Tuesday, December 17, 2013



            ‘I am sitting here this morning,’ announced the magistrate, ‘as the coroner assigned to assist the police in their investigations. The task of this court is to establish the cause of the death of Ms Democracy. The relatives of Democracy, commonly known as Citizens, have claimed that she died as the result of a vicious attack on Democracy by Dictatorship. On the other hand the representatives of Dictatorship, commonly known as cadres, have firmly maintained that they always supported and loved Democracy and would never do anything to harm her, and that she died of natural causes. On the other hand, the Women’s Hobby has suggested that death may have been caused by Gender Based Murder, sometimes known as GBM. Because of these conflicting interests, the court will hear postmortem reports from three different pathologists.’
          The magistrate now turned towards the investigating offer. ‘Inspector, is this GBM the former husband of Democracy?’
          ‘Good gracious no,’ replied the inspector, ‘GBM has never had any relationship with Democracy. GBM and Democracy have always been completely incompatible.’
          ‘Quite so,’ said the magistrate. ‘But in the case of the death of a wife we must always treat the husband as the first suspect. So who is the husband of the late departed?’
          ‘She was happily married to Constitution,’ replied the inspector.
          ‘Constitution!’ exclaimed the magistrate. ‘But surely it is the job of Constitution to protect Democracy! How did he allow his own dear partner to die?’
          ‘He is in jail, M’Lord, awaiting trial.’
          ‘On what charge?’
          ‘On a charge of trying to limit the powers of the Dictator, M’Lord. Constitution is now locked up indefinitely, pending correction in a correctional facility.’
          ‘Did he not seek bail?’
          ‘He did my Lord. He wanted to be freed so that he could protect Democracy. But bail was refused.’
          ‘Refused?’ said the magistrate. ‘On what grounds?’
          ‘On the ground that Democracy was already dead!’
          ‘Quite right,’ declared the magistrate. ‘There’s no need for a Constitution when Democracy is already dead. Do let’s get on with hearing from the first pathologist, Mr Mfwa.’
Mr Mfwa walked to the witness stand and swore never to tell the truth, so help him God. ‘Now give us your report on the cause of death,’ requested the magistrate.
‘The first thing I noticed when I examined the body,’ began Mfwa, ‘was that all the fingers were missing.’
‘Had she died from loss of blood?’ asked the magistrate.
‘Oh no,’ replied Mfwa. ‘Apparently they had been sliced off many years earlier when she tried to hang on to a banner saying We want freedom of the press.
‘Did she have any other wounds?’ asked the magistrate irritably.
‘Both of her legs were missing?’ declared Mfwa.
‘What had caused that?’
‘Going on a protest march without a police permit.’
‘Was that the cause of death?’
‘Oh no,’ replied Mfwa. ‘But it had caused her to be confined to her house. That’s why we haven’t been seeing much of Democracy in recent years.’
‘Look, Mr Mfwa,’ shouted the magistrate. ‘Did you find out the cause of death?’
‘Yes,’ he replied calmly. ‘I found a very large aspirin stuck in her throat.’
‘So she suffocated!’ said the magistrate.
‘No,’ said Mfwa, ‘she died of a very bad headache. Natural causes.’
‘You’re giving me a very bad headache,’ sneered the magistrate. Then, turning to the Clerk of Court, ‘Bring on the next pathologist.’
‘Mr Yafwa,’ said the magistrate wearily, ‘Do you have any different explanation for the death of Democracy?’
‘She died,’ said Yafwa slowly, ‘because her head had been cut off by one slice from a very sharp instrument, probably a panga. Death was from unnatural causes.’
The magistrate now turned to Mfwa, ‘Well,’ he said sarcastically, ‘I wonder how you noticed missing fingers and legs, but failed to notice a missing head?’
‘It is possible to wonder at a lot of things,’ sneered Mfwa. ‘I wonder why my learned colleague never considered that I had to cut off the head in order to find the aspirin lodged in her throat.’
The magistrate now turned hopefully to the third pathologist. ‘Mr Fwile, to what do you attribute the death of Democracy?’
‘M’Lord, I agree with my learned colleague Mr Yafwa that the cause of death was decapitation caused by a single mighty slice from a very sharp blade.’
‘In order words, unnatural causes?’ asked the magistrate.
‘Oh no,’ said Yafwa. ‘Bearing in mind Newton’s Second Law of Motion, the large mass of the blade, combined with its high rate of deceleration when striking the neck, and the large concentration of pressure caused by the sharpness of the blade, it was absolutely natural and inevitable that the blow would cause decapitation. I have no hesitation in concluding that death was by natural causes.’
‘On the basis of the majority view of the pathologists,’ said the magistrate, ‘I declare that Democracy died of natural causes, and that no criminal investigations are necessary. I declare the case closed, and hope that the soul of Democracy will rest in peace.’ So saying, he rose to his feet and disappeared into his chambers.

As people left the court, they talked amongst themselves:
‘It’s just as well it wasn’t murder.’
‘We don’t want murder here.’
‘We are a peaceful people.’
‘I always thought she was a bit of a trouble maker.’
‘Well out the way if you ask me.’
‘Good thing that Constitution has been locked up. He was the one giving her wrong ideas.’
‘Now she can rest in peace.’
‘This is a peaceful country.’
‘Especially at Leopards Hill.’

