money and did what they liked with it.’
     ‘But did the people believe their lies about the Pharaoh's holiday?’
     ‘Only for a day. Then news came from Samaria that Mighty Mouth was being treated by a Medicine Man.’
     ‘And did Mighty Mouth get better?’
     ‘No, unfortunately he died the next day.’
     ‘And did the dummies now tell the people the truth?’
     ‘Of course not. They said that their beloved Pharaoh was getting better, and ordered all the people to get down on their knees and pray for the complete recovery of their great leader.’
     ‘But why couldn’t they just tell the truth?’
     ‘Obviously they now needed time to prepare for his death.'
     'Which had already happened?'
     'Exactly. But they needed time to agree amongst themselves which of the dummies would take over as the new Pharaoh, and much money changed hands between them before they finally agreed.’
     ‘Who did they choose?’
     ‘They chose Sleepy, so that they would all be able to steal as much as they wanted while he was sleeping. Also he was very old and senile, so they knew he wouldn’t last too long.’
     ‘But while they were fixing things, wasn’t the body of the previous Pharaoh getting a bit, er, you know…?’
     ‘They had him mummified while the people continued to pray for his recovery. The Egyptians were very clever at that. Then after a month they announced that he had died suddenly and unexpectedly, and brought him home for a grand funeral.’
     ‘So was that the first time that such a thing had ever happened?’ asked Thoko.
     ‘Of course not,’ I replied. ‘That’s what always happens when a king dies. That’s why a kingdom is always ruled by one dummy after another, and the long-suffering people never see good government.’
     ‘Grandpa,’ said Thoko with a frown, ‘do you think such things could ever happen here?’
     ‘Of course not,’ I replied, as I put my arm reassuringly around her shoulder. ‘We live in a democracy!’   

