The TV news had just finished when onto the screen came the expressionless face of the ancient Minister of Health, Joseph Kasonde. ‘Countrywomen and men…’ he began
‘Wow! Countrywomen!’ sneered Sara. ‘At last! After fifty years of independence, some women have arrived in Zambia!’
‘Tomorrow,’ said the minister slowly, deliberately ignoring Sara’s remark, ‘is World Cancer Day, so I want to talk to you this evening about the way we are addressing the problem of cancer in Zambia.’
‘We fly to India,’ laughed Sara.
‘The problem of discussing this disease,’ continued the minister, ‘is that there are many myths about cancer which are simply not true.’
‘One of the myths about the Ministry of Health,’ sneered Sara, ‘is that it is about health and welfare. This is simply not true. The Ministry of Health is about corruption and death.’
Again the minister continued to drone slowly on, completely oblivious to the ribald remarks and shoes being thrown at TV screens all over the country. Like all ministers, he was completely protected from the opinion of the people.
‘One of these myths,’ continued Kasonde in his killingly dull monotone, ‘is that thousands of Zambians die every year from cancer. This is simply not true. In Zambia the great majority of the population dies young from poverty and starvation, and do not live long enough to die of cancer.’
‘Unless they go into politics,’ suggested Sara.
‘However,’ continued the minister, ‘if the biological dimensions of the disease are relatively unimportant in Zambia, the political dimensions are very different.’
‘Hey Ho!’ I gasped in surprise, ‘Perhaps he’s actually going to say something!’
‘In politics,’ declared the minister, ‘the situation is very different, and we have increasing empirical evidence that political parties are cancerous, eating into the fabric and integrity of the state, even to the extent of destroying its constitution.’
‘Ha ha,’ I said to him, ‘now we’re getting somewhere!’
‘How does this happen?’ asked the minister, before helpfully going on to answer the question himself. ‘It happens because the biology of the state allows a political party to capture the heart of the people, and then to control the heart of the state on behalf of the people. All this is very well, because the people’s control of the heart is essential to democracy. And this heart, although presiding over the entire state, has to work in harmony with the other organs such as the brainy judiciary, the greedy parliamentary stomach, the army of mindless microbes, and so on.’
‘This is getting interesting,’ I admitted. ‘Last time this fellow spoke I fell asleep.’
‘Now,’ said Kasonde, ‘this brings us to the real heart of the problem of cancer in this country. Suppose the people elect a political party to take over the heart, but this political party is cancerous. By this I mean it acts not on behalf of the people, but for itself to pursue its own interests. Suppose, having taken over the heart, it now wants to grow at the expense of other organs, taking over the rest of the state, and quite ignoring the constitutional balance between organs which is supposed to keep the state in a healthy condition.’
‘I couldn’t have put it better myself,’ I declared.
‘If this political party is cancerous, this means that it has delinquent and aberrant cells within it which keep dividing and multiplying, first taking over the party and then the heart itself, causing both to become dysfunctional and dangerous to the state. Suppose now that this cancer at the heart of the state begins to send out cancerous cells into the other organs, and the cancer begins to spread. If this happens, then the previously judicious brain will become brainless. The nose will no longer be able to smell nasty things which have an obvious stink. The mouth’s taste buds will be replaced by cancerous cells which will easily allow the mouth to swallow things that are odious, disgusting and dangerous. Even the parliamentary stomach, which is supposed to vomit anything poisonous or damaging, will instead be willing to digest anything, even when dangerous to the entire constitution.
‘So this little fellow is not so dull after all!’ I marveled.
‘So how can the patient be saved?’ asked Dr Kasonde. ‘The treatment is simple. In the biological state, it is the people who are the life-blood of the state. It is the ordinary little blood cells who have the freedom of thought to see what is happening, the freedom of expression to tell their friends of the impending danger, and the freedom of movement to take action against the tyrannical cancer which is destroying the constitution. Before it is too late, these blood cells must exercise their constitutional freedom and move quickly throughout the entire state, supplying oxygen to the diminishing number of healthy cells in various organs, but completely cutting off the oxygen supply to all the invading cancer cells which are destroying the constitution.’
‘Simple!’ I said. ‘The man is a genius, even if he looks like an idiot!’
‘Wake up! Wake up!’ I opened one eye, and there was Sara shaking me. ‘You’re asleep! Wake up! It’s time to go to bed!’
‘What? No! I wasn’t asleep! I may have had my eyes closed but I was listening to Kasonde. It was very interesting!
‘What rubbish!’ she laughed. ‘You fell asleep as soon as he started talking.’