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Michael's Master Plan

Michael’s Master Plan

            ‘Sometimes,’ I sighed, ‘I think Michael doesn’t know what he’s doing. How can he be sacking the nurses for asking for more money? Isn’t he the very one who promised them more money in their pockets?’
          ‘Of course he knows what he’s doing,’ laughed Kupela. ‘He’s trying to force them all to go and get jobs in Britain, where they’ll be paid four times as much. Then they’ll be able to send money to their relatives here, and we’ll all have more money in our pockets.’
          ‘Don’t be silly,’ I said. ‘If all our nurses go to the UK, who’s going to run our hospitals? Our entire health system will collapse! You’ve got to see the bigger picture!’
          ‘Poor Daddy,’ Kupela scoffed, ‘it’s you who can’t see the bigger picture. Nowadays you’ve got to think globally. Have you considered that that a nurse earning $200 dollars in Beijing thinks that $800 dollars in Lusaka is a small fortune? So we can easily attract Chinese nurses to come here!’
          ‘Hah!’ I exclaimed. ‘What a silly argument! In that case the Chinese nurses would also go to London to earn an even larger fortune!’
          ‘Oh no they wouldn’t,’ said Kupela, ‘because London hospitals practice Western medicine and don’t recruit Chinese nurses.’
          ‘Well done!’ I laughed. ‘You’ve just destroyed your own argument because our Zambian hospitals also practice Western medicine.’
          ‘On no they don’t,’ retorted Kupela. ‘They’re not practicing anything at all because they don’t have any medicine or equipment. The wards are just waiting rooms for the mortuary. This country just hasn’t got the money to provide health care or education. Poor old Chikwanda is borrowing a billion dollars a year to run schools that make us dull and hospitals that make us sick. And what’s more, the country will soon be completely bankrupt!’
          ‘So the answer is to sack all the nurses?’
          ‘It’s all part of Michael’s new Master Plan. He’s bringing in 20,000 nurses from China.’
          ‘What? We’ll all be going to Chinese hospitals?’
          ‘Of course not, these hospitals will be for the Chinese.’
          ‘What! There won’t be enough Chinese patients for so many hospitals, unless they’re all planning to be sick!’
          ‘Michael knows what he’s doing. He’s going to bring in another million Chinese to take over the rest of the mines, set up manufacturing plants, turn the forests into plantations, and so on.’
          ‘Half a minute! Hold on! If the Chinese take over all our hospitals, where is the health service for the rest of us?’
          ‘We shall return to traditional medicine, which worked very well in pre-colonial days. In those days people were very healthy and lived to a ripe old age. Did you know that our very high rate of maternal mortality is caused by modern maternity hospitals? Traditional birth attendants are much safer.’
          ‘This is all romantic poppy-cock,’ I spluttered. ‘What are traditional healers going to do about cholera, typhoid, TB and HIV? Huh! Answer me that!’
          ‘These are all urban diseases,’ she replied calmly. ‘We’ll all return to village life. Back to the land! Anyway, we never really mastered city life. Never became properly urbanized. Lusaka is not a city, it is just a collection of villagers in a huge village. That’s why it is so chaotic and full of urban diseases!’
          ‘So our cities will be abandoned? Left standing empty?’
          ‘Of course not! The Chinese will come in to run the factories, smelt the iron, sort out the traffic lights, and that sort of thing.’
          ‘So what shall we be doing in the village?’
          ‘We shall be on display for the Chinese tourists. Cultural tourism is becoming very popular and we can rake in a lot of money. That’s why Michael is building all these roads everywhere, so that the Chinese can visit the villages. The Chinese are very interested to see what Africa looked like before the missionaries came and ruined everything.’
          ‘So what sort of government shall we have?’
          ‘Exactly, that’s the question. Why d’you think Michael grabbed the draft constitution from the Technical Committee? He intends to write one which fits into his Master Plan!’
          ‘So how will it be different?’
          ‘Difficult to say,’ said Kupela. ‘Much of central government will undoubtedly have to be abolished, since government will have to be localized under the chiefs. We wouldn’t need a judiciary, the chief would preside over each local court. Maybe there would still be a DC.’
          ‘A District Commissioner?’
          ‘No, a District Chinese, to make sure that the villagers treat the Chinese tourists with proper respect.’
          ‘So would we still have a parliament?’
          ‘Obviously not,’ said Kupela. ‘We would just follow tradition and customary law.’
          ‘But who would govern the Chinese?’
          ‘They’re already well organized and never take any notice of us. They would probably want to co-ordinate their activities with other Chinese operating in neighbouring countries. It is rumoured that they might set up a Chinese Federal Government based in Harare.’
          ‘So would we still have a president and ministers?’
          ‘Of course,’ said Kupela.
          ‘But what would they be doing?’
          ‘Obviously they would have to collect taxes so that they can continue to live in ministerial houses, travel to international conferences and that sort of thing.’
          ‘It looks to me as if we wouldn’t need a government at all!’
          ‘Oh yes we would!’
          ‘Why?’ I persisted.
          ‘Because,’ said Kupela, ‘We’re an independent country!’