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Michael the Magician

Michael the Magician

‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I asked Thoko. ‘Your mother is very keen that you shouldn’t end up like Grandpa.’
     ‘My dear mother,’ sighed Thoko, ‘is very ambitious on my behalf, so I’ve told her that I’m going to be president one day. So you’d better tell me how it’s done.’
     ‘There are various ways of doing it,’ I said, ‘But it’s generally reckoned that the most fantastic capture of the presidency was achieved by Michael the Magician, who founded the Perfectly Fantastic party, the PF.’
     ‘So how did he do it?’
     ‘He had the advantage of being a highly trained magician, able to completely deceive a large audience, with nobody suspecting that he was cheating.’
     ‘I’m already able to deceive Mummy.’
     ‘Well, that’s a good start. Although I’m told that by the age of three Michael could deceive an entire nursery school. By the time he ran for president he could deceive a crowd of thousands. For example, at a political rally he would call a member of the audience on stage to show everybody that his back pocket was empty. Then he would turn round three times, wave his magic wand, shout Abrakadabraka!  and then the same person would again inspect the same pocket and pull out a million kwacha, as Michael would shout More money in your pocket!’
     ‘But he had put more money in his own pocket,’ laughed Thoko.
     ‘Nobody seemed to notice that,’ I said. ‘Then he would take out a handful of little bits of torn paper from his pocket, and let them flutter down into an empty box, saying Imagine this is the Barotseland Agreement that was torn up by the Mad Munshumfwa! Then he would close the box and shake it, there would be a crack of fire and a puff of smoke, and Michael the Magician would pull a complete document from the box, saying This is how I shall restore the Barotseland Agreement!’
     ‘But how were people so easily deceived?’ Thoko wondered.
     ‘The first rule of the confidence trick,’ I explained, ‘is that you choose things that people really want to believe. His favourite was the two curtain trick. He would pull the curtains back to show a scene of unemployed youths outside a bar, as the crowd would shout We want jobs! Then he would close the curtains and mutter some strange spells and call on his ancestors. When he pulled back the curtains, there was the same gang of youths busy building a house, already up to the wall plate level. How the crowd would cheer! In another version of this trick a policeman with a gun would miraculously turn into a dove sitting on an olive branch. Even more popular was when he would cause a group of Chinese labourers to disappear entirely. The cheers would sometimes last for a full ten minutes, while Michael bowed to the crowd.’
     ‘So he was easily elected president?’ suggested Thoko.
     ‘Of course,’ I replied.
     ‘And did he do well as president?’ she asked doubtfully.
     ‘Of course not,’ I laughed. ‘After six months he had entirely failed to do any of the things he had promised.’
     ‘So did they give him more time?’
     ‘The problem wasn’t more time,’ I explained. ‘The problem was that he was doing the opposite of what he had promised. So they started shouting Where is the money in our pockets? But he would reply First I have to get the money into my pocket, then it can trickle down into your pockets!
     ‘They shouted Where is the Barotseland Agreement? But he replied Where is Barotseland?
     ‘They shouted You said you would chase the Chinese! But he replied I am chasing them from China and more will be arriving tomorrow!
     ‘Then they shouted Where are all the jobs that you promised? But he answered them by saying They have all been given to the Chinese!
     ‘Then the people began to get angry, chanting PF is Perfect Fraud! PF is Perfect Fraud!’
     ‘So did he have to resign?’ wondered Thoko.
     ‘Of course not,’ I laughed. ‘He accused them of treason and sent in the army. Then they chanted You promised no bullets! But he answered I promised no police bullets, but I never said anything about army bullets!’
     ‘But why didn’t he just keep his promises?’ asked Thoko.
     ‘You have a lot to understand about politics, my dear young Thoko.  To become president, of course you have to ask people what they want, and then promise to give them whatever they ask for. But once you have become president, then you have to show them who is in charge! Being president means that you decide for them, not them deciding for you! You have to walk all over them before they start walking all over you! That is what we mean by government in this country! People need to experience the firm smack of authority!’
     ‘But surely, Grandpa, to avoid annoying people too much, couldn’t Michael the Magician have kept just one of his promises?’
     ‘He did,’ I said. ‘He kept his promise to open ten new secondary schools.’
     ‘So at least everybody was pleased with that?’
     ‘No, they were even more annoyed. You see, he went to Botswana and opened ten new schools down there.’
     Tears welled into Thoko’s eyes. ‘When I become president,’ she said, ‘I shall keep all my promises.’
     ‘So you may imagine,’ I said. ‘But it’s never been done before.’ 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

