Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Kalaki says goodbye...

Kalaki says goodbye…

I had been snoozing. I opened one eye, only to find a small crowd of people around the bed. Then I remembered where I was. I was in Ward C21 at the UTH, waiting for the operation tomorrow.  I opened the other eye. I could see immediately that the people around my bed were my regular readers. All seven of them. I looked at them angrily. ‘Who told you I was in here?’
          ‘It’s not a secret that you’re in here,’ said Sally Chawama, ‘There’s even a story in today’s Daily Nation saying Kalaki says goodbye to all his readers as he leaves Kalaki’s Korner.
          ‘So if I’ve already said goodbye,’ I snapped, ‘what are you all doing here? You want me to say goodbye again. Goodbye. Shalenipo. I’m off!’ I pulled the blanket over my head.
          ‘That’s no way to talk to us,’ retorted Stella Sata. ‘All the years we’ve been reading you and then you just up and off like you don’t even care! And daddy’s very annoyed, he says you’re the only columnist who really understands him.’
          ‘Stella,’ I said, ‘what nonsense you do talk. If anybody understands your daddy it’s only you, the rest of us are completely mystified.’
          ‘You’re being very rude and most unfair,’ snapped Ruth Henson, who never minces her words. ‘The story in this morning’s paper says that you’ve left Kalaki’s Korner, and that you’re in the UTH for a serious operation. We’re very concerned. We want to know what’s wrong with you.’
          I popped up out of the blanket and pointed a finger at Ruth. ‘I know your little farm is boring, with nothing to do except talk to the goats, and that you farmers count hospital visiting as a form of high entertainment, but you can’t come here asking me what’s wrong with me. I’m not one of your damn goats to be given a medical examination!’
          ‘Tut tut,’ said Dodson Siabwanta, as he turned in amazement to Mwila Zaza, ‘this fellow is just as insolent in real life as he is on the page!’
          ‘I knew that already,’ cackled Mwila, ‘He’s probably been at the brandy again. In fact you can be sure that’s why he’s in here. He’s got an enlarged liver. That’s what happens when you get hooked on the brandy.’
          ‘You can’t just all stand there talking to each other as if I’m not here!’ I shouted angrily.
          ‘Why not?’ sneered Symon Zulu, looking round at the other beds. That’s what all the other visitors are doing, so why should we be any different?’
          ‘More likely it’s an enlarged belly,’ declared Hope Nyambe as she unceremoniously prodded me through the blanket. ‘Look at the size of his gut! There could be all sorts of suspicious enlargements in there.’
          ‘It’s definitely not an enlarged heart,’ laughed Stella. ‘This old man is famously mean with his money.’
          ‘If it’s not an enlarged liver,’ declared Dodson, ‘it’s more likely an enlarged prostate. He’s just about the right age for that sort of thing. That’s why he doesn’t want to tell us what’s wrong. These old men will never admit that their equipment isn’t working.
          ‘Shut up, shut up, shut up!’ I sat up and shouted. ‘If you must know, the problem is that I’ve been suffering from an enlarged sense of humour.’
          ‘What nonsense,’ retorted Ruth. ‘It’s us that suffer from your sense of humour, not you.’
          ‘Look,’ I growled, ‘my job was to use my sense of humour to criticize politicians by making them look ridiculous. But with this current batch, it just wasn’t working.’
          ‘Why not?’ wondered Sally. ‘Are they not ridiculous?’
          ‘Of course they’re all entirely ridiculous,’ I admitted. ‘But the main problem is that they are extremely dangerous. While I have been making people laugh at them, I have deflected attention from the serious threat they pose to the nation.’
          ‘So you need an operation?’
          ‘You see, as my sense of humour has become enlarged, so it has squeezed all the other critical organs. My heart has been squeezed smaller, leaving me with diminished moral sense. My brain has been squeezed, limiting my analytical abilities. My nails can no longer scratch, my teeth can no longer bite, and my eyes are now so faded that I can see only the laughable and not the disastrous. My sense of humour has become so enlarged that it has encroached on all my other senses! I have no option but to have it amputated! First thing tomorrow morning!’
          The next evening they all came to see me again. They found me sitting up in bed, glass of brandy in hand, reading the Complete Works of Jurgen Habermas.
          ‘My God!’ exclaimed Mwila, ‘this is very disappointing! We expected you to be still in a coma, and on a drip!’
          ‘Don’t interrupt me,’ I hissed, ‘I’m on the crucial chapter of Legitimation Crisis.’
          ‘Can’t we at least see the stitches?’ pleaded Stella.
          ‘There aren’t any,’ I replied.
          ‘No stitches,’ they all said sadly. ‘After we’ve come all this way!’
          ‘How can there be no stitches?’ said Ruth sternly.
          ‘Not necessary,’ I replied curtly. ‘When it saw the surgeon’s knife, my sense of humour immediately and completely disappeared.

