Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Grisly Murder

Grisly Murder

            Every morning at breakfast Sara likes to read out the latest horror story from the Daily Nail, which now headlines a new grisly murder for us every morning, to keep us entertained and to take our minds off the strange behaviour of the government.

          ‘Listen to this,’ said Sara, as she poured her cornflakes.
‘RITUAL KILLING AT HIGH COURT. The dismembered corpse of a woman was yesterday morning found outside the High Court. Workers at the court claimed that her name was Zambia Justice, and that she had been employed as a malonda to protect the High Court from any injustice. Her head had been cut off with her own sword, and her scales were found hanging from the railings with her heart on one side and her brains on the other.
          ‘When contacted for a comment the Lusaka Chief of Police, Dr Sillyman Jelly, said that the members of the victim’s family were always the first suspects in any murder. Therefore three judges had been arrested, and the Chief Justice fired, pending further investigations.’

          ‘What a terrible story,’ said Sara, as she savagely dismembered an apple with a steak knife.
‘FULL EMPLOYMENT FINALLY FOUND. There was drama outside the gates of Slavery and Exploitation Ltd on Lumumba Road when a woman began screaming and weeping inconsolably.  Apparently her husband, Mr Full Employment, had gone to the factory a week ago looking for work, but had never returned. Apparently Full Employment had been promised by a man called Patriotic Manifesto, a well known politician.
          ‘After a full search of the premises, the missing person was finally found in the long grass outside the factory wall. There was nothing left except a cleanly picked skeleton. Apparently the rats had found Full Employment.’

          ‘Things are really getting quite frightening,’ said Sara, as she poured herself a cup of tea. ‘Listen to this:
‘MURDER AT LEALUI. The Litunga and his indunas awoke to a terrible shock yesterday morning. When the Ngambela opened the palace door he found the corpse of an old man lying in a pool of blood. Further examination revealed that this was the body of Barotse Agreement, the long lost son of Barotseland, who had promised to restore the glory of that great empire, but who had suddenly and strangely disappeared on 24 October 1964.
          ‘When told about this sudden and sad death, the government spokesperson, Mr Patriotic Manifesto, declared that there would be a State Funeral and seven days of mourning. In line with our election promises, he had said, we shall honour Barotse Agreement.

          ‘My God,’ said Sara, ‘things are getting worse. THOUSANDS OF GRADE SEVEN LEAVERS DISAPPEAR. Concern is growing throughout the country after reports that grade seven leavers have suddenly disappeared from their homes. Many of the bereaved parents have said that an old man in a green uniform was seen lurking near the house before their child vanished.
          ‘An expert from the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs has expressed fears that these children may have been murdered for their body parts, to be used in a gruesome ritual to resurrect the dreaded monster that haunted youngsters in the 1970s, the mindless and much feared Zambia Nutty Serpent. He advised parents to lock up their children at night and to beware of an ugly old man in a mouldy green uniform smelling of the one-party state.
          ‘In a telephone interview the Curator of the Livingstone Museum, where the remains of ZNS are kept, has reported that a rhinoceros, giving his name as Chipembele Kambilimbili, last week burst into the museum, ripped open the coffin and made off with the remains of ZNS.’
          ‘But when contacted, government spokesperson Patriotic Manifesto advised that all these developments were merely part of the youth training scheme promised by the ruling party.’

          Sara was buttering her toast angrily when I found her at breakfast. ‘Nobody told me about this,’ she complained, ‘it seems I missed a most entertaining funeral. Look at this headline:
‘PATRIOTIC MANIFESTO PUT TO REST. A strident voice of the people, who had promised so much, was yesterday put to rest in the Field of Broken Promises at Leopards Hill.
          ‘In his eulogy at the funeral of Patriotic Manifesto, Father Ukwa of the Perfect Faith declared that the departed Patriotic Manifesto was a prophet whose predictions were misunderstood. Some misguided people had claimed that he had promised Heaven on Earth in ninety days when he had actually said ninety years. They had even tried to blame Patriotic Manifesto for the spate of murders that had swept the country over the past few days.
          ‘Father Ukwa assured the mourners that Patriotic Manifesto would resurrect in the year 2016 and would return by boat across the waters of Lake Mweru, as the congregation chanted Hallelujah! Pabwato!
          ‘A police spokesperson had earlier announced that the post-mortem results had shown that complete loss of face had caused a massive haemorrhage of popular support.’   