An Inspiring Tale of Youth Empowerment

An Inspiring Tale
of Youth Empowerment

‘I shall always remember one particular Youth Day when I was at Decay Secondary School,’ said Kupela. ‘The headmaster announced that the Ministry wanted a girl from our school to read a speech to the president. He called for a debate amongst all the girls, and said that we could choose the best speaker. I really thought I could win!’
‘But you didn't,’ said Sara.
‘I lost out to a girl called Wandimi Shibili. She got the loudest applause.’
‘Was she really a good speaker?’
‘She had a very crafty strategy,’ said Kupela. ‘The day before the debate she went around the school asking everybody what they thought our problems were. The next day she told everybody what they had told her, and loudly demanded action from the government.’
‘Yes,’ said Sara impatiently, ‘but what did she actually say?’
‘Difficult to remember after all these years,’ laughed Kupela. ‘But it was quite simple really. She said that we youths were fed up with being blamed for being undisciplined and playful, which was the opposite of the truth. It was the government that had destroyed the schools, which had no books, and the teachers were either absent or drunk, or both. There were no jobs for us because the government has destroyed the economy with incompetence and theft. They had destroyed our manufacturing industry by removing import duty. There was no employment policy, and instead jobs were being given to foreigners.’
‘I suppose that went down well,’ I said.
‘How we all cheered! You go and tell them! We shouted. Wandimi for president!’
‘And did you join the march?’
‘The whole school joined the march!’ laughed Kupela. ‘We all wanted to hear Wandimi tell the president what we thought of him and his rotten government!’
‘And was the president shocked? Did they try to stop her? What happened?’
‘What happened,’ said Kupela sadly, ‘was that she walked to the microphone and said the opposite of what she had said to us. She said that we youth were too playful, but now we promised to work hard and follow the fine example of our dear president. We were so grateful to him for building more schools, and for the youth training schemes, and we would work hard to benefit from his generosity. We would now stop asking the government for help, but only ask how we could help our government.’
‘So she said the exact opposite!’ I exclaimed.
‘She had changed her strategy,’ Sara suggested.
‘Of course she hadn’t changed her strategy! She had used exactly the same strategy, which was to tell her listeners what they wanted to hear. So the day before her speech she visited the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Youth and Sport, and asked him what the government wanted her to say. So he wrote down the main points on a piece of paper, and that was her speech.’
‘Half a minute,’ I said. ‘Most of her listeners were the youths, not the permanent secretary!’
‘She stopped caring about us,’ laughed Kupela, ‘as soon as we had done our job of voting her as our spokesperson.’
‘So what benefit did she get from her betrayal?’
‘She was given a bursary to go to Yunza. Nobody else in her class got into Yunza because their parents were too poor.’
‘Quite a smart cookie,’ I admitted. ‘And did she do well at Yunza?’
‘Extremely well,’ said Kupela. ‘She soon found a sugar daddy who installed her in a nice little flat in Kabulonga. So she had enough money to buy the exam papers in advance.’
‘She was cheating!’ exclaimed Sara.
‘The teaching in these places is so bad,’ Kupela explained, ‘that the only effective way to prepare for an exam is to get the paper in advance. So she got a good degree in medicine, specializing in geriatrics.’
‘So now at last she was in a position to do something for her country?’
‘Good gracious no,’ laughed Kupela, ‘she went off to California, and got a job there.’
‘I’m sure she’ll come back one day,’ said Sara, ‘and make an invaluable contribution to our health service.’
‘I don’t think so,’ laughed Kupela. ‘She hadn’t been in California six months before she married an 80 year-old multi-millionare who had made his money running brothels in Las Vegas.’
‘Why did he want to marry Wandimi? Was she very beautiful?’
‘No, face like the back of a bus. But she told him what he wanted to hear. She told him that she was a geriatric medical specialist, and that she could restore his health and vitality. She promised him that within 90 days he would be a young man again.’
‘And did it work?’
‘It did for her. Within 90 days he was dead, and she was a multi-millionaire.’
‘So what’s she doing now?’
‘Two years ago she bought herself a senate seat, and this year she’s contesting the Republican primaries and hoping to run against Obama in the coming presidential election.’
‘Still the same campaign strategy?’ wondered Sara.
‘Oh yes. The previous night she asks them what they want, and the next morning she tells them that she’s knows their problems, and she’ll solve everything.’
‘So by next year,’ I said, ‘she may be the first female Zambian president!’
‘But never in Zambia,’ sighed Sara.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Strange Bedfellows