This is the last edition of Kalaki’s Korner. Next month, beginning Wednesday 4th June, Kalaki begins his new career as a political analyst, with a weekly blog entitled The Spectator.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Let Them Yap!

        Let Them Yap!

Last Saturday night Sara and I were at the Playhouse to see the Lusaka Musical Society’s latest masterpiece – ‘Let Them Yap’.  As the curtain rose, there in the middle of the stage, on his gold throne, sat the magnificent Emperor of Zed. He was wearing his shimmering golden Chinese suit, a glittering crown on his head, as he looked down imperiously upon his domain.

As the orchestra in the pit struck up with a jolly tune, the Emperor rose to his feet and burst into song:

I am the Emperor of the Promised Land,
My promises are very grand.
I am an autocratic democrat,
I sit and order this and that.
And if they say I can’t do that,
I don’t care! Let them yap!

As he was singing, a motley crowd of people dressed in rags had gathered at the foot of the golden steps leading to the golden throne. And they answered the Emperor with their own song:

          You are the Emperor of the Promised Land,
          Your promises slip away like sand.
          You promised a constitution new
Not a constitutional stew.
          You cannot give us that,
          This is crap! This is crap!

But the Emperor answered them, singing:

          To ‘fifty percent plus one’ I can agree
          But only if that one is me!
          I much prefer ‘first past the post’,
          If it’s me that gets the most!

          I promised freedom of expression
          Except for those in opposition.
          And freedom to assemble anywhere
          Except in any public square.
          So be careful where you yap
          Lest you walk right in my trap

But the good people of Zed were not impressed:

          You promised you’d save the kwacha,
          But the kwacha came a cropper.
You promised all prosperity,
          But all we have is poverty.
          You are the Emperor of Zed,
          But all your promises are dead.

Now the Emperor looked a bit sad, and tried to explain himself…

          I promised more hospitals, but the curse is,
          I have no medicines, doctors or nurses.
          As all my promises slip away,
          I have other things to fill my day.
          As my ambition grows and grows
          I just build more roads and roads.
          Roads to here and roads to there,
          I build roads everywhere.

But as he was singing, a gang of thugs in fake military uniforms and red berets came shouting into the palace, and the protesters ran screaming for their lives. The audience clapped and cheered, shouting ‘More! More!’

So now the Golden Emperor walked to the front of the stage, danced a little jig, and then sang a confidential little song for our additional entertainment:

          I promise employment for the youth,
          Especially those long in the tooth.
          I’ll put an end to all corruption,
          But for my friends I’ll make exception.
          The rule of law I will preserve,
          Except for laws which don’t deserve.
          I grant to women the freedom to be bold,
          So long as they do as they’re told.
          The number of my ministers will be fewer,
          Except for those coming from the sewer.
          Once a year I’ll meet the press,
          Once a year, more or less.
          I shall maintain law and order,
          Except for panga mayhem and murder.
          And I grant to all the right to yap!
          Let them yap! Let them yap! Let them yap!

He danced a little jig as the curtain came down, and we all stood up and clapped and cheered.

‘It’s all so easy in the theatre’ said Sara. ‘But in real life, it’s a big problem to bring down the curtain.’