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ukwa's Wives

Ukwa’s Wives

       It was Sunday morning, and as good Christians Sara and I were at the Cathedral of the Very Cross.
      ‘The lesson this morning,’ intoned the bishop, ‘is taken from the Gospel according to St Kalaki, Chapter 13, Verses 23-37...’

     In those days Babylon was ruled over by the Great King Ukwa, who was so powerful that he had a harem of sixty wives. For in those days the power of a ruler was measured by the size of his harem.
     And in neighbouring Samaria there ruled the talkative little King Mumbo Jumbo. But there was great trouble and tension between these two kingdoms because King Ukwa had the habit of stealing wives from the harem of King Mumbo, which made Mumbo look foolish and powerless.
     Ukwa would send one of his indunas, dressed as a woman, into Mumbo’s harem to whisper into the ear of one of the most beautiful wives, saying ‘Your king is old and fat and past it. Come to the harem of the Great King Ukwa and he will make you a princess, and give you a mansion, and you shall eat dates and drink wine and enjoy all the fleshly pleasures three times a night.’
     ‘In those days,’ I whispered to Sara, ‘If a rich man had fifty wives, then a poor man had none!’
     ‘So what has changed?’ she hissed.
     And so Ukwa became more powerful as Mumbo became more powerless. As Babylon grew bigger and bigger, Samaria shrank smaller and smaller. And it came to pass one day that Mumbo suddenly lost his temper. He stood up from his little throne and declared to his few old seedy indunas ‘I have had enough! This is war! We march on Babylon! We shall storm Ukwa’s castle! I shall recapture my stolen wives!’
     But when Mumbo Jumbo banged on the door of the castle, the malonda just laughed and said ‘Go away!’ And when he tried to climb the castle wall he found that his arms and legs were too short, his belly too fat and his fingers too greasy. So instead he turned around to address the puzzled onlookers, saying ‘I am storming Ukwa’s castle to rescue my stolen wives.’
     And everyday crowds came to watch the enraged little Mumbo make his ineffectual and impotent attacks upon the castle wall. He punched at the mighty wall with his little fists, shouting ‘It is written in the scriptures that thou shalt not steal another man’s wife!’ And the crowd would laugh and shout back ‘Just blow your trumpet and the walls will all fall down.’
     ‘In those days,’ I whispered to Sara, ‘There were no TV programmes to entertain them.’.
     ‘Same as today,’ she replied.
     And this went on day after day, until some people stopped laughing and began to weep for the sad plight of poor little Mumbo, with stolen wives inside the wall. Then Ukwa’s crafty advisor, the insidious little Splinter Kapimbe, spoke to King Ukwa, saying ‘O Great King, he is beginning to evoke sympathy from the mob. Better to let him inside. Then he will have a bigger problem than how to get in. He will have the problem of how to get out.’
     ‘Verily I say unto you,’ agreed King Ukwa, ‘that a man standing outside the castle is a very different man after he has walked inside the castle.’
     And the wise words of King Ukwa proved to be a great prophesy. For when Mumbo Jumbo came before Ukwa he stopped shouting and screaming. Instead he knelt before King Ukwa saying ‘Let us not quarrel, O Great King. Let us not differ over a few wives when we kings have so much in common. I’m sure we can come to an agreement beneficial to both parties. My only little problem was that we did not agree on a mutually acceptable arrangement before you took my wives.’
     ‘If we are going to agree on the harem,’ said King Ukwa sternly, ‘then you must first understand that my harem is not merely a place for decadent entertainment. It is also essential to the running of the state. The job of my wives is to chatter about politics during the daytime and confine their fleshly pleasures to the night.’
     ‘An early form of parliament,’ I whispered to Sara.
     ‘Or the National Assembly Motel,’ she replied.
     ‘It’s not that you can’t have my wives,’ whined Mumbo Jumbo. ‘Of course we can share our wives, provided we agree to share our power, and then we can overcome these divisions and unify the nation. So I suggest you just make me your vice, and then all can be resolved!’
     ‘Verily I say unto you,’ declared the king, ‘You have made an excellent suggestion. There is no better place for vice than my harem. We shall declare the unified state of Babylon, with you in charge of the harem and myself in charge of the government!’
     ‘Very good,’ declared Mumbo Jumbo, now standing up and puffing out his flabby little chest. ‘In fact I was never a real Samaritan, I have always really been a Babylonian at heart.’
     But Mumbo Jumbo had been tricked. He had entirely overlooked one tradition that was common to both Samaria and Babylon – that only a castrated man can take charge of a harem. And so, with a single slice of the knife, his position was gained but his power was lost.

