Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Coup d'Etat

Coup d’Etat

          It was late at night in the kitchen, but the Kitchen Cabinet was still discussing what to do with the country, now that they had accidentally taken control of it. As on previous evenings, the discussion seemed to be going nowhere.
          ‘The trouble is,’ said Dotty Scotty, ‘people want us to honour our election promises.’
          ‘That’s not the problem,’ growled the Great Bag of Maize. ‘The problem is that the opposition keeps reminding us of our election promises.’
          ‘Oh really?’ asked Feckless Shambles. ‘What were our election promises?’
          This high level intellectual discussion was suddenly interrupted by Cycle Mata, who had been sitting at the kitchen table playing with his jig-saw of Zambia. ‘I think I’ve got the answer,’ he said, as he moved one of the jig-saw pieces. ‘If I move Northern Province down to Eastern Province then all the Bemba will become farmers.’
          ‘Hurray,’ they all applauded politely. ‘What a strategist! What a genius! Another Napoleon come to lead us!’
          Cycle Mata was so encouraged by such high praise that he now slid Eastern Province to the edge of the table and let it drop down onto the floor. ‘And the Easterners can go down to Matebeleland, where my friend Robber Mugabby will know what to do with them.’
          But this remark failed to raise a second round of applause, and the kitchen fell quiet as Axe Chikwale reached for his whisky bottle.
          At last the Great Bag broke the silence. ‘What we need is a coup d’etat,’ he declared.
          Dotty Scotty opened one eye and scratched his dandruff. ‘My dear fellow, were you ever to consult a dictionary you would discover that coup d’etat means using force to illegally capture state power. It may perhaps have escaped your attention, but we have already captured state power.’
          ‘Obviously,’ sighed the Great Bag of Maize, with his usual contempt for the limited intelligence of the educated, ‘we shall not be the ones doing it. The coup d’etat will be mounted by the opposition. They have been calling us sleepy fools with no ideas and openly saying that they want to take over the government.’
          ‘So you want to let them do it?’ asked Dotty Scotty.
          The Great Bag slowly leant forward and took a large spoonful of caviar from the bowl in the middle of the table and plastered it onto a huge lump of nshima, which he then shoved into his sloppy cavernous mouth. Finally, after swallowing this generous slice of the national budget, he looked towards Dotty and said sarcastically ‘Rather than waiting for them do it, I thought it might be better to catch them while they are still planning it.’
          ‘And how are you going to catch them planning it?’ wondered Dotty.
          As he spoke, there was a loud snore from under the table, and the Great Bag angrily aimed a kick at the unconscious body of Eager Bungle, Minister for Home Invasions and Fishing Expeditions. ‘He’s been completely drunk,’ shouted the Great Bag of Maize, ‘since we allowed him to confiscate all the tujilijili. If I had his job I would have thrown all these coup plotters in jail months ago!’
          This remark seemed to divert Cycle Mata’s interest away from his jig-saw. ‘Great Bag of Maize, I hereby appoint you as Minister of the newly combined Ministry of Patriotic Fighters, Home Invasions and Fishing Expeditions. Eager Bungle now becomes the fourth Deputy Minister in the newly created Ministry of Alcoholic Rehabiliation.’
          ‘Hurray,’ they all cheered. ‘A new Napoleon to lead us out of national confusion!’
          ‘Give me another Napoleon tujilijili,’ said a slurred voice from under the table.
          ‘So what’s your plan?’ Dotty Scotty asked the Great Bag of Maize.
          ‘Tell us! Tell us!’ said Cycle Mata eagerly. ‘A plan! A plan! My kingdom for a plan!’
          ‘My plan is simple and three-fold,’ replied the Great Bag. ‘Firstly I shall have my army surround State House to shoot down the Bullet that the coup plotters fired last November in their attempt to assassinate our Beloved Leader.’
          ‘If it was fired last November, shouldn’t it have arrived by now?’
          ‘It was very slow moving. Intelligence information is that they used Bullet instead of Boom.’
          ‘And the second part of the plan?’
          ‘I shall have my army surround the opposition HQ in Lagos Road, and then send my bombers to destroy the inflammatory material they intended to use against the government.’
          ‘What inflammatory material is that?’
          ‘They have stolen medical records showing that three quarters of the Cabinet comes from Kasama.’
          ‘That information is surely incorrect,’ said Cycle Mata sternly.