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Blood in the Bathroom

Blood in the Bathroom

Michael Pistorius, Defendant: My Lady, I heard a noise from the bathroom, I thought somebody was climbing in through the bathroom window.
Kalaki Nel, Prosecutor: Why should anybody want to climb in through your bathroom window?
Michael: My Lady, so many people wanted to kidnap my girlfriend, the beautiful Constitution. My lady, I had sworn to protect my Constitution, but I had enemies who wanted to abduct her and misuse and abuse her. So when I heard a noise from the bathroom, My Lady, I was terrified. In the pitch black of the night, I picked up my gun, then picked up my legs, and moved stealthily to the bathroom.
Kalaki Nel: Mr Pistorius, who are these enemies you are so afraid of?
Michael: They are so many, My Lady. But the worst is Technical Committee. He has sworn to steal my Constitution from me, and subject her to his will and base lusts and desires, and to turn her into his slave. My Lady, I had to protect my beautiful Constitution.
Kalaki Nel: And tell, Mr Pistorius, why were you so in love with your Constitution?
Michael: My lady, when I am with my Constitution I am a real man. She gives me my power. With my beautiful Constitution everybody looks up to me, I command the universe, and people obey my every command. This Technical Committee wanted to steal my power.
Kalaki Nel: So now, without your Constitution, you are a broken man?
Michael: Yes, My Lady. (Sobs for a couple of minutes into his handkerchief)
Kalaki Nel: OK, so now you reach for your gun and make for the bathroom. Was Constitution lying on the bed?
Michael: No, My Lady, she was not on the bed.
Kalaki Nel: Ha ha, how do you know that? You said the night was pitch black!
Michael: She always slept under the bed, My Lady, she was so afraid of Technical Committee.
Kalaki Nel: So did you look under the bed to check if she was there?
Michael: Yes, My Lady. But I couldn’t see her because the night was pitch black.
Kalaki Nel: So you went to the bathroom door and fired four shots straight through it.
Michael: Yes, My Lady. I had to protect my Constitution.
Kalaki Nel: Did anybody scream?
Michael: Yes My Lady, I screamed because I was terrified. Then I screamed at Constitution to phone the Panga Force on 991. But she didn’t reply. It was then that I became terrified that I had shot my beloved Constitution.
Kalaki Nel: Then you went and got your panga and hacked a hole in the door, only to find our beautiful Constitution blown to pieces, with blood all over the bathroom floor.
Now a court official obligingly placed a green plastic bucket in front of Michael, so that he could have a prolonged vomit. After he had finally recovered himself the cross-examination continued…
Kalaki Nel: I put it to you, Mr Pistorius, that you have misled this court. I put it to you that our beloved Constitution did not come to your house of her own free will, but you kidnapped her and brought her to your house.
Michael: No, My Lady, it’s not true. I always respected my beloved Constitution, she came to my house to give me a Valentine’s present.
Kalaki Nel: I put it to you, Mr Pistorius, that you wanted an opportunity to accuse her of breaking her promises to you. You were jealous because she had left you and was instead dating Technical Committee. And you were also in a rage because Technical Committee had transformed her by the power of love. She was so now so beautiful and so admired by everybody that she became known as People’s Constitution. But you were so jealous that you kidnapped her, to get her back.
Michael: It’s not true, My Lady. I never kidnapped her. She came to visit me because she loved me.
Kalaki Nel: I put it to you, Mr Pistorius, that you had a shouting match with Constitution that night, because you had fallen into a jealous rage after she left you for Technical Committee. When she refused to come back to you, you threatened her with a gun.
Michael: No, My Lady. That was not possible. I loved my Constitution.
Kalaki Nel: And when she tried to run away from you, and locked herself in the bathroom, you fired through the door and murdered her.
Michael: (Head in hands, sobbing) No, no, no, My Lady. I thought I was protecting my beloved Constitution from Technical Committee who had come to abduct her.
Kalaki Nel: No, no, no! It seems that everything is no, Mr Pistorius! But perhaps on one thing we can agree: The People’s Constitution is now dead.
Michael: (Now slowly looking up towards the judge) Yes, My Lady, on that we can agree. The People’s Constitution is now dead.
Kalaki Nel: And you murdered her.
Michael: No, My Lady, it was an accident.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Office of the Public Protector


Theft of the People’s Constitution

INFORMATION TO THE PUBLIC:  This notice serves to put the nation on public alert that the People’s Constitution has been stolen. This theft was perpetrated by persons as yet unknown, but known to be purposely acting against the will of the people with a view to usurping legitimate government.

CALL TO ACTION: This information is therefore a call to action to prevent the completion of a coup d’etat, where a small group of criminals are attempting to capture state power in order to distribute state resources entirely amongst themselves.

