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.’