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

King Panga

King Panga

          ‘Grandpa,’ said Nawiti, ‘tell me a story about a king.’
          ‘What sort of king do you want? A good one or a bad one?’
          ‘A bad one!’ cackled Nawiti, rubbing her hands in glee.
          ‘I’m glad you’ve asked for a bad one,’ I chuckled, ‘because good kings are hard to find. I think I’ve got just the sort of king you’re looking for. His name was King Panga, and he lived long ago in the Kingdom of Zedia.’
          ‘Why was he a bad king?’
          ‘Who can tell why he was bad. Maybe when he was small, his mother didn’t punish him when he did wrong things.’
          ‘No, I meant why did people say he was bad.’
          ‘Because,’ I explained, ‘King Panga was far too bossy, and wouldn’t listen to anybody. He would tell the police whom to lock up, instead of letting them decide for themselves. And he would lock up his enemies even if they hadn’t done anything wrong.’
          ‘Look, Grandpa,’ said Nawiti, ‘that’s how kings were in those days. It’s no good being a king if you can’t boss everybody around. The job just attracts that type of person.’
          ‘You’ve got a point there,’ I conceded. ‘But King Panga also used to waste the people’s money. He wasted a lot of money building a tall tower, reaching right up into the sky, so that he could walk up to Heaven to consult God.’
          ‘So he went to Heaven?’
          ‘No. The tower got only halfway, then it fell down.’
          ‘Well,’ said Nawiti, ‘that’s the sort of thing you expect from a king. What else did he do?’
          ‘He built himself a huge golden coach pulled by twenty-four elephants…’
          ‘You mean horses.’
          ‘No. In those days there weren’t any horses in Zedia.’
          ‘Look, Grandpa, you have to understand how things were in those days. That’s the sort of thing kings do. You can’t have a king without a golden coach. The other kings would laugh at him.’
          ‘But he was wasting money. There were no nurses or medicines in the hospitals, no books in the schools and no seeds for planting. Meanwhile the king was wasting money on building roads everywhere so that he could drive his coach everywhere.’
          ‘So what did they do?’
          ‘Led by a bishop, they all went to the palace to see the king. And the bishop spoke for all of them, saying You can’t just rule anyhow like this, you must have a constitution.
‘And he king replied A constitution, what’s that?
          ‘Then the bishop told him, saying A constitution is a set of rules which we will give you, setting out the limits of your powers, requiring you to listen to others, and making sure you look after us and not just yourself.
          ‘And the king replied, saying Show me a copy of these rules!
          ‘But the bishop replied, saying We shall show you a copy of these rules in two years time, after we have agreed amongst ourselves.
          ‘And the king sneered, saying Huh, I could do the job myself in ten minutes.
          ‘And did they come back in two years time?’
          ‘Oh yes,’ I said. ‘The bishop and his priests went all round the country, holding meetings everywhere with everybody, and finally they drew up a constitution of ten basic rules which, even if followed by a foolish king, could make him appear quite sensible.’
          ‘So they went back to the palace to give the constitution to the king?’
          ‘They did indeed. But they found the king’s soldiers at the gate, armed with machetes. And the sergeant in charge said The king says that it does not need a thousand people to deliver ten rules. He commands that only ten people can enter the palace, each carrying one rule. These ten people will constitute the constitution which shall be given to the king!
          ‘And did the people agree?’ asked Nawiti.
          ‘They had no choice,’ I explained, ‘because the machetes were very sharp.’
          ‘Oh dear,’ said Nawiti, ‘what happened in the palace? Was the constitution presented to the king?’
          ‘Nobody knows what happened inside that palace,’ I said grimly. ‘The people waited all night outside the gates. Early next morning there was a sound of marching, the gates opened, and out came a company of soldiers carrying on their shoulders ten coffins, which were laid on the ground before the weeping crowd.’
          ‘Then the sergeant in charge addressed the crowd, saying The king has declared that he finds these ten rules unnecessary. He also declares that it is not the job of the people to give the king a constitution, it is the duty of the king to give his people a constitution.
          ‘With this announcement, the sergeant threw down his machete, its blade sticking into the lid of one of the coffins, the cold steel quivering in the morning air. There! shouted the sergeant, There is your new constitution.’
          ‘That wasn’t a constitution, it was just a machete!’ said Nawiti, as tears streamed down her face.
          ‘It was a rule of governance,’ I explained. ‘Down the side of the machete blade was inscribed Nobody can question the King. This made it clear that the country was not to be ruled by a constitution, but by the machete.  And that is why, from that day to this, a machete is always known as a panga in the land of Zedia.’
          ‘Oh dear,’ said Nawiti, ‘he really was a bad king.’

          ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘Let that be a lesson to you. If you ask for a bad king, that’s what you get.’