DUTY TO SEARCH: In order to avert this constitutional crisis, all citizens are called upon to conduct a national search to find the missing People’s Constitution.

NEED TO EXCLUDE INVESTIGATORY AGENCIES: Unfortunately the existing state investigatory agencies cannot be called upon to participate in this search, since there is a strong possibility that the coup d’etat process is already in the process of taking place, so that these agencies must be presumed to be already taking orders from the perpetrators of the theft.

PLACES TO SEARCH:  Given the nature of the crime, the first places to search are the grounds, homes and offices of rogue government officials, who are the prime suspects in this crime. Since the intention of the thieves is to bury the People’s Constitution, the first search priority should be large government lawns, especially those along Independence Avenue, which should be systematically dug up.     

ORGANISATION OF THE SEARCH: The search is being organized by the Church, where plans are communicated by whispering during Sunday morning prayers. Under no circumstances should you use cell-phones or e-mail to discuss search organization, since it must be assumed that all electronic means of communication are controlled by the gang of thieves.

ACTION IF FOUND:  In the event that you find the People’s Constitution, you should under no account take it to your local police station, where you would be arrested for theft. You should instead take the Constitution to your nearest Catholic Church, or otherwise give it to the Bishop of your diocese.

APPREHENSION OF SUSPECTS:  In the event that you identify suspects on whose property the People’s Constitution was found, do not attempt to apprehend the suspects or to take them to the police station or to bring them before a court of law. Due to the current undermining of legitimate authority by rogue elements within government, these institutions are not employed to protect people from criminals, but instead are employed to protect criminals from the people. A document setting out the people’s rights is therefore a direct challenge to their authority.

ROADMAP FOR RETURN TO LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT:  Since the Church is now the only remaining venue for the voice of the people to be heard, the People’s Constitution will be put to a referendum by public acclamation at church meetings to be held on the Sunday after the People’s Constitution has been restored to the people.  

PENALTIES FOR THE THEFT: Once the People’s Constitution has been approved, and legitimate government restored, all the people suspected of the earlier theft of the People’s Constitution will be charged with treason in the newly established Court of the People.


Archbishop Spectator Kalaki
Public Protector.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Strange Disappearance

