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]