Tuesday, November 26, 2013



          ‘Ha ha!’ Sara hooted. ‘See how we wasted all our money, effort, agony and support trying to get Chipolopolo into the World Cup. And instead along comes Shepolopolo with an effortless smile, trounces everybody and off they go. See how they have quietly shamed all the noisy, pompous and useless men!
          ‘Shush,’ laughed Kupela, ‘We women are supposed to pretend that our men are superior. It is our job to make them feel strong and powerful. Soccer is supposed to be a man’s game, and our job is just to wash and iron their football shirts and…’
          ‘Wash their football shirts!’ Sara cackled, ‘Hardly any of them play! Ten thousand go to the stadium to watch twenty-two men kick a ball up and down. Another fifty thousand watch on television. They cheer it, pay for it, discuss it, celebrate their victories with beer, mourn their losses with beer, but they don’t play it! Most of them are too fat and unfit to play it! If the Minister of Sport had the ball at his feet, he wouldn’t even be able to see it! The plain fact is that they’re no good at it. But when we put together a team of eleven young women – off they go to the World Cup!’
          ‘It was because they had a male coach,’ I said.
          ‘What do you know about it?’ scoffed Sara. ‘I’m giving you a red card!’
          ‘The way our society works,’ said Kupela, ‘our female role is to support our men, and make them feel successful and powerful. They run the government, they are the heads of household, they take the decisions. When they secretly feel uncertain and incapable, and get in an awful mess, but try not to show it, it’s our job to believe in them, console them, and tell them they are men, strong and clever. Now along come these Shepolopolo and upset everything, showing that women are better at the man’s own game! It puts the rest of us in an awkward position! Especially if we are caught laughing!’
          ‘Don’t upset yourself,’ I sneered, ‘one football game won’t overturn our traditional patriarchy. We men are quite safe.’
          ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about,’ snapped Sara. ‘There never was traditional patriarchy. I know from what my grandmother Sibongile told me about village life in pre-colonial days. It was the women who were in charge of the men!’
          ‘Poof,’ I laughed. ‘How did they manage that?’
          ‘They produced the food, and cooked it in the matriarchal cooking pot, and therefore they controlled the production and distribution of resources.’
          ‘But the men were bigger and stronger.’
          ‘Not when they only got their fair share from the cooking pot. They were much smaller then. Their only useful function was fertilization. Otherwise they were sent away for the useless men’s games, such as fighting each other, hunting, stealing cattle, and so on.
          ‘Huh,’ I said. ‘How exactly did the women control them?’
          ‘In those days their games were very dangerous, so there weren’t many to control. That’s how polygamy started, because men were outnumbered. Men were controlled by the matriarchal cooking pot. Herbs and special muti were used to help them provide sexual services when specially needed. But the pot also produced beer and kachasu to put them to sleep when not needed. All sorts of feasts and festivities were invented to keep them drunk most of the time, so that the women could get on with their work in peace. The women had their own nsaka, or parliament, where they could discuss the problems of men who had become a nuisance, and also agree on suitable punishment  – such as banishment to another village, or even to live alone in the forest. In those days the playful men were under control, and the village was rich and prosperous, and starvation was unheard of.’
          ‘Oh yes,’ I sneered. ‘And how did this matriarchal utopia suddenly disappear?’
          ‘A terrible catastrophe hit the land!’
          ‘Oh yes? What was that? An earthquake? Volcanic eruption? Tornado?’
          ‘Worse than that,’ said Sara solemnly. ‘The Europeans arrived.’
          ‘I heard about that,’ I said. ‘They brought development.’
          ‘They brought disaster,’ she replied grimly. ‘They came from a patriarchal society. When the Europeans saw men being ruled by women they were appalled. They vowed to stay in the country until they had changed the whole system, and the men ruled the women.’
          ‘So how did they do that?’ wondered Kupela.
          ‘They came with their own patriarchal cooking pot, to cook up a different form of government.’
          ‘And what was in the pot?’
          ‘A completely new system of social organization: Schools; wage employment; civil service; army; parliament; ministers; beer halls; soccer games. A new public domain of control. These were the essential ingredients of the patriarchal cooking pot.’
          ‘No food in the patriarchal cooking pot?’
          ‘No. It was more ideological than gastronomical.’
          ‘And the pot was only for men?’
          ‘Exactly. The public domain was only for men, and women were kept out. Women had to stay in the home and in the village, which became the domestic domain. This foreign system was called colonial government, and it’s aim was to put men in charge.’
          ‘And did the Europeans succeed?’
          ‘It took them sixty years, but they successfully disempowered and subordinated the women, and put the men in charge. Having fully established this male colonial government, they left in 1964. All record of women’s earlier dominance was expunged from the history books.’
          ‘But today, at this late stage,’ wondered Kupela, ‘can we still return to our old traditional values, our earlier prosperity, and chase these hopeless playful men out of government?’
          ‘Of course we can!’ declared Sara. ‘And the revolution has already begun with the famous victory of our brave sisters, the heroic Shepolopolo!’
          ‘And what should we call this new revolution?’ wondered Kupela.
          ‘It shall be called,’ declared Sara, ‘The Struggle for Independence’.            