A Strange Disappearance

          ‘Have you heard the latest?’ asked Kupela. ‘Michael seems to have disappeared again.’
          ‘Are you saying he has completely evaporated?’ Sara wondered. ‘Or that he disappeared from one place in order to re-appear somewhere else?’
          ‘Obviously I mean that he seems to have disappeared from Zambia,’ Kupela retorted. ‘Don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean.’
          ‘So where has he reappeared?’ asked Sara.
          ‘I didn’t say that I knew where he had gone. All I’m saying is that nobody has seen him since he was supposed to have come back from Brussels last Friday.’
          ‘But how can you possibly know that nobody has seen him? Or do you just mean that you haven’t seen him? Were you supposed to have lunch with him or what?’
‘Your mother has got a point,’ I said. ‘I mean, taking another example, you haven’t seen us for a couple of weeks, but did you suspect that we had disappeared? Luckily lots of other people have seen us during the past two weeks, so we haven’t been worried that we had disappeared.’
‘Look,’ said Kupela irritably, ‘I’m not talking about two retirees in Chainda not being seen. I’m talking about the president, who we expect to see on TV or facebook. Why didn’t we see him being greeted at the airport when he got back from Brussels? Why has there been nothing on George Chellah’s facebook page, leaving ZNBC without any news to report? Without the latest news on Michael murdering the constitution we have had to listen to the latest news on Oscar Pistorius murdering his girlfriend. And this is not the first time.’
‘Not the first time Oscar has murdered his girlfriend?’
‘Not the first time Michael has disappeared after attending a conference. ’
‘After the previous conference he didn’t disappear,’ laughed Sara, ‘he was seen by Zambian doctors in London. Being a patriotic fellow, he didn’t want to be seen by foreign doctors, so he had to go to London.’
‘Look,’ I said, ‘even if Michael has disappeared from George Chellah’s facebook page it doesn’t mean that he has disappeared from Zambia. And even if Michael had departed to some secret destination, Chellah could easily have written a few lies about Michael being in Zambia, busy consulting with his advisers, or whatever.’
‘That’s exactly why I think he has disappeared!’ replied Kupela. ‘If Chellah actually knew where Michael really was, he could easily have made up a plausible lie. But to tell a good lie you need to know what the truth actually is. So the absence of any story on facebook means that he doesn’t know the truth either! That’s why I say Michael has disappeared.’
‘So what’s your theory about what has happened to him?’ I asked.
‘The last report we have from Michael was on the Real Michael Sata facebook page on Friday, when Michael reported that he was stranded at Amsterdam airport after George Chellah ran off with an air hostess, accidentally taking with him all the tickets for the entire entourage. After that, all was silence. And then, later in the day, it was reported that flight MS370 from Amsterdam to Johannesburg had disappeared from radar screens and was last seen headed for the Indian Ocean.’
‘Ha ha,’ I laughed. ‘Now we have an even less believable version of Michael’s disappearance story. If I am not on a radar screen, does it mean I have disappeared?’
‘And if he disappeared from Chellah’s facebook page,’ laughed Sara, ‘that was more likely because Chellah was fired after running off with the tickets.’
‘If that were the case,’ persisted Kupela. ‘Why haven’t we been given the TV entertainment of Michael firing Chellah? And why no questions in the media about Michael’s strange disappearance? What’s going on?’
‘If there were any mystery about his whereabouts,’ I said, ‘Watchdog would tell us where he really is.’
‘That concludes my argument,’ declared Kupela triumphantly. ‘He has disappeared so completely that even Watchdog doesn’t know where he is!’
‘You are suffering from a lack of logic,’ I laughed. ‘It is always impossible to prove a negative proposition. Just because Michael is not seen does not prove that he has disappeared. It just means that nobody has seen him.’
‘So what’s your explanation for nobody seeing him?’ asked Kupela.
‘There’s an infinite number of possible explanations,’ I said. ‘It may be that he is being hidden for reasons of economic and political stability.  For example, every time he opens his mouth the value of the kwacha goes down. Every time he fires a few ministers, investors say the government is unstable. Every time he threatens a bishop he loses more votes from the Catholics. Every time he campaigns at a by-election his party loses the seat. So perhaps his handlers have finally realized that it is better to lock him up in a cellar in State House where he can’t cause any more trouble.’
‘We’re missing the news,’ I said, as I turned on the TV, ‘Perhaps he’s back.’
And sure enough, there he stood, his angry eyes fixed upon the nation, saying ‘Those demanding for the constitution are just yapping. Let them yap!’
‘It’s him that does all the yapping,’ Sara laughed. ‘Our job is just to listen to him yap.’
‘Oh dear,’ I said, ‘the kwacha is going to sink again.’
‘I’m so disappointed,’ said Kupela, ‘I really thought he was gone for good.’
‘Never mind,’ said Sara, ‘at least we all had a nice little holiday.’

