Chimbwi No Plan
‘Grandpa,’ said Nawiti, ‘tell me a story and then I’ll go to sleep.’
‘All the animals of Mfuwe,’ I began, ‘were gathered around in a big circle. It was the day of the Big Trial, where the Great Elephant sat as judge, and Chief Ha Ha stood accused of referring to the Great Leader as Chimbwi No Plan.’
‘Huh,’ said Nawiti, ‘that doesn’t sound like a terrible insult to me!’
‘You have to understand the politics of the animals in the game park,’ I explained.
‘When my friends the Tellytubbies go into the forest,’ said Nawiti, ‘they find all the animals are very sweet and friendly, and they kiss them all. Even the lions wouldn’t hurt a fly.’
‘It’s very different in Mfuwe,’ I explained patiently, ‘where all the animals are political animals, and very dangerous. Even a fly can lay eggs in your skin and make you go rotten all over.’
‘Even so,’ wondered Nawiti, ‘what was so terrible about calling him Chimbwi No Plan?’
‘Because Chimbwi had come to Mfuwe as the Saviour of the Nation. Before that, all the animals had been oppressed by the Movement of Mad Dinosaurs, who had brought in the Ching Chang pandas to steal all the bamboo and export it to Chang Ching. They had destroyed the forest, employed the monkeys as slaves, and reduced the animals to starvation.’
‘But then came the Great Leader?’
‘One evening, as the animals were gathered on the banks of the Great Luangwa, they saw a Great Pabwato coming from afar. As the boat came closer they saw a large hyena, who stepped out of the boat and walked on the water …’
‘Am I supposed to believe this story?’ asked Nawiti.
‘All this happened in the days of Christianity,’ I explained, ‘when people easily believed in miracles. ‘As the hyena walked majestically amongst them he declared I am King Chimbwi, sent by God to save you. I am Leader of a new party called the Plan Forward, and I have a great plan to move forward. We shall chase the Dinosaurs back to Jurassic Park. We shall chase the Ching Chang back to Chang Ching, and we shall be happy and rich forever and ever.’
‘Now I’m beginning to see,’ said Nawiti, ‘that calling him Chimbwi No Plan could be rather dangerous.’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Especially when talking to hyenas. So perhaps we can now return to the court?’
‘I’m already there,’ said Nawiti.
‘The Great Elephant,’ I continued, ‘now addressed the prisoner, saying Chief HaHa of the Up and Down Party…’
‘The Up and Down Party?’ laughed Nawiti.
‘Yes,’ I said irritably. ‘HaHa was leader of the monkeys. They were very good at running up and down trees, but they couldn’t make much progress on the ground. So, as I was saying, the Great Elephant said You are charged that, on a date unknown, at a place unknown, in the presence of witnesses unknown, you were heard to say Chimbwe No Plan. How do you plead?’
‘Not guilty My Lord. And who is the complainant in this case? Has King Chimbwi complained that he has lost his plan?’
‘Er, no,’ admitted the judge. ‘Perhaps we had better ask him!’
‘Has Chimbwi complained that anybody stole his plan?’ persisted HaHa.
‘Er, um, no, I don’t think so,’ said the judge, looking bewildered.
‘Do we have any evidence that Chimbwi ever had a plan?’ wondered HaHa.
‘Um, ah, I was assuming that he must have had one,’ replied the judge.
But as the Great Elephant spoke, a pack of hyenas began to gather around his legs, growling and baring their teeth.
‘Oh dear,’ said Nawiti, ‘were they threatening the judge?’
‘The hyenas had eaten the previous judge,’ I explained. ‘Being a judge in the jungle is a very dangerous occupation.’
‘Well,’ said the judge, now beginning to shake, ‘perhaps you are guilty of defamation!’
‘Defamation, My Lord?’ wondered HaHa. ‘I can see that it might be defamatory to call somebody a murderer or a prostitute, or even an adulterer, because such accusations might ruin the reputation of a person previously seen as respectable. But is it damaging to somebody’s reputation to say that they haven’t got a plan? Surely, My Lord, most of us do not have a plan. To say that somebody does not have a plan is about as defamatory as saying that they do not have an umbrella!’
But now the hyenas were beginning to snap at the judge. One had hold of his tail, and two more were jumping up, trying to reach his testicles.
‘Ah, ah, eeeh,’ squealed the elephant, ‘Just one more question, Chief HaHa. Do you yourself have any plan on how to govern Mfuwe?’
But the hyenas didn’t like this question either, as one alpha male managed a high leap and tore a piece off the elephants ear, as all the other hyenas laughed and cheered.
‘Certainly I have a plan!’ boasted HaHa. ‘You see, Chimbwi made promises but he has no plan on how to fulfill these promises. What he needs to do now is to clear away the bamboo, plant maize and sweet potatoes, employ all the monkeys in cultivation, use labour intensive methods, export our crop to…
‘Ha Ha Chief HaHa!’ squealed the judge triumphantly. ‘Now you have revealed your guilt! How do you know all these things? Clearly you are the one who stole the plan from our Great Leader! I sentence you to ten years for theft!’
‘Hurray!’ squealed all the hyenas. ‘O wise judge! O clever judge! A Solomon come to judgement!’
‘Grandpa!’ said Nawiti sleepily, ‘who’s taking me to school tomorrow? Mummy’s gone to Kitwe.’
‘Don’t worry,’ I said, ‘somebody will take you.’
‘Just promises,’ she said, ‘but no plan.’