     Now the bishop looked up from the Good Book. ‘What is this story telling us? It is telling us that we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for national unity.’
     ‘It is telling us,’ I whispered to Sara, ‘that we should beware of being given what we have always wanted.’
     ‘More than that,’ Sara replied, ‘it is telling us that a sell-out always gets his just deserts.’

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gone Missing

Gone Missing

            It was the strangest case of a missing person that I had ever heard of. Because, you see, usually you’ve never heard of the person until they go missing. They become famous by going missing.
          This was scarcely the case with the famous Employment Policy. He was already famous before he went missing. He rose to fame last September, standing on the election platform and promising everybody ‘Vote for me and I’ll bring full employment!’ And he won by a landslide.
          But after the election, when the excitement had finally died down, and different people had been assigned ministerial jobs, and the president’s friends and relatives had all been given jobs in diplomatic missions, it gradually began to dawn on people that the famous Employment Policy had gone missing.
          Where was he? Where was his constituency? Which was his ministry? Had he been given a job? Was he unemployed? As the weeks went by, and the weeks turned into months, these were the questions that people were asking each other. They couldn’t ask the president, because he adamantly refused to hold a press conference. And so the mystery continued, and deepened.
          That was when my editor called me in. ‘Look Kalaki,’ he said, ‘you’re supposed to be my Chief Investigative Reporter, but you’ve never investigated anything!’
          ‘On the other hand,’ I retorted, ‘You’ve never paid me anything!’
          ‘That’s because you’ve never investigated anything!’ he sneered. ‘Get off your backside and find out what happened to the famous Employment Policy. Has he been allocated to a non-existent ministry? Decentralised? Reshuffled? Merged? Murdered? Dismembered? Or what?’
          So I phoned Dotty Scotty. ‘Hallo,’ he replied, ‘This is the Vice-President in charge of Cutting Ribbons, Funerals and Miscellaneous Ceremonials.’
          ‘I thought,’ I said, ‘that you were also in charge of Disaster Management.’
          ‘That also,’ he admitted. ‘I’m very good at disasters. Which disaster are you particularly interested in?’
          ‘Employment Policy,’ I said. ‘He seems to have disappeared. I can’t find him anywhere.’
          ‘I only deal with sudden disasters like floods and by-elections,’ he explained. ‘Employment Policy is not a sudden disaster, he’s a long-term problem, an unsolved mystery. I suggest you try Education. When it comes to impossible problems, we usually just add them to the curriculum.’
          So I phoned the Honorable Minister for Insulting Students, Professor Pompous Phiri-Phiri. ‘This is Kalaki here,’ I said, ‘I wonder whether I might find Employment Policy at your ministry?’
          ‘Certainly not!’ he shouted angrily. ‘Education has nothing to do with employment. That’s why all of my students remain unemployed. Sitting around in classrooms for twenty years has made them completely unemployable!’
          ‘Then Honorable Minister, without upsetting yourself any further, perhaps you could give me a hint on where I might find the famous Employment Policy.’
          ‘I suggest you talk to an employer,’ he shouted. ‘He’s the sort of fellow to have an Employment Policy.’
          So I rang Lumano Mine, and asked the Mine Manager, Mr Boss Muzungu. ‘Nobody of that name here,’ he answered. ‘We have only three employees – myself as Managing Director, my wife as the Mine Secretary, and my son as the General Manager.’
          ‘Good God!’ I exclaimed, ‘I thought you employed thousands!’
          ‘We have a contract with Modern Slavery Ltd,’ he explained. ‘The mine provides only essential equipment for their labour force.’
          ‘Such as overalls, boots, hardhats and that sort of thing?’
          ‘No. We only provide essential control equipment such as whips, shackles, batons, handcuffs and that sort of thing.’
          ‘So you don’t have any Employment Policy?’
          ‘Certainly not. Not here. Try the Ministry of Labour. I’m told they have an office in Lusaka. But they never come here.’
          So I phoned poor old Feckless Shambles. ‘Is that the Ministry of Labour?’ I asked.
          ‘Certainly not,’ he snapped irritably. ‘This is the Ministry of Information! No, wait, I mean this is Youth and Sport. No, half a minute, it’s Youth without the Sport. Is that Kalaki? No, you’re right, this is Labour, I’d quite forgotten. You caught me in the middle of my afternoon nap.’
          ‘Do you have the famous Employment Policy?’ I asked.
          ‘With all these reshuffles,’ sighed Feckless, ‘the poor fellow got lost. He’s been reported as a missing person. Phone the Suspector General.’
          So I did. ‘Hullo,’ I said. ‘This is Kalaki from the Daily Notion. I’m told that the famous Employment Policy has been reported as missing. What are you doing to find him?’
          ‘My dear Kalaki,’ she assured me, ‘This is a caring government, so everything possible is being done. The vendors are being swept off the street so that they can join the search. School leavers are being sent to the Zambian National Service and trained in how to look for Employment Policy. The World Bank is funding the search, they’ve always wanted us to find our own Employment Policy. Within ninety days we expect a million people to join the search!’
          I was so impressed that I rang Dotty Scotty. ‘A million people will soon be employed to search for our famous Employment Policy,’ I told him. ‘This will solve the employment problem!’
          ‘You see! Let this be a lesson to you!’ cackled Dotty Scotty. ‘You must trust this government, and not be criticizing us all the time!’
          ‘There’s only one problem,’ I said.
          ‘What’s that?’ he wondered.
          ‘If they find our dear Employment Policy, they’ll all be out of work again! And people will blame PF’
          ‘Yes, PF,’ I said. ‘Policy Failure!’