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Action Man in Brussels

Action Man in Brussels

            I know you’re all waiting to hear the news of what I’ve been doing in Brussels, and how I am representing my country at the centre of power of the European Union. George Chellah is supposed to be giving you all the news on the ‘His Excellency’ page, but he hasn’t written anything for the past three days. He went shopping with Christine on Saturday and I haven’t seen either of them since. Anyway, his stories are all fake, he just makes them up.
          So I thought, as your Action Man, I should just do the job myself and tell you what’s going on here. All the members of my official delegation are completely useless. That’s why we got here three days to early, they got the dates mixed up. My press aide is particularly useless, even by the prevailing standards of uselessness. But don’t worry, despite all this, your Action Man has been very active, and will tell you what is happening.
          I am staying at a seedy little hotel in the centre of Brussels, called the Hotel Plaza, which has its front door right on the pavement, with no garden, no carpark, nothing except a rather smelly carpet in the foyer. How can an entire president be accommodated in such a place?
          And what is worse, the hotel is right next to the red light district. That’s why my security men disappeared on Saturday night and I haven’t seen them since. When I came down to breakfast this morning I was the only one in the dining room, apart from a disheveled travelling salesman from Malta and a family of Somalian refugees from Mogadishu. I know a lot about them because we are all sharing the same bathroom.
          I had come to scale the Summit of European power, but have fallen into this fusty smelly boarding house. But never mind, despite all this, I am here to represent the power and energy of the Zambian government. Your Action Man is here to put Brussels to rights.
          So I sat down and signaled a waiter to take my order for breakfast. He came over rather slowly and reluctantly and said ‘Yes, sir, is there a problem?’
          So I said to the insolent fellow, I said ‘Yes, you useless lumpen, there are two problems. Firstly I am My Excellency and you should address me as Your Excellency. And secondly you’re supposed to ask me what I want for breakfast.’
          ‘I’m sorry there seems to be some mistake,’ he answered, ‘I am not much interested in what you want for breakfast. That is entirely a matter for you to decide.’
          ‘Look here,’ I shouted, ‘How can you bring me my breakfast if you don’t know what I want?’
          ‘I’m sorry there seems to be some mistake,’ he repeated like a robot. ‘There is a selection of food on that long table over there and all you have to do is to go and select some for yourself. Here in Belgium we call it a buffet.’
          ‘What an insult to a person of my position!’ I shouted. ‘I am His Excellency, bring my breakfast!’
          ‘There seems to be some mistake,’ repeated the robot, ‘I only bring food in the case of physical disability or mental impairment. Do you have a medical certificate?’
          ‘Insolence!’ I shouted. ‘I’ve heard enough! I demand to see the Head Waiter!’
          ‘I am the Head Waiter,’ replied the robot.
          ‘Then bring me the Hotel Manager!’ I demanded.
          ‘I am also the Hotel Manager,’ he replied. ‘This is a small hotel.’
          This was when your Action Man swung into action, and spoke for the national interest. I marched straight down to the foyer to make some important announcements, as a small crowd gathered to watch a real Excellency taking command of a crisis situation.
          ‘The staff of this hotel are all useless. The waiter is useless. The Head waiter is useless. And the Hotel Manager is completely useless. They are all fired with immediate effect. In order to honour my promises to the people of Zambia to provide employment, the waiter will be replaced by twenty-five kaponya from Chawama. The government will set up a new Waiter Training College in Amsterdam to ensure proper training. I am hereby ordering my Minister of Finance to find the funds for a new road from Amsterdam to Brussels to facilitate travel from the college to the hotel. The Permanent Secretary of Muchinga Province is with immediate effect transferred to the Plaza Hotel as Managing Director, to be assisted by the entire PF provincial committee of Muchinga, who are all appointed Senior Hotel Managers. And just as the Congo was once a province of Belgium, I hereby declare that Brussels is now a province of Muchinga…’
          But as I was busy correcting the situation, into the foyer waltzed Christine and George. ‘What on Earth is this meeting all about?’ asked Christine.
          ‘I’m just preparing for the Summit by first sorting out this hotel,’ I explained.
          ‘I’ve just heard the Summit has been cancelled,’ said Christine. ‘Your friend Mugabe organized a boycott, nobody else is coming.’
          ‘Ha ha,’ I laughed, ‘nice try. But I had already noticed that today is April 1st!’

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Constitution! Constitution! Constoootion!

Constitution! Constitution! Constoootion!

