Friday, December 23, 2011

No Crib for His Bed


[It is now nine years since the Catholic Church in Zambia celebrated Christmas by bulldozing houses in Ng'ombe]

No Crib for His Bed

          It’s not every day we can afford lunch, but yesterday we managed a feast of nshima and beans. ‘Aren’t we supposed to have chicken at Christmas?’ moaned Kupela. ‘Last year Aunty Jane brought us a chicken from Petauke.’
‘You were smaller then,’ snapped Jumani. ‘That was a pigeon.’
‘This year Aunty Jane can’t afford the bus fare,’ explained Sara. ‘But don’t fret, we can still celebrate the day by watching Henry Ngalazi’s Christmas Special on TV.’
          So we all settled ourselves in the sitting room in front of the ancient Supersonic, which was persuaded to gradually come back to life. Then slowly into view came Henry, microphone in hand. In the background we could see the Grand Banquet Hall at the Presidential Palace, the long table groaning under the weight of a many roast pigs.
          ‘I have with me here,’ announced Henry, ‘the Honourable Nuisance Dimba, Minister for Gluttony and Vomit, who would like to say a few words about the importance of this occasion to the nation as a whole.’
          ‘Here we see the advantages of privatisation,’ began the Honourable Nuisance. ‘In the bad old days of the Second Republic, Christmas was for everybody. Nobody wanted to work and everybody wanted to feast. Ordinary villagers would feast for seven days at Christmas, and were not be able to work for weeks afterwards.
          ‘That is why your government has privatised Christmas, to conform to the capitalist division of labour between those who produce and those who consume. Last year the entire agricultural surplus amounted to only twenty-six pigs. Behind me you see all our cabinet ministers consuming these on behalf of the nation. This amounts to only one pig per cabinet minister, and not four, as announced by Cycle Mata on Radio Phoenix.’
          ‘Having been given a whole pig,’ ventured Henry nervously, ‘some people are saying that it is unfair for each cabinet minister to also be given a new Mercedes.’
          ‘They’re being most unreasonable,’ growled Nuisance. ‘Do they really think that any normal cabinet minister could possibly squeeze himself into the back of a Toyota Corolla after eating a whole pig?’
          ‘And do you have a Christmas message for the viewers out there?’ asked Henry.
          ‘Yes,’ said the Minister. ‘This year, because of limited resources, viewers have had to watch quite a small feast. But by next year they will be paying TV licence fees, so we hope that, with the funds raised, that we shall be able to show them a much bigger Christmas feast!’
          ‘Marvellous!’ said Henry. ‘I’m sure we’ll all look forward to that!’
          But suddenly the picture changed, to show a dusty shanty town, where an armoured bulldozer was taking another run at a house, knocking down one side, and causing the roof to collapse. People were screaming, picking up their children, and running hither and thither. On the far side, a determined gang of Intifada rained a hail of stones upon the bulldozer.
          ‘My God!’ said Sara. ‘This must be Bethlehem! The Israelis are celebrating Christmas!’
          But it wasn’t Bethlehem, because surprisingly Henry’s head again came into view. ‘We have come here to Ng’ombe to find out how the Catholic Church is helping the good people of Ng’ombe on Christmas Day.’
          ‘Good afternoon Father Kamakama,’ said Henry, as a fat cleric waddled into view, through the rubble and dust.
          ‘Looks like he’s wandered into a wrong place,’ sniggered Kupela. ‘He should have been part of the feast!’
          ‘Perhaps as part of the menu,’ said Jumani.
          ‘Tell me,’ Henry shouted to the holy father, above the noise of screaming and demolition, ‘what do we see happening here?’
          ‘Here,’ said Father Kamakama, ‘we are clearing thirty acres of land which we bought in 1962, in order to build a Catholic Shelter for the Homeless.’
          ‘Are there many homeless here?’
          ‘There weren’t any, but we’re in the process of solving that problem. There should be about twenty thousand homeless by the time we have finished clearing this site!’
          Just then a woman came screaming towards the camera holding the lifeless body of baby, and an angry mob began to surround Father Kamakama, shouting ‘Nimwana wa Maria na Yosefe! Abadwa lelo mawa! Chiwumba chamgwela!’
          ‘What are they saying?’ said the priest, turning to Henry.
          ‘They’re saying the wall fell on the baby!’
          ‘Born on Christmas Day!’ chanted the crowd. ‘Jesus is dead!’
          We sat there shocked and stunned. Nobody said anything. Then Kupela broke softly into a sad Christmas carol:

Away in Ng’ombe
No crib for his bed
The little Lord Jesus
They smashed his sweet head
The bulldozer driver
Looked down where he lay
The little Lord Jesus
Had got in the way

          ‘I wonder,’ said Jumani, ‘how much the Catholic Church paid for those thirty acres of land.’
          ‘Not much,’ said Sara. ‘Just thirty pieces of silver.’

Friday, December 16, 2011

Going Nowhere

First published in October 2002, Kalaki looks at a new government which is going nowhere...

Going Nowhere

Sara and I were just settling down to watch the evening news when the front door flew open with a bang, and in strode Kupela, long dreads swirling as she threw her rucksack to the floor in a cloud of dust.

‘I left you at the bus stop at ten o’clock,’ I said. ‘What happened? Weren’t there any buses to Ndola? Or did you go to visit your boyfriend instead?’

‘Typical of you! Always thinking the worst! You don’t even know what its like out there! You just sit in your chair and pontificate!’

‘That’s what fathers are for,’ laughed Sara.