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Perfect Fraud

Perfect Fraud
‘I feel sorry for Stiffen Mususha,’ said Kupela. ‘One minute he’s an honorable minister and the next minute he’s a dishonorable scoundrel.’
          ‘Half a minute,’ I said, ‘he had a forged certificate saying he was qualified as an accountant, when in fact he was only qualified as an acrobat.’
          ‘That’s not true,’ said Kupela. ‘He had a certificate from NIPA saying that he had been awarded a DA. It was not his fault if his employers didn’t know that NIPA stood for National Institute for Performing Arts, and that his DA was a Diploma in Acrobatics rather than Accountancy.’
          ‘Huh,’ I scoffed. ‘He willfully deceived them.’
          ‘It was their fault if they didn’t check with NIPA. Maybe his employers knew very well what they were doing. Some of them deliberately recruit acrobats into their accountancy department to turn the books upside down, so that profit turns into loss. Such creative accounting is just like high wire acrobatics; everybody laughs and cheers as the acrobat walks off with their money. The copper mines all pay high salaries to acrobatic accountants.’
          ‘But he cheated.’
          ‘Really Daddy,’ laughed Kupela. ‘Accountants are employed to cheat the ZRA. How can you criticize him for having the most important basic qualification?’
          ‘Well, he was not fit to be an honorable minister!’
           ‘None of them are honorable!’ laughed Kupela. ‘The only difference between him and the other ministers was that he actually qualified to do the job he was given. As Minister of Acrobatics, he was the only minister with a relevant certificate. And his acrobatics was so good that he could walk on his hands just as well as on his feet, and so convincingly that nobody was quite sure which end was which, or which end he was talking out of. And when he joined a dancing queen on the dance floor he was so acrobatic that nobody could tell which was the dancing queen and which was the minister, especially when the two of them were thoroughly entwined in his famous Erotic Dance of Ecstatic Coition.’
          ‘I don’t care how you try to twist the argument,’ I growled, ‘we don’t want people who cheat and deceive to get into politics.’
          ‘Hah!’ Kupela hooted. ‘Now your argument has become ridiculous! There’s no other way of getting into politics. Don’t you know that the election victory of the Punching Fist was achieved by pure fraud?’
          ‘Really?’ I said. ‘You mean Michael Sata doesn’t have a Standard Four Certificate?’
          ‘I wouldn’t know about that,’ she laughed. ‘But I do know that the PF Manifesto was Perfect Fraud.’
          ‘On the contrary,’ I said, ‘the Punching Fist Manifesto was a very straightforward statement of what they intended to do when they got into office. And they’re making progress. Where’s the fraud?’
          ‘It’s all in the other one, the Perfect Fraud Manifesto!’
          ‘I’ve never seen that one!’ I laughed.
          ‘Nobody ever has! The Punching Fist Manifesto was seen but not heard. The Perfect Fraud Manifesto was heard but not seen. It was proclaimed from the anthill.’
          ‘And that made it fraud?’
          ‘It kept changing, from one anthill to the next. At least Mususha kept the same certificate and stuck by it. He didn’t keep changing it, or producing new ones wherever he went.’
          ‘But why do you call this anthill manifesto Perfect Fraud’
          ‘At each venue it changed according to what people wanted to hear. It didn’t depend on principles, but only longitude and latitude.’
          ‘That’s politics,’ I laughed. ‘Windfall tax - no windfall tax.  Barotse agreement – Barotse treason.  Chinese go – Chinese stay.  Money in your pocket – Money in my pocket.  90 days – 90 years. Politicians are allowed to change their policies, but they’re not allowed to change their certificates.’
          ‘Oh yes they are!’ cackled Kupela. ‘It’s common in government for the issuing authority to change a certificate. Nowadays you can apply to the ACC to get a certificate certifying that you’re immune from investigation for corruption. This is a very valuable certificate, and a great honor conferred by the highest authority, and it automatically and vastly increases your earning capacity - far more so than a mere Ph.D.’
          ‘You’re confusing two things,’ I said. ‘What you’re talking about is a license, not a certificate. A license can be granted or withdrawn at the discretion of the issuing authority, depending on your behaviour. For example, a radio station license can be withdrawn if the station makes the mistake of interviewing an opposition party leader. But a certificate cannot be withdrawn.’
          ‘Nonsense,’ snorted Kupela. ‘A certificate is just the same! In fact, after NIPA issued Mususha with his certificate, they were the very same ones who withdrew it!’
          ‘But that was because he used it for accountancy instead of acrobatics!’
          ‘But now he had become an honorable minister,’ retorted Kupels, ‘so they could have given him an honorary doctorate in accountancy if they had wanted to!’
          ‘How can an institute of acrobatics confer a doctorate in accountancy?’
          ‘The folly of institutes and universities,’ sneered Kupela, ‘knows no bounds. I remember one former president who had a certificate that was a complete fraud, but a university solved the problem by giving him an honorary doctorate in law.’
          ‘You’ve got the story wrong again,’ I laughed. ‘The certificate you’re talking about was not a fraud, it was a genuine certificate and properly gained. The only problem was that he had changed his name to fit the name on the certificate, which didn’t belong to him.’
          ‘So,’ said Kupela slowly, ‘it wasn’t the certificate that was a fraud, it was him!’
          ‘You’ve got it!’ I said.
          ‘So was he sent to prison?’ she asked.
          ‘No,’ I said. ‘He was given the honorary doctorate.’