                     ‘Now that you’ve finished your breakfast,’ said the Queen, as she peered over her copy of the Daily Nation which was propped up against the teapot, ‘Don’t forget to take your pills. The brown one is for your prostate, the yellow one for your kidneys, the green one for your blood pressure, the white one for your heart, and the bright red one is for your temper.’
          ‘I shall swallow them all,’ said His Excellency King Chumbu. ‘I have to keep fit and healthy in order to rule the nation!’
          ‘It says here,’ said the Queen, reading from the newspaper, ‘that the students are rioting again because they haven’t been paid their allowances.’
          ‘That reminds me,’ said the King, ‘that nephew of yours that got redirected from Yunza, what’s his name?’
          ‘Yes, him.  Is he still unemployed?’
          ‘Yes. For the past three years.’
          ‘I think I’ll make him the Governor of the Bank.’
          ‘Hah,’ laughed the Queen, ‘he can’t even understand simple arithmetic!’
          ‘Then I could make him my Ambassador to Peru!’
          ‘We don’t have an embassy in Peru!’
          ‘Then we must build one! I’ll ask old Uncle Alex to get another loan from the World Bank!’
          ‘It says here,’ said the Queen, pointing at her newspaper, ‘that yesterday parliament was surrounded by armed police and…’
          But just then the King’s phone rang. He rummaged for the phone in his dressing gown pocket. ‘Yes, you are speaking to His Excellency … What? … Chief Kukumukulu? … Escaped from his hut? … Then I order you to put the entire army on full alert! Declare a State of Emergency! Confiscate all bicycles!’ Then he turned back to the Queen, ‘You were saying something, Your Royal Highness?’
          ‘Yes, Your Excellency, I was just saying that parliament seems to be in a turmoil over the new…
          ‘But the phone rang again. ‘What? … Well arrest him! … ‘What for?  Just find an offence and charge him with it! … Search his house and find something! … Call in the Trumped Up Charges Commission!’
          He turned angrily to the Queen. ‘That’s the last time I’m putting one of your relatives in charge of the police. Let’s send them all to Peru! We’ll build a very big embassy!’
          ‘I was trying to tell you, dearest,’ said the Queen gently, ‘that parliament is up in arms, saying that you have swallowed the Constitution!’
          ‘Don’t you worry your little head about them, My Dearest Queen, that place is just an empty talking shop. I am the one in charge!’ So saying, he puffed out his little chest and declared ‘As the King I am supposed to swallow the Constitution. I am the Constitution! I have all the powers in my person!’
          ‘But parliament is saying that your powers are fading and you no longer have a strong Constitution,’ said the Queen, pointing at the newspaper. ‘This editorial says you are preoccupied with trivial issues while the country is going to rack and ruin. They want a new Constitution.’
          Now King Chumbu rose in all his fury and stood on his dining room chair, grandly addressing his empty dining room as if it were the entire world, and pointing to the various parts of his royal person to illustrate the parts of the Constitution. ‘With this brain, I am the Executive. With this Heart, I am the Judiciary! With this right arm I am the army! With this other arm I am the Panga Force! With this right foot, I am the Police Farce! With these eyes I am the Shushushu who peers into every bedroom. With this bladder I piss on all my critics! With this voice I speak for the people! With these boots I shall trample on this cheeky parliament…’
          But as he explained it all so eloquently to himself, a rising chant could be heard from the other side of the palace walls, ‘Constitution! Constitution! Constitution!’
          ‘But with your ears,’ said the Queen quietly, ‘you are unable to hear the voice of the people. Your Constitution is fading. You are losing control. You can’t even control the Paramount Chief Kukumukulu.’
          The King remained standing on his chair, addressing his invisible supporters. ‘I am the King. I am the State. My constitution is the State Constitution. I have all the powers!’
          But outside the chant grew louder as the protesters entered the palace grounds. ‘Constitution! Constitution! Constitution! We want a People’s Constitution! Not the King’s Constitution!’
          ‘I am the King,’ shouted the King, his eyes now bulging and his face turning purple. Then he fell down flat on the floor. His Constitution had collapsed.
          The Queen immediately summoned all the doctors and nurses who were always on hand to attend the ailing king. ‘The time has come,’ she told them, ‘for the operation.’
          When the king came round from the anesthetic he was covered in bandages and sustained by three different drips and a tube of oxygen. ‘It was a long transplant operation,’ the Queen whispered to him. ‘We have given you an ordinary people’s Constitution. That King’s Constitution has been removed, and turned into a book which explains the various responsibilities which will now be done by different people, because they were all too much for one man.’
          ‘So what job remains for me?’ asked the thin little voice of what remained of the King.
          ‘You will take the salute at all march-pasts,’ explained the Queen.
          ‘Will I have to hold press conferences?’
          ‘My poor dearest little Chumbu,’ she said, putting a kindly hand on his head, ‘even when you had all your powers, you were too frightened to hold a press conference.’  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An Animal-Driven Constitution

An Animal-Driven Constitution

          ‘Grandpa,’ said Nawiti, ‘tell me another story about the awful King Chimbwi.’
          ‘The most awful story about the awful King Chimbwi is called The Animal-Driven Constitution,’I replied.
          ‘Grandpa, what’s a constootion?’
          ‘Listen to the story,’ I replied, ‘then you’ll find out.’