Strange Bedfellows

‘Why is the trial being held here?’ I whispered. ‘I’ve never heard of The Post conference room being used as a courtroom.’
‘The judiciary has all gone rotten,’ explained Sara. ‘So now The Post is the only place in the country that has the courage, independence and wisdom to dispense justice.’
‘Huh,’ I sniggered, ‘how do you know that?’
‘I read The Post editorials,’ she chuckled. ‘The editor tells us so every day!’
‘Silence in court!’ said the ancient judge, banging his gavel on the bench. He looked across at the miserable little hyena standing in the dock. ‘Chimbushimbushi III,’ he said severely, ‘you are accused of spreading grievous and mischievous information throughout the land, thereby causing alarm and despondency amongst law abiding citizens.’
‘Who’s the judge?’ I whispered, ‘and why’s he wearing his wig upside down?’
‘That’s Feckless Shamika, the Minister of Misinfomation,’ Sara replied. ‘That’s not his wig, it’s his beard. Old goats always have scraggy white beards.’
‘Maybe he’s an upside-down judge,’ I sniggered.
‘More specifically,’ continued Justice Feckless Shamika, ‘you are charged that you did misinform the nation that King Cobra intended to make the waters of the Zambezi to flow upstream, to move Kariba Dam to Lusaka, and to force everybody to become homosexual. What do you say?’
The hapless Chimbwi Chimbushimbushi III now began to whimper and squeal, and pointed his front leg at the monstrous rhinoceros who stood in the corner chained to twenty-four policeman.
‘Who’s that?’ I whispered to Sara.
‘That’s the Honorable Notorious Reverend General Rotten Shikashiwa, former Minister of  Misinformation,’ she replied.
‘That Rotten Rhinoceros!’ squealed the hyena, ‘He is the one who forced me to say all those silly things! It was all his doing! He wrote all that rubbish on a long roll of toilet paper, then he took me to the Zany Nonsense Broadcasting Corporation and forced me to read all his lying drivel and propaganda to the nation.’
‘Hmmm,’ said Justice Shamika suspiciously, ‘how did he force you to read such nonsense?’
‘He locked me in his bedroom and said he would force himself upon me if I did not do as he said. I was stuck between a rhinoceros and a hard place.’
‘Hmmm,’ murmured the judge, ‘I thought it was only humans who did this sort of thing. But now these animals are starting it! Bring the rhinoceros to the dock! Let’s hear his side of the story!’
And so the huge rhinoceros Rotten Shikashiwa waddled to dock, but was far too big to get into it, so he just sat on top of it, causing it to collapse.
‘Shikashiwa,’ said the judge, ‘did you use your vast ministerial weight to force this nasty little hyena Chimbushimbushi III to tell endless and silly lies to the entire nation.’
‘Certainly not,’ said Shikashiwa, ‘I have never seen this smelly little chimbwi in my life before. What did you say his name is?’
‘Don’t you try to deceive this court, Shikashiwa,’ said Justice Feckless Shamika. ‘We have witnesses right here who saw you push Chimbushimbushi into your bedroom to show him your equipment, and then they heard him screaming.’
‘Very strange bedfellows,’ Sara murmured.
‘Most unnatural,’ I agreed.
‘My Lord,’ scoffed Shikashiwa, ‘There was nothing like that. He screamed with joy when he saw my tin trunk full of dollars.’
‘I thought you said you’d never seen him before.’
‘It was a dark night, My Lord.’
‘Shikashiwa,’ said the judge slowly, ‘If you had another male in your bedroom, is that not homosexuality?’
‘Certainly not, My Lord. I am a rhinoceros and he is a hyena. Two animals of different species, that’s called heterosexuality.’
‘And what about two animals of the same species?’ asked the judge.
‘Same species!’ Shikashiwa shouted angrily. ‘Why, for sure, that is called homosexuality! That’s forbidden!’ He waved his black book in the air. ‘That is the original sin of Adam and Eve! It is called fornication and is forbidden in the scriptures. This is what caused the fall of man, and has also caused over-population!’
‘Has he read the bible?’ I wondered. ‘Perhaps he’s illiterate.’
‘Even those who have read it,’ explained Sara, ‘they all have different opinions on what it says.’
‘This fornication causes pregnancy, which is an abomination!’ the Mad Rhinoceros continued shouting. ‘That’s why I ordered the arrest and conviction for pornography of the depraved people who took photographs of such sinful activities!’
‘Ha ha,’ cackled Judge Shamika, ‘Now I’ve caught you! You ordered their arrest! As a minister, you exceeded your authority! You have condemned yourself out of your own mouth! I sentence you to ten years in jail, and also order that you repay all the expenses of the photographer!’
No sooner had the judge spoken than the twenty-four policeman immediately grabbed the monstrous Shikashiwa and pulled him away to the cells.
But then, soon after Shikashiwa had gone, one policemen came back, picked up the little goat Shamika, and also took him kicking and screaming to the cells.
‘Good God!’ I exclaimed. ‘What’s happening now?’
‘He’s made the same mistake as Shikashiwa,’ laughed Sara. ‘As Minister of Misinformation, he similarly doesn’t have the power to find anybody guilty. He has also condemned himself out of his own mouth! They’ll find themselves in the same jail!’
‘They’ll make strange bedfellows,’ I laughed.
‘Not strange at all,’ said Sara. ‘In jail, it’s completely legal.’