          ‘I rest my case,’ she replied.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Never Mind the Cadres

Never Mind the Cadres

            ‘This breakfast is terrible,’ said Christine, as she looked up from her morning newspaper. ‘Even the mealie-meal porridge isn’t properly cooked.’
          ‘Huh,’ growled Michael, as he scowled at his i-pad, ‘You’re the one in charge of the kitchen, I’ve got the whole country to run.’
          ‘That’s the problem,’ said Christine. ‘Your party cadres have taken over the kitchen. Those women from Petauke were all excellent cooks, but last week they were chased by a gang of your party thugs. And your cardres are useless, all they can cook is chicken and nshima, and the nshima is lumpy.’
          ‘Look, Christine,’ said Michael, putting his head in his hands, ‘For Christ sake give me a break. I have the whole country to run, and all you can do is complain about the kitchen staff.’
          ‘Excuse me,’ said Christine. ‘An ignorant gang of your party thugs armed with pangas have taken over my kitchen, and you’re telling me it’s nothing to do with you? Then tell me, who is the one responsible?’
          ‘Try to understand,’ he said, looking up grimly from the bad news on Watchdog, ‘We promised in our manifesto to give jobs to unemployed youths…’
          ‘Did you promise to put them in my kitchen?’ asked Christine, her voice rising.
          ‘You don’t understand these things,’ growled Michael. ‘The president’s kitchen is of the highest strategic importance. The previous cooks were a security risk, all of them were MMD stalwarts who could have poisoned me. We promised in our manifesto to put our faithful party members in all the important government positions.’
          ‘From what you say,’ sneered Christine, ‘it seems that the only promises you have kept are the silly ones. And as for poisoning,’ she said, prodding her finger disdainfully into the cold grey porridge, ‘I may already be in need of a stomach pump.’
          ‘I’m not willing to listen to this kichen tittle-tattle anymore!’ shouted Michael, ‘If you’ve got any more questions about party matters, go and talk to Splinter Kapimbe, he’s the one in charge of party matters. I have important matters of state to attend to.’
          ‘Such as what?’ she wondered. ‘Everyday you spend hours up there in your office, with a long queue of people waiting. What are you doing all the time?’
          ‘They’re all looking for jobs, and waving the damn manifesto in my face. Even you, I’ve got your latest list of twenty-four nieces and nephews looking for jobs in the foreign service.’
          ‘Each embassy,’ said Christine, ‘has a first secretary, a second secretary and a third secretary.’
          ‘I know that,’ he growled. ‘All the vacancies have been filled.’
          ‘But you could have a first assistant to the first secretary, and a second assistant to the first secretary and so on. Then a first assistant to the second secretary and a second assistant to the second secretary and a …
          ‘Well done, my dear, I'd never thought of that. I’m sorry I shouted at you. You really are my best advisor. I’ll make an announcement later this morning that I have just created another thousand jobs…’
          But as they were talking there was a terrible racket of shouting and banging from the kitchen, and then running into the breakfast room came a gang of ruffians wielding kitchen knives and rolling pins! Crash! They went out as fast as they came in, straight through the French windows. They were closely followed by a rival gang of murderous looking thugs wielding pangas and carrying a coffin, who also disappeared through the same French windows shouting ‘Fipayefye! Fipayefye!
          ‘So how do you explain that!’ shouted Christine. ‘Fipayefye? Is that why they’re called the PF?’
          ‘Never mind them,’ said Michael. ‘Just ignore them. Splinter knows what he’s doing. Perhaps he’s cleansing the party from anti-party elements that have infiltrated from the opposition. Or maybe it’s normal militia training. Or it could just be rival party factions quarreling over the food in the kitchen…’
          But as he spoke, his phone rang. ‘His Excellency here,’ replied Michael. ‘What … The B-Team has taken over the airport? … Ten people dead? What do you expect me to do? This is State House, not a funeral parlour … You sort it out or I’ll sort you out!’
          Michael turned to his wife. ‘That Sillyman Jelly has lost control of his bowels again! Why is asking me for instructions?’
          ‘I thought that’s why you appointed him,’ said Christine.
          Again the phone rang. ‘His Excellency here … What? … the C-Team has captured Soweto Market … Receiving reports of a massacre? … Just arrest them for spreading false rumours calculated to cause general alarm and despondency … And don’t disturb me again, I’m preparing for my Weekly Announcement of New Appointments!’
          ‘That silly whimpering Libonge Libonga,’ snarled Michael, 'she can’t take a decision for herself.'
          ‘I thought that’s why you appointed her,’ said Christine. ‘But what on Earth is going on? The B-Team taking over the airport and the C-Team taking over the markets? Is this a panga government? I see that your man Splinter is not called Splinter for nothing! The entire country is falling apart!’
          ‘Don’t worry,’ said Michael, completely unperturbed. ‘It’s nothing like that. The party is just practicing for Splinter’s new constitution, when the A-Team will be in charge of State House, the B-Team in charge of parliament, the C-team in charge of the Supreme Court and the …
          ‘And the panga in charge of everybody!’ said Christine irritably, as she stood up and folded her napkin.
          ‘Are you off?’ asked Michael. ‘Where are you going?’
          ‘I just thought,’ she said, ‘I should go and have a look at the progress on building our retirement house.’  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The A Team!