          A long time ago, most of the animals in Africa lived in a beautiful paradise in the Lower Zambezi Valley, in a country called Chiawa, which was ruled over by the rough and bossy King Chimbwi.
          One day, when the animals met at their watering hole, they began to discuss the problems they were having with King Chimbwi. They had to discuss in whispers, for fear of attack by the king’s secret police, his wild dogs and jackals.
          ‘We are living in the forest like animals,’ complained Monkey, ‘while the King lives in a huge palace and eats us one by one.’
          ‘Not only that,’ said Lion, ‘but he has let in these humans with their guns, and they are killing us like Sitting Ducks.’
          ‘I’m not a Sitting Duck,’ said Duck, ‘I can fly.’
          ‘These humans are cutting down all the trees and giving money to the King. Soon we shall have no forest to live in,’ said Giraffe.
          ‘The King never listens to us,’ said Zebra, ‘he only listens to his friends, the wild dogs and jackals who come looking for us at night.’
          ‘There is only one thing to do,’ said Elephant gravely. ‘We must draw up a Constitution and give it to the King!’
          ‘A Constootion?’ said all the other animals. ‘What’s that?’
          ‘A Constitution,’ explained Elephant, ‘is a set of rules on how the king must govern this country. Now he has all the power and thinks he can do anything, however foolish or murderous. We the animals must write a Constitution so that he is brought under control. That is what is meant by an Animal-Driven Constitution.’
          So that’s what the animals did. But it was a long and difficult job because most of the animals couldn’t read or write. And they had to do the job secretly, so that the wild dogs and jackals didn’t find out. But finally, after twenty years, the animals wrote out the ten rules of their Constitution on white bark cloth made from an Acacia Tree. And this is what it said:
                 Rules of the Constitution
1.                    All animals are equal
2.                    No animal shall be above the law
3.                   All animals must obey the law
4.                   All animals have freedom of expression
5.                   All animals have right of assembly
6.                  All animals shall have freedom of movement
7.                  Elephants shall protect animals from the King 
8.                  No humans shall be allowed into the Kingdom
9.                 Any animal may be elected King, provided his parents are Chiawan
10.            No King may rule for more than 5 years

            Armed with their Constitution, they all went to the palace, where they found King Chimbwi rolling in the grass with one of his forty-nine concubines. And Elephant said solemnly ‘Oh King Chimbwi, we the animals of Chiawa, have brought you a Constitution.’
          ‘A Constootion?’ said the King gruffly. ‘What’s that? Can I eat it?’
          ‘It sets out the rules by which we the animals demand to be governed,’ said Elephant calmly. ‘It is an Animal-Driven Constitution.’
          ‘Of course it is,’ scoffed the King. ‘Whoever heard of a Human-Driven Constootion!’ And so saying, he opened his large mouth and swallowed it, washing it down with a bucket of chibuku. ‘Maybe this Constootion will cure my Constipation. I have swallowed it so that I can digest it properly. And when I have fully digested it, and ruminated upon it, we shall one day see it again, and then I shall nail it to the palace wall.’
          And all the Animals waited another twenty years for their Constitution, because the Constipation of the King was very severe, so things moved very slowly at the palace. But finally, after another twenty years, the Constitution reappeared, nailed to the palace wall. The once beautiful white bark cloth was now badly soiled and smelly, and on it was written:

           Rules of the Constitution
1.               All animals are equal, but the King is more equal
2.              The King shall be above the law
3.              All animals shall obey the King
4.             Only the King shall have freedom of expression
5.             All animals have right of assembly, in groups of no more than two
6.             All Chimbwi shall have freedom of movement
7.             Elephants shall protect the King from other animals
8.             No humans shall enter the Kingdom without a hunting license
9.             Any animal may be elected King, provided his parents are Chimbwi
10.        No King may rule for more than 50 years

     ‘Oh dear,’ said Nawiti, ‘That was a King-Driven Constitution.’
     ‘That’s what all the animals said,’ I admitted. ‘But the King declared that he was also an animal, and therefore this was an Animal-Driven Constitution.’
     ‘So how did the story end?’ asked Nawiti.
     ‘The animals were so angry that he was lucky to escape with his life. He fled to Holland with all his bars of gold.’
     ‘And lived in another palace?’
     ‘No. His gold was taken from him at the port because he didn’t have an import license, and then he was put behind bars in a zoo in The Hague.’
     ‘Why was that?’ Nawiti wondered.
     ‘Because,’ I explained, ‘Holland has a People-Driven Constitution.’

[Adapted from a story by Eric Blair]