‘Look,’ I said calmly, ‘It was lovely having you back for the long weekend, but you need a good certificate if you’re going to escape from this country. You know there’s no employment here; the whole place has collapsed.’

‘Yes,’ Koops sneered, ‘especially the bus station. So perhaps you can also tell me how to reach school and obtain my certificate?’

‘What happened at the bus station? Didn’t you manage to get a ticket?’

‘Hah!’ laughed Koops. ‘That was the easy bit. I bought an FDD ticket…

‘FDD?’

‘Famous Delivery and Destinations, they have qualified drivers who know where they’re going.’

‘What were the alternatives?’

‘Not much. There was the Up and Down, which is known to give rather a bumpy ride. Then there was the dreaded Multiple Mysterious Destinations. Nobody knows where they’re going.’

‘So you got on the FDD bus?’

‘There wasn’t one. We waited and waited for nothing. It turned out the police had impounded all the FDD and UPND buses because they didn’t have police permits.’

‘Did they need a permit?’

‘Of course not. But try telling that to the police.’

‘So what happened to all the FDD and UPND tickets which people had bought?’

‘They were treated as spoilt papers, and re-issued as MMD. Then we were all herded onto a big blue MMD bus by the call-boys, who were all MMD cadres.’

‘OK, so you didn’t get the bus you chose. But why didn’t the MMD bus take you to Ndola?’

‘The main problem was that MMD has only one driver. The first delay was waiting for a big red carpet to be laid across the bus station, so that the driver could make his triumphal and ceremonial walk from his office to the bus. When he finally arrived he was welcomed by a traditional band and dancing girls, after which several speeches of welcome were made. Since the MMD has only one bus, the driver is also the president of the company.’

‘What was his name?’

‘Sounded like Muwelewelewele. When he finally came on board he asked us where we were going. Some people shouted Ndola and others said Chipata and others demanded Mazabuka. It was pandemonium.’

‘So what did Muwelewelewele say about that?’

‘He told us the bus was not presently fit to go anywhere because it had been crashed by the previous driver, Wabufi Kafupi. He had obtained a licence by dubious means, and was too short to see over the dashboard. After crashing the bus he had stolen the engine.’

‘So what did the passengers say about that?’

‘Most people accepted the situation. Some said that they hadn’t chosen this bus, but now they were stuck with it, and had better to make the best of it. Others said it was better to first catch the thief. Others pointed out that we had to get the engine back first, and any talk of a destination was entirely premature at this stage. But this democratic and mature discussion was suddenly interrupted by an old woman at the back who began to wail, saying she and her children would starve to death if she had to stay on the bus, and she had to get back home to Chipata.’

‘So did Muwelewelewele assure the old woman that she’d be fed?’

‘He fell into a terrible rage, shouting at the top of his voice, saying that it was illegal to die on his bus, and he’d have everybody arrested if they talked like that! Then he shouted that he had to go to America to find new investors for his bus company. As he turned to go he fell down the steps, and was carried away on a stretcher.’

‘Let’s turn on the news,’ said Sara, ‘and see what our hand-picked leaders have been deciding on our behalf.’

The placid and reassuring face of Dozy Dee filled the screen. ‘Reports are coming in from Ndola of a riot at Wapanshi Girls Secondary School. Starving pupils are reported to have set fire to the school, and are now marching on the office of the District Administrator.’

‘Just as well you never went back,’ said Sara.

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Everything has turned out for the best.’

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Real Police

This piece was written in 2002, when the police were still looking for the Rule of Law. As indeed they still are…

The Real Police

‘Good morning Defective Suspector Mumbo Kapumpunta,’ I said, as I walked into Badlands Police Station and greeted the Officer-in-Charge. ‘I’m Spectator Kalaki of The Post.’

‘Kalaki!’ he beamed, ‘so pleased to meet you at last! We read your column every week, always hoping to find grounds to throw you in the cells!’

‘Well now’s your chance!’ I laughed. ‘Everybody’s talking about your new VIP Cell, so I’ve come to have a look at it!’

‘Certainly!’ he laughed, as he ushered me out of the office. ‘But I’m afraid it may be too good for you the likes of you. It’s designed for former presidents!’

‘By the way, why’s this station called Badlands?’ I asked, as we walked down the steps from his office. ‘Aren’t we supposed to be in Goodlands?’

‘We don’t have any good people in here,’ he laughed, ‘in here we’re all bad. So watch your step, Kalaki!’

The VIP Cell turned out to be a three-roomed apartment, complete with en-suite bedroom. ‘What a huge bed for such a little fellow!’ I exclaimed.

‘He’s still very active,’ explained Kapumpunta.

‘When are you bringing him in?’

‘Tomorrow,’ he replied.

‘Tomorrow? Are you ready? Are the investigations complete? Are you ready to arrest? Ready to charge? Got a watertight case to put before the court? ’

‘That’s not the way we work’ he cackled. ‘First we lock them up, then we do the investigations, to find out what they’re guilty of!’

‘Suppose they’re innocent?’

‘Don’t be silly, Kalaki, everybody’s done something! Once we’ve locked them up, they soon squeal!’

‘Suppose they don’t?’

‘The always do. Once we’ve squeezed their testicles, they can’t stop squealing!’

‘What about the Rule of Law?’

‘The Rule of Law? Do you know how it looks like?’

‘You mean what it looks like.’

‘Don’t presume to correct me. I learnt my English in England!’

‘And where did you learn your law?’

‘In Libya.’

‘Aha,’ I laughed. ‘That could be the problem. The Rule of Law sets out the rules for ensuring that government officials do not misuse their authority.’

‘How does it looks like?’ he repeated.

‘It’s a big