The A-Team
           On board the Challenger jet sat the A-Team in all their impressive glory. In the centre of the aircraft, on his gold-plated throne, sat the Leader of the A-Team, His Excellency Cycle Mata. On his right, on a little wooden stool, sat his Minister for Nonsense and Disasters, Wobbly Dotty Scotty. On his left, sitting on the toilet, was the Smelly Hatchet Man, the frightening Splinter Kapimbe.
          ‘Well,’ said Cycle Mata, ‘Why are we going to Mansa, what’s the problem there?’
          ‘By-election,’ said Hatchet Man. ‘The forces of darkness and evil are plotting to take over the entire constituency by capturing votes which rightly belong to the Punching Fist. The opposition has been using Mansa Community Radio to claim that the PF is really the Bufi Party.’
          ‘So what’s our plan?’ said Cycle Mata.
          ‘We could offer to supply electricity to all the local primary schools,’ suggested Dotty Scotty.
          ‘Don’t be silly,’ snapped Cycle Mata. ‘We promised that in the previous election. That’s why they’re calling us the Bufi Party.’
          ‘The answer is simple,’ snarled Hatchet Man. ‘We just declare a state of emergency, lock up the opposition and cancel all by-elections.’
          ‘Too grand a plan,’ cackled Cycle Mata, ‘I’m saving that one for later. This is just a preliminary operation. We shall just move in quickly, cancel the radio station license and arrest the station manager on suspicion of drug trafficking. Dotty, go and ask the pilot for our expected time of arrival so I can make some preliminary arrangements.’
          Two minutes later Dotty Scotty came wobbling back from the pilot’s cabin, his face even more pale than usual. ‘There’s nobody there!’
          ‘What are you talking about, you old fool!’ shouted Cycle Mata.
          ‘The cabin is empty. His parachute is missing.’
          ‘He’s Bemba,’ said Hatchet Man darkly. ‘He’s joined the B-Team.’
          ‘But look at those clouds all around us,’ said Cycle Mata, as he looked out of the window. ‘We’re still up in the air!’
          Dotty Scotty peered out of the window. ‘Those clouds are not moving!’ But even as he spoke, the clouds cleared and they could see that the plane was sitting on dry land.
          ‘Thank God for the autopilot,’ laughed Cycle Mata rather nervously. ‘We’ve arrived safely at Mansa Airport!’
          And so they stepped down from the Challenger, only to find no welcoming party, no salutes, no bootlickers, no dancing girls and no party thugs. Over in the distance they could see a queue of people going through a large gate. A gateman seemed to be in charge.
          ‘Iwe malonda, bwela!’ shouted Cycle Mata rudely at the gateman, as the old man in a long white beard came slowly over. ‘Iwe, mudala, where is the DC, where is the Paramount Chief Mwata Kazembe, where is our convoy of Mercedes?’
          ‘No, no, no,’ said the old man. ‘It looks like your plane must have crashed. I am St Peter, and you have arrived at the Pearly Gates of Heaven!’
          Now Cycle turned to whisper to his two chola boys. ‘This is the Master Plan we need. If we can just get in to see God he can work a few miracles for us. Put money in Mansa pockets. Give them jobs overnight. Put nurses and medicines in the clinics. All the things we promised in ninety days, nice Old God can do it for us in a flash of lightening. This could be the solution to all our problems! We can win the by-election after all!’
          So now Cycle Mata turned to the gateman, ‘Well malonda, or whatever you call yourself, just let us in through your Pearly Gate so we can go and talk to your Paramount Chief. People of our stature can’t waste time talking to the malonda at the gate!’
          ‘I’m in charge of issuing visas,’ said St Peter calmly. ‘You have to apply beforehand. Some people wait years to get in here. Even Archbishop Milungu has been waiting more than ten years.’
          ‘Piffle and nonsense my man,’ sneered Dotty Scotty. ‘Look at that crowd of people just walking in straight through the gate. I don’t see any sign of visas!’
          ‘They are poor people from Zambia,’ explained St Peter. ‘We have a special Memorandum of Understanding with their Ministry of Health to let them straight in. They are innocent souls who have suffered enough, and automatically qualify for Heaven. For them all visa requirements have been waived.’
          ‘Ha ha,’ scoffed Hatchet Man, ‘We’re also from Zambia. And we’re not just Zeds like those bedraggled ruffians and street kids, we are the A-Team!’
          ‘A-Team?’ wondered St Peter. ‘What does this ‘A’ stand for?’
          ‘We are at the top!’ explained Dotty Scotty. ‘Those Zeds are at the bottom! We are the ruling class! We have diplomatic passports, we don’t even need visas! We have all the privileges! We have the money and the power!’
          ‘It is easier,’ said St Peter, ‘for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.’
          Dotty Scotty whispered under this breath ‘These damn villagers talk in riddles.’ But turning to St Peter he said ‘Look, old chap, let’s do a deal. You give us the visas and we’ll give you the contract for the new road from Chama to Mongu. Half the contract price up front! How’s that?’
          ‘Oh?’ said St Peter. ‘Why didn’t you say that was the sort of deal you’re looking for? Then you’ve come to the wrong place. Let me explain to you where to go. You see those stone steps over there at the edge of the cliff. Walk over to those steps and keep going down until you reach the place where such arrangements are organized.’