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ambushing Bush

Ambushing Bush

          It was Sunday afternoon at State House, and I was having my usual cup of tea with Michael and Christine. ‘Well, Kalaki,’ said Christine, ‘how do you think Michael is doing?’
          ‘I have to be honest,’ I admitted, ‘I’m very disappointed.’
          ‘In what way?’ she asked.
          ‘Because,’ I explained, ‘it’s my job to see the funny side of things, and to make Michael look ridiculous. But he’s always doing my job for me. Everywhere he goes he deliberately says the wrong thing, just to make people laugh.’
          ‘I see your point,’ she laughed. ‘It’s very difficult to make fun of somebody who doesn’t take themselves seriously. Michael is putting you out of a job.’
          ‘And yet he’s the one who’s always talking about creating employment,’ I laughed.
          ‘I don’t understand how you two can sit there talking about me as if I’m not here,’ said Michael gruffly. ‘If Kalaki wants a job I can send him as the new district commissioner for Rufunsa.’
          ‘Not good enough,’ I laughed. ‘I want your job!’
          ‘Ha ha!’ laughed Christine, ‘that’s a good idea! We’ve got that awful George Bush coming later this afternoon. Let Kalaki be the president for this afternoon! Then we’ll find out if he can be more ridiculous than you!’
          ‘He’ll know I’m not the president!’ I laughed.
          ‘Him!’ laughed Christine. ‘He doesn’t even know which country he’s in!’
          ‘I was planning a real star performance,’ Michael protested.
          ‘Stop trying to hog the limelight,’ said Christine severely, ‘and give Kalaki a chance. Anyway, you’re not supposed to spending all your time on these silly ceremonials. You’re supposed to be thinking up some serious policy. The whole nation has been waiting for months to hear your new employment policy, but all they get from you is more ministerial reshuffles, new districts and silly jokes!’
          So Christine and I left Michael thinking about employment, and set off to meet George the Second. When we got to the front door we found the American Ambassador, Supercilious Spaghetti standing there as if he owned the place. ‘I’m afraid you’ve got to wait,’ he said with a slimy smile, my president is running late.’
          ‘I’m the president, not him,’ I snapped. ‘I can’t be kept waiting by a mere former president. If I had known he was going to be late I would have sent somebody else. And anyway, what’s an Italian immigrant like you doing here posing as the American ambassador? Don’t you have any native Americans to run the government?’
          Christine whispered something in my ear, as the salivary smile disappeared from the face of the Italian mafia. ‘Yes, I know that,’ I replied loudly to Christine, ‘they massacred all the American natives and now the country is run by foreigners.’
          As I was talking a massive black armoured car, about thirty metres long and flying a huge American flag, drew up in front of the portico. Out stepped a wrinkled eagle with a beak instead of a nose, wearing faded blue jeans and a check shirt. He was followed by a bright eyed little hen, to whom he turned and said ‘My my, Laura, look at this cute house, just like my Grandma Martha’s little house on the prairie. Ah’m mighty pleased to be visiting this little country of Gambia, and spreading liberty and demarhcracy everywhere…’