          ‘They deliberately selected that information to mislead the public,’ explained the Great Bag. ‘It so happens that I weigh 750kg, whereas the combined weight of all the others in the Cabinet adds up to only 250kg.’
          ‘And the third part of your plan?’
          ‘As the coup plotters flee the bombs, they will be found guilty of attacking us as they hit their heads against our batons and rifle butts.’
          ‘Very good,’ said Cycle Mata. ‘This will teach the opposition not to tell lies about us.’
          The next afternoon the Kitchen Cabinet was sitting around the kitchen table awaiting news of the coup d’etat. Suddenly the Great Bag’s phone rang. ‘Hallo? Hallo? You bombed what? Where? You eedjit, I said Lagos Road, not Lagos. What? Declared war? Oh My God!’
          He turned to the others. ‘Nigeria has declared war!’
          ‘Oh good,’ said Dotty Scotty. ‘This will unite the people against the common enemy, and we shall have to lock up all the subversive elements that might undermine national unity!’
          ‘Yes!’ said Cycle Mata. ‘We’ve got a plan at last!’ 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cycle Mata Deported

Cycle Mata Deported

          I found Sara already at breakfast, largely hidden behind the Daily Nation which was propped up against the huge teapot that she inherited from her mother. ‘Good morning darling,’ I said, as I sat down and poured myself a bowl of cornflakes. ‘What’s the news this morning? What’s Cycle Mata done now?’
          ‘He’s been deported,’ she replied.
          ‘Don’t be silly,’ I laughed. ‘He’s the one who does the deporting, so how can he be deported?’
          ‘I only know what I read in the paper,’ she said. ‘It says here that reliable sources from within State House have confirmed that Cycle Mata was helicoptered out of State House in the early hours of Tuesday morning.’
          ‘Ha ha,’ I laughed, ‘did he serve himself with the deportation order?’
          ‘According to this report,’ said Sara, ‘it was all arranged very smoothly. ‘He was just told that he was being flown to Mpulungu, where he would officially designate two new provinces and twelve new districts in the area which was previously known as Lake Tanganyika.’
          ‘Well,’ I admitted, ‘that bit certainly rings true. It was a project very dear to his heart.’
          ‘But instead,’ Sara explained, ‘he was flown to Dar-es-Salaam.’
          ‘Of course,’ I laughed, ‘there’s always been the suspicion that he’s really a Tanzanian. Perhaps he’ll do better there. And he’ll be able to create even more provinces in the Indian Ocean.’
          ‘You don’t believe this story, do you?’
          ‘When you’ve been in the newspaper business as long as I have,’ I said, ‘you learn to be skeptical. Yesterday’s screaming headline on the front page is tomorrow’s little apology on page twelve. Besides, it’s only the Minister for Bullets and Deportations who can issue a deportation order, not reliable sources from within State House.’
          ‘You’ve been so busy scoffing at the story,’ said Sara, ‘that I haven’t yet been able to read you the quote from the Minister, Mr Eager Bungle, where he confirms that on Monday night he issued a deportation order against Cycle Mata.’
          ‘Poof,’ I poofed. ‘If you believe that, you’ll believe anything. What reason did he give for deporting Cycle Mata?’
          ‘What a silly question,’ Sara laughed. ‘Everybody knows that the Minister of Bullets and Deportations issues a deportation order when he decides that a person is a threat to peace and good order.’
          ‘Ah ha!’ I laughed. ‘Now I see the minister was put in an awkward position, with all the rising public resentment against the broken promises, firing on peaceful demonstrators and malicious prosecution of political opponents. Ha ha! Obviously he realized that Cycle Mata was a serious threat to peace and good order. His public duty was clear! He had no option but to issue the order!’
          ‘There must be more to it than that,’ Sara objected. ‘Surely these ministers have to take their instructions from Cycle Mata.’
          ‘Exactly,’ I laughed. ‘That’s why I say the story is ridiculous.’
          ‘No it isn’t,’ said Sara, as she read another bit from the front page. ‘The reliable source from State House explains what happened. It seems that, late on Monday night, Cycle Mata was meeting with his Kitchen Cabinet when…’
          ‘Kitchen Cabinet?’ I wondered. ‘What’s that?’