[Partly based on a storyline suggestion from facebooker Nelson Langford Ndhlovu]

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Speech day in Muchinga

Speech Day in Muchinga

            Sara and I had come to Speech Day at Muchinga Secondary School, to witness our grandson Kondwa being awarded the prize for mathematics. All the teachers were sitting at the back of the stage as the Headmaster walked to the front.
          ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ he began, ‘I am the Headmaster, Mr Noplan Chimbwi, and I am pleased to welcome you to the celebration of our greatest achievements during the past year. Behind me you see the rest of the staff who work closely with me in bringing your children to a bright and prosperous future. Ours is a closely knit team, working in close agreement and harmony to achieve the great ideals of this long established and distinguished academy, always remembering our resounding motto One Muchinga, One School, One Headmaster.
          ‘I hope the old fart gets a move on,’ Sara whispered in my ear.
          ‘To give you some examples of the latest developments in our school,’ continued Chimbwi, ‘I ask our Deputy Headmaster, Mr Scotty Cholaboy, to join me here at the podium. As he spoke a bent figure in a faded salaula suit shuffled to the front, and groveled and slobbered before the headmaster. ‘Tell me, Cholaboy,’ rasped Chimbwi, ‘What have you been working on recently?’
          ‘I’ve been buying second-hand books for the library, Headmaster.’
          ‘You’ve been doing WHAT?’ screeched Chimbwi. ‘Why have you been doing that?’
          ‘I know it’s a long time ago since the school was able to buy books, Headmaster. But these second-hand books are very cheap.’
          Chimbwi now looked round at the other teachers. ‘Can someone tell this old fool why we can’t buy books?’
          A hand shot up. ‘Because, Headmaster, the book allocation is being spent on your fuel allowance.’
          ‘Nonsense! Shut up! Leave the room! Don’t come back!’
          ‘Where is all the unity and harmony?’ Sara whispered.
          Now an ancient old man hobbled to the front, with the help of a stick. ‘Ah, at last, our History Teacher, Mr PaModzi Munshumfwa. I’m sure he can help us.’
          ‘During colonial times,’ explained Munshumfwa, ‘this library was full of many books. Subversive books. Scurrilous books. Seditious books. Revolutionary books. The students read these books, and rebelled, and took over the school. We must never make the same mistake as the colonial authorities!’
          ‘Exactly,’ said Chimbwi, as Old Munshumfwa hobbled back to his seat. ‘And you, Dotty Cholaboy, try to stay awake in staff meetings in future. Now tell us, what is our policy on books in the library?’
          ‘No second-hand books,’ muttered Scotty.
          ‘No!’ screeched Chimbwi, ‘No books at all!’
          ‘Very sorry for my awful mistake,’ groveled Scotty, as he shuffled back to his seat.
          ‘They shouldn’t have let in the parents,’ said Sara, ‘just to see them quarreling amongst themselves.’
          ‘The only books allowed in the library,’ shouted Chimbwi, ‘are the Bible and the School Rules. Now let us hope we get a better report from our Communications Teacher. What have you been doing, Mr Manuel Mwalwe Mwalwe?’
          ‘I have put up new notice boards for students to express their opinions, analyse current affairs, and to ask questions of others.’
          ‘What!’ squealed Chimbwi. ‘As Headmaster, I am the one in charge of information dissemination. All information must first be approved by me and then put on the Headmaster’s Notice Board.’
          ‘No,’ said Manuel calmly. ‘We have the Independent Board Authority which authorises other groups to have their own noticeboards.’
          ‘All Independence rests in me as the Headmaster,’ growled Chimbwi, ‘So your Independent Board Authority is cancelled immediately, and so is your job. Shut up. Go away. Never come back. Shooo!’
          ‘It looks to me,’ said Sara, ‘as if this Headmaster has completely lost control of his staff and has no idea of what’s going on.’
          ‘Good gracious,’ growled the Headmaster, as he turned back to his audience, now restless and muttering amongst themselves. ‘Let’s hope there is better news from the Maths Department. I call upon Mr Redhot Piri Piri to explain the latest developments in maths teaching.’
          ‘In this modern world,’ began Piri Piri, ‘we’re teaching modern mathematics, such as set theory…’
          ‘Sex theory!’ shrieked Chimbwi, ‘I don’t want any homosexuals here!’
          ‘I said set theory,’ said Piri Piri. ‘It’s about how we analyze the mathematical relationship between members of different overlapping groups.’
          ‘Different groups!’ shouted Chimbwi. ‘What are you talking about! This is subversive talk! This is seditious! The motto of this school is One Muchinga, One School, One Headmaster. We’re not supposed to have different groups!’
Now his arms began to wave wildly, his face went purple, and he began to march up and down the stage howling ‘So now I see it! You are the one behind all this! You have foolishly revealed yourself! You are the divisive influence! You’ve been dividing this school into groups and cliques, plotting against me, trying to bring me down! Well let me tell you that before this day is out I’ll…’
          But as he was ranting on, two men in white coats came onto the stage. Each took him gently by an arm and guided him, still ranting, down the steps and out of the hall.
Then onto the stage waddled the ample figure of the School Matron, Ms Christine Award Winner. ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ she said, ‘I do apologize for that. Our dear Headmaster is not feeling very well, so he has asked me to distribute the School Prizes on his behalf…’
          But by now the school hall was more than half empty, as parents scurried out with their children, quite frightened by their strange experience.
          ‘If we all run away,’ I said, ‘that’ll be the end of his career as a Headmaster.’
          ‘From what I’ve seen,’ laughed Sara, ‘It’ll be no great loss.’  

[Story line suggested to Kalaki by Facebooker Victor Kabwe]