          Quickly Mr Slimy Smile moved forward to shake George’s hand, hissing ‘Zambia, Mr President, you’re in Zambia. Gambia was last week. Let me introduce you to the His Excellency the President of Zambia…’
          The eagle stepped up to me and caught my hand in his claw, like a vice, and started pumping my arm up and down as if he was trying to pump blood out of my mouth, all the while talking and suffocating me with his bad breath  ‘Ah sure ahm pleased to meet the Prezdent of Samoa…’
          ‘Zambia,’ insisted Slimy Smile.
          ‘Wherever,’ said George the Second. ‘Ah’m sure the Prezdent knows where he is, even if the rest of the wurld don’t. Ah just came to say we Amairicans are so pleased to have brought you the gift of demarhcracy, just as we brought it to Eye-Rack…’
          I stamped on his foot and he finally let go of my right hand. ‘I saw what you did to Eye-Rack,’ I screamed, as I nursed my crumpled hand, ‘So you can take you demarhcracy, stick it up your exhaust pipe and take it back to Washington.’
          ‘Aarrgh!’ screamed George the Second, ‘This is not a friendly country! This must be Zimbubwee, this man is Mahgabby! Let’s get out of here!’ So saying, the eagle and his hen jumped back into the tank and went screaming up the drive, tyres screaming, sirens wailing and guns blazing.’
          We found Michael sitting where we had left him. ‘You’re soon back,’ he said, ‘what happened, what was all that noise?’
          ‘The A-Team left in a hurry,’ I said. ‘They didn’t appreciate my sense of humour.’
          ‘The way they left,’ said Christine, ‘I think Kalaki may have started a war!’
          ‘At least that’ll solve the unemployment problem!’ said Michael.
          ‘What!’ we both shouted. ‘Are you serious?’
          ‘Just joking,’ said Michael.   


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Michael's Dream

Michael’s Dream

          Oh Dear Diary, I’m so worried about my dear husband. All his life he wanted this top job, but now he’s got it, he’s not happy. Of course he loves dressing up in the different fancy suits and uniforms, ordering people about and that sort of thing. But he so wanted to keep his promises as well. Especially finding employment for everybody. That was his dream.
          But achieving his dream is proving terribly difficult. I tried to explain to him, right from the beginning. ‘Michael,’ I had said, ‘just because Dotty Scotty has a university degree, it doesn’t mean that he knows anything about employment. Dotty himself has been unemployed for years.’ But he wouldn’t listen.
          With no progress on the employment issue, my husband put all his hopes in the Rio+20 Climate Change Conference. He went there to tell the investors that they didn’t have to worry about all this talk about the degradation of the environment, poisoning the rivers or producing toxic gases. There was a different climate in Zambia, and they could do whatever they wanted so long as they create jobs. But despite this generous offer, nobody has come.
          ‘I just don’t understand it,’ said Michael. ‘I got such loud applause.’
          ‘That was all organized by Elite Chipaso,’ I explained. ‘He’s also looking for a job.’