          ‘You don’t know them?’ laughed Sara. ‘They’re the little gang of unelected mafia who actually run the country. People like Mulembe Cheato, Red Mwimbi, Mumbwe Malole and Splinter Kapimbe. Apparently that fateful Monday night one of these slimy creatures attempted to ingratiate himself by saying Cycle Mata, O Beloved Master, your ministers are just office boys who will do whatever you tell them. And another of the odious flatterers said Yes, you are such a Mighty Leader, they respect you so much, they’ll do whatever you say! Then another went further, saying Your word is law O King! Even if you phoned Eager Bungle and told him to deport you, the halfwit would do it straight away!'
          ‘Then apparently Cycle Mata got annoyed with this nauseating and dangerous flattery, and reacted angrily by saying OK, let’s try it! So he phoned the mentally challenged Eager Bungle and shouted Send me a deportation order immediately, otherwise I’m demoting you to DC in Mwinilunga!
          ‘So the whole thing was just a joke,’ I laughed. ‘A storm in a teacup. Just another cock-up from a confused and incompetent government, drunk with power. Bungle can put things straight by just admitting that he made a mistake and reversing the deportation order!’
          ‘But according to this report,’ Sara laughed, as she read again from the newspaper, ‘it’s not as easy as that. Bungle now says that the deportation order can be reversed only if the proper channels are followed.’
          ‘But what are the proper channels?’
          ‘Obviously,' said Sara, 'He has to get new instructions from the Great Leader.’
          ‘But that’s impossible!’ I gasped. ‘If Cycle Mata has been deported, then there’s no legitimate authority to give him fresh instructions! The government has collapsed!’
          ‘Don't worry about that,’ laughed Sara, ‘A small country like ours can’t afford a huge expensive government, we’re better off without them. Now we shall be able to afford to build more universities and create more jobs and get rid of the infestors and parasites. Now Cycle Mata’s promises will all come true at last! More money in our pockets!’
          ‘It’s too good to be true!’ I shouted, as I grabbed the newspaper from behind the teapot and read the headline: HAKAINDE ARRESTED FOR DRIVING TOO SLOWLY AND REFUSING TO BRIBE A POLICEMAN.  
          ‘I knew it!' I laughed in triumph. 'I said from the start that I didn’t believe it! You were just having me on! You made it all up!'
          ‘Read the Hakainde story,’ she laughed. ‘It’s even more unbelievable!’  


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Witch Hunt

Witch Hunt

          ‘Mr Ha Ha,’ said the judge, as he leant towards the accused, ‘you have been charged with landing as mfwiti on the roof the girls’ hostel of Evelyn Horny College. You were found naked in the girls’ shower, thereby causing a great itching of the girls’ private parts and giving all the students such a terrible fright as to cause a massive and simultaneous blocking of all the toilets. What is your explanation for your inexplicable behaviour?’
          ‘Ha ha ha,’ laughed Ha Ha, ‘I wonder what is the explanation for your inexplicable accusations? I did not arrive by mfwiti, nor was I found naked.  I walked fully clothed through the front gate and talked to some of the girls.  They told me about the filthy condition of the bathrooms that had caused itching of their private parts.’
          ‘I’m not sure if you appreciate the seriousness of the charges against you,’ said the judge sternly. ‘You are charged with several counts of witchcraft which were deliberately aimed at bringing this government into disrepute. With your dreadful spells, curses, charms and incantations you have destroyed the students’ itch for education and replaced it with a carnal itch in their private parts.’
          ‘Nonsense,’ laughed Ha Ha, who was clearly enjoying this moment of fame provided free of charge by the government. ‘The problem of itching was caused by the Minister for Closing Colleges, the notorious Pompous Professor Red Hot Piri-Piri, who got the students into such a red hot rage that they were itching to…’
          ‘That’s another of the charges against you,’ interrupted the judge. ‘Insulting the minister is bordering on insulting the appointing authority, which is bordering on defamation of the president, which is bordering on contravention of the Section 23 of the Suspension of Free Speech Act of 1893.’
          ‘This trial is just part of a witch hunt,’ sneered Ha Ha. ‘You are just trying to blame imaginary witches for turning the Patriotic Fanfare into the Pabwato Fiasco!’
          ‘Ha ha, Mr Ha Ha,’ sneered the judge, ‘suddenly you seem to know a lot about witchcraft! I hope you also know that witchcraft is illegal under Section 257 Paragraph 279 Clause 59 of the Penal Code of 1892. We must observe the Rule of Law.’
