The Curse of the Chieftainess
The Chieftainess Serenje sat on her throne in her grand palace at the top of Serenje Hill. She was very annoyed. In all the forty years she had sat on her throne she had never been so annoyed. She was remembering the day, some ten months earlier, when a suitor had arrived at her palace, seeking the hand in marriage of her granddaughter, Princess Zambia.
The suitor was a battered looking old fellow from the faraway village of Lusaka, dressed in the rough chimbwi skins favoured by the wheelers and dealers from down south. ‘The lobola for my beautiful unspoilt Zambia is ten billion gluda or a thousand head of cattle,’ she had told him. ‘But you come here on clapped out old donkey, with an ancient creased albino carrying your bags. I had expected you to beg for food, but instead you have the cheek to ask for the hand of my granddaughter!’
‘You are speaking to none other than The Honorable Mr Chimbwi of Rhodes Park,’ the old fellow had replied. ‘Do not judge a man by his appearance. I may be poor and tattered, but I am rich in ideas. I may look uneducated, but have a brand new degree which I bought only yesterday. Today I may have only this one follower,’ he said, pointing to his old servant, who was shuffling his feet uncomfortably, ‘but tomorrow I shall have thousands.’
‘Never mind tomorrow,’ the chieftainess had snapped, ‘where is the money today? What has your bent old chola boy got in his chola? Show me the money and we can start talking.’
‘Donchi kubeba,’ the crafty old Chimbwi had whispered, ‘at the moment we have nothing except empty brown envelopes.’ Then he looked around and put his finger to his lips, ‘I am the Managing Director of an organisation called Donchi Kubeba, and we have a plan to fill all these brown envelopes with billions of gluda!’
Now the old chieftainess was getting interested, because nobody had come forward with a good price for Princess Zambia, who was still rather unsophisticated and undeveloped, despite her beautiful unspoilt hills and valleys. She put her head close to old Chimbwi and whispered ‘What’s the plan?’
‘The plan,’ Chimbwi had whispered, ‘is that once beautiful Zambia loves me then everybody will love me. Once I have married Princess Zambia then I shall become King Zambia and my Donchi Kubeba business will prosper. All the donors will give me money, and everyone will have more money in their pockets! Especially you, my dear, when I pay the lobola.’
Despite his bad breath, the chieftainess had really believed him.
Nine months had now passed since the marriage, but Chimbwi had never returned. The Chieftainess was sitting on her throne, still awaiting the king. Finally her Chief Induna arrived, saying ‘O Great Chieftainess, the Great Bag of Maize has arrived.’
As he spoke, a great flabby hippopotamus of a man wobbled into the room, attempted unsuccessfully to bow, and then sat down heavily at the other end of the room.
‘I had expected Chimbwi,’ said the Chieftainess.
‘His Excellency King Chimbwi is far too busy at the moment,’ declared the Great Bag. ‘He is away visiting the Queen of England, so he has sent me here with a message.’
‘He is supposed to be here,’ said the chieftainess, ‘to answer my demand for the payment of lobola, otherwise I shall dissolve his marriage to the Princess Zambia.’
‘In this kingdom,’ declared the Great Bag, ‘you should be advised that the king has the authority to revoke the appointment of any mere chief.’
‘You should be advised,’ answered the chieftainess angrily, ‘that in my chiefdom Chimbwi is my subject, and he has not paid us the lobola. As a result we are starving here in Serenje, while you have become so fat you can hardly walk!’
‘It is because of such talk that the king has sent me here to warn you,’ declared the insolent Great Bag, ‘that he has information that you have been speaking against him, which is a treasonable offence!’
‘I advise the king to keep his promises, and then people won’t speak against him. He promised us a new palace, more money in our pockets and jobs for all. We have seen nothing, not a single ngwee. Therefore I declare that the love of Zambia for the king is hereby withdrawn. The love affair is over. The marriage is dissolved. You should not say one single word more, but instead return to Lusaka and inform your king of my decision!’
‘The king has decided…’
‘Not one more word!’
‘I have to tell you…’
‘If you say one more word!,’ warned the chieftainess, as she stood up from throne, her black fly whisk waving, ‘I shall put a curse upon you.’
‘I have to warn you that…’
‘Your ancestors have now put a curse upon you,’ declared the chieftainess. ‘Your belly will grow and your manhood will shrink until you are the laughing stock of the nation.’ And even as she spoke, his great belly began to swell to even more disgusting proportions.
‘I shall report this to…’ continued the Great Bag.
‘You are cursed again,’ declared the chieftainess, now shaking with rage, ‘When next you break wind you will poison yourself and turn to stone!’