          Dear Diary, This morning my husband came down to breakfast in a terrible fit, and refused to look at the newspapers. ‘Good morning darling,’ I said. ‘How are you this morning?’
          ‘I had a terrible dream,’ he shuddered. ‘I dreamt that all the unemployed youths came marching down our drive, shouting and screaming, and hacking at our front door with the machetes we gave them for the election campaign.’
          ‘It’s all the fault of Clueless Cluo,’ I said, ‘she took away their tujilijili, so now they’ve woken up and gone hopping mad. You’d better legalise banji, that’ll quieten them down.’
          ‘I think I’ll just sack a few permanent secretaries,’ he said angrily, ‘that’ll make me feel better.’
          ‘Just avoid any of my relatives,’ I cautioned him, ‘I’m already upset enough about this unemployment problem.’

          ‘Did you sleep any better?’ I asked him as he came down to breakfast this morning.
          ‘Much better,’ he said brightly, ‘I had a marvelous dream about how to solve the unemployment problem.’
          ‘Your such a visionary leader,’ I said. ‘What’s the solution?’
          ‘I shall announce it to the nation tomorrow. A bold new plan to divert the Zambezi from Sesheke to Lusaka, which will solve both Lusaka’s water shortage and also the unemployment problem. To maximize the number of people employed on this huge earth moving project, labourers will use teaspoons instead of shovels.’
          ‘I know you’re a brilliant talker,’ I laughed, ‘but I do wonder how you’ll persuade the water to flow uphill from the Zambezi Valley.’
          ‘It was a very technological dream,’ he answered triumphantly. ‘I also dreamt of a thousand booster pumps.’
          ‘But where will you get the electricity?’ I wondered, ‘after you’ve diverted all the water from Kariba?’
          ‘You’re beginning to sound like the Daily Nation!’ he shouted, as he walked out, banging the door behind him.

          By the time I woke up this morning he had already left in his favourite red helicopter, off to Mpatumatu to visit his best friend Chipembele Kambilimbili, the only one who really understands him.
          But he was back again before supper. ‘Kambilimbili has shown me how he provided employment for 250 people by building a clinic in Mpatumatu,’ he said. ‘And he has worked out that if we build 16,000 clinics, then we can employ 4 million people. The problem is solved!’
          ‘Quite right,’ I said. ‘The only problem is that 16,000 clinics would be enough to cater for a population of 160 million people, and would cost more than the government’s entire annual budget. Maybe you should move the project to Nigeria.’
          ‘You with your degree,’ he shouted, ‘you’re always sneering at my efforts!’

          Dear Diary, This  morning my dear husband seemed rather depressed. But by this afternoon his spirits had perked up. ‘I’ve just been talking to my Minister of Comical Commerce, Bomb Chisinga,’ he said. ‘He’s got a marvelous idea for increasing employment. All I have to do is to ban computers, and then we can go back to the old system of typed memos and letters, giving employment to tens of thousands of secretaries, typists and messengers.’
          ‘Look,’ I said wearily, ‘typewriters and stencils aren’t manufactured any more, NIPA no longer issues Messenger Certificates, and the only remaining duplicating machine is in the Livingstone Museum.’
          ‘You just find fault with everything!’ he snapped.
          At breakfast this morning my husband still seemed optimistic. ‘Ha ha,’ he chirped, ‘I think I can now see the way forward. Last night I dreamt that I held a press conference where I announced the latest progress to the nation.’
          ‘At last!’ I exclaimed with relief. ‘What did you announce to the nation?’
          ‘I told them,’ he said proudly, ‘that my government will announce the new employment plan within ninety days!’
          ‘And will you be able to make a plan within ninety days?’ I asked.
          ‘That’s exactly what the journalist asked me in my dream,’ he replied.
          ‘And how did you answer him?’
          ‘I told him straight that he can’t ask me questions like that,’ he replied sternly. ‘If you can’t do your job properly, I said, you’re going to be fired!

          Dear Diary, It’s such a pity. He had so wanted the job. I feel so sorry for him.

[With a bit of help from Facebook friends, especially Chintez L Museteka]