          ‘Yes,’ muttered someone in the crowd, ‘We must observe the Rule of Law!’
          ‘Where is the Rule of Law?’ said another, as he looked around, and others looked under their seats.’
          ‘Perhaps the Rule of Law went to the toilet,’ said somebody else.
          ‘There’s certainly a nasty smell from the somewhere,’ chuckled another.
          ‘Silence!’ shouted the judge.
          ‘You are also accused of using your mfwiti to send a platoon of the Punching Fist Militia to Sudan, and then accusing the Perfect Farce of sending them there for military training. This dangerous long distance witchcraft was calculated to make the PF look foolish.’
          ‘They need no assistance from me,’ laughed Ha Ha. ‘They do it very well all by themselves.’
          ‘Ha ha ha ha,’ laughed the crowd.
          ‘You are also accused,’ continued the judge, ‘of putting powerful muti all around the entrance to Collum Mine to prevent it being visited by mine inspectors, thereby causing appalling conditions in the mine. That is how you deliberately caused a riot just to embarrass the government.
          ‘There is also evidence,’ said the judge, ‘that the same evil muti was used to disorientate the police when they attempted to question you at Lusaka Central Torture Station. This muti caused police to fire tear gas canisters into a closed space, thereby making you entirely responsible for their unprofessional and murderous behaviour.
          ‘The government’s entire programme of implementing its election promises has had to be suspended in order to counter your relentless programme of subversive anti-government witchcraft. You are therefore also being charged with treason.
          ‘I now adjourn this case until next month, when you will be found guilty and sentenced. Just count yourself lucky that you live in a democracy where we follow the due process of law.’
          Now the judge turned to the Clerk of Court. ‘Is that the last case for this morning?’
          ‘No, M’Lord,’ answered the Clerk, as a tall bearded man in a long white cassock appeared in the dock. ‘There’s one more.’
          ‘One more witchcraft?’
          ‘Even worse,’ answered the Clerk. ‘Christianity!’
          The judge looked severely towards the accused. ‘What is your name?’
          ‘Jesus Christ,’ he replied.
          ‘Don’t be funny with me,’ snapped the judge. ‘Taking the name of the Lord in vain is an offence under the Ten Commandments Act of 4372BC, Section 5.’
          Then he turned to the Clerk. ‘What else has he done?’
          ‘He announced from his pulpit that the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer, contrary to the prophecy in the Gospel according to St Michael.’
          ‘Verily I say unto you,’ said Jesus, ‘I have never heard of your St Michael, and answer only to the authority of My Father who is in Heaven.’
          ‘Heresy!’ declared the judge. ‘In our Christian Nation the authority of scripture must be respected! I order him to be deported immediately!’
          No sooner had he spoken than Jesus began to rise vertically from the dock. Up he floated, up through the high open window, up and away.
          ‘That’s witchcraft!’ said the judge, as all eyes were raised to Heaven. ‘I should have given him five years for contravening the Law of Gravity!’
          ‘Two thousand years we waited for Him to return,’ said a voice from the back, ‘and He didn’t last five minutes.’
          ‘Silence!’ shouted the judge.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Colonial Mine

Colonial Mine
          ‘It must be time for the news,’ said Sara. ‘Turn on Muvi TV.’
           As the picture on our ancient Supersonic came into fuzzy focus, we were presented with two rows of men, facing each other in sullen confrontation. In the foreground stood a line of soldiers, guns at the ready, and pointing at an opposing line of thin and starving workers, dressed in rags. Behind them was an ugly black entrance to a mine, just big enough to take a small railway line down to the depths of hell. Over the top of entrance was written Colonial Mine.
          ‘Good God!’ I exclaimed, ‘What’s going on? Is this Afghanistan? Or the Americans bringing democracy to Iraq?’
          ‘Worse than that,’ said Sara grimly, ‘This looks more like labour relations at one of our mines. They’re probably conducting wage negotiations.’
          ‘What?' I gasped. 'Conducted by a three star general in full ceremonial uniform?’
          ‘That must be the Military Attaché of the Imperial Power,’ explained Sara.
          As we spoke the Military Attaché opened his attaché case and pulled out a pile of pieces of cardboard all connected by string, took hold of two sticks and held them high, and, hey presto! suddenly there appeared a cardboard puppet.
          ‘The Imperial Power never speaks directly to us,’ explained Sara, ‘they always speak through one of their local puppets.’
          ‘What’s the puppet’s name?’ I wondered.
          ‘Do puppets have names?' she chuckled. 'He’s just one of the nameless members of the Puppet Front. He’s probably the Minister for Starvation Wages.’
          ‘But where does he come from?’ I persisted.
          ‘From the Puppet Factory,' laughed Sara. ‘That's where they all come from. The first thing any Imperial Power does is to set up a Puppet Factory. Then they bow to the puppets they have manufactured for themselves, and call them the Puppet Front.’
          Now the Military Attache bent down and whispered something into the ear of his personal Puppet, who then spoke with borrowed ferocity to the hapless starving miners. ‘You useless donkeys,' began the captive Puppet Fraud, 'you show no gratitude. Your Beloved Puppet Fuhrer is working so hard to find more investors that he has had to double his own salary. Therefore there is no money to pay you more!’
          ‘He’s calling them donkeys,’ I protested. ‘But he’s the one who looks like a donkey!’
          ‘Some people can’t recognise their own inadequacies,’ explained Sara. ‘Instead they project their own inadequacies onto other people.’
          At last one starving skeleton plucked up courage and shouted at the Puppet Fraud, ‘We want our housing allowance!’
          As the Military Attache again whispered in Puppet’s ear, the Puppet shouted back ‘You donkeys do not need houses, you’ve always lived in kraals!’
          ‘We want transport money!’ shouted another.
          ‘This is a Christian Nation! The Lord gave donkeys four legs for their own transport!’
          ‘We want protective clothing!’
          ‘God gave you donkeys a thick skin for protection!’
          ‘We want the minimum wage! We were employed as miners, not donkeys!’
           ‘The Imperial Experts are the miners,’ sneered Puppet Fool, ‘you were hired as donkeys. Try reading your employment contract.’
          ‘The Imperial Experts have no skills,’ shouted the angry miners, as the Military Attache continued to busily chew the ear of the Puppet, and the soldiers levelled the barrels of their rifles at the ungrateful mob of miners.
          Now the Puppet assumed a very serious and offended expression. ‘Do not insult the brotherly love between our two countries. Our friends have come here to help you. They have certificates in carpentry, drilling, digging, welding and escaping from prison. Others have diplomas in whipping and shooting.’
          ‘Just give us the money!’
          ‘However,’ continued Puppet Farce, ‘my Imperial brother and I have discussed your plight and we are prepared to be generous. We have agreed between the two of us, and on your behalf, that if you go back to work immediately we are prepared to forget your previous bad behaviour of refusing to work for nothing. Of course we shall have to fire the ringleaders.’
         ‘Just give us enough to feed our children!’
         ‘Only education can help your children. In this regard, I am please to inform you had my Imperial brother has also intimated to me that the Empire is planning to build a university in Lusaka where your sons and grandsons can learn drilling and digging. Then your sons and grandsons will become Mining Experts, and the Imperial Experts can go back to home, and this mine will be yours forever. Your own land will finally be yours!’
         ‘This mine is dangerous,’ shouted one brave skeleton. ‘At least pay us danger money!’
         ‘This mine is very safe,’ retorted Puppet Frantic. ‘I’m told by the mine manager that there have never been more than ten deaths in any one week!’
         But as he spoke there was a rumbling sound from below. Then the ground began to sink under Puppet Fright and his platoon of shivering soldiers. With no further warning, and very suddenly, they all disappeared into a large hole in the ground, leaving behind a cloud of rising dust. The miners looked over the edge of this instant precipice, and crossed themselves earnestly, thanking the Lord for their own deliverance from this dreadful collumity.
        ‘It’s not just us,’ said one miner sadly, ‘the entire country is on the edge of disaster.’
         ‘I suppose,’ said another, ‘that we’ll all go to jail for this.’
         Now the TV screen was suddenly filled with the seriously sleepy face of Comatoze Mwanza. ‘I hope you enjoyed our Muvi Historical Documentary on the Miners’ Riots of 1947. Standby for the news, which follows shortly.’
        ‘I hope you didn’t think that the documentary was part of tonight’s news!’ laughed Sara.
        ‘Of course not,’ I replied. 'I realised immediately it was ancient history.'
         'History,' said Sara, 'has a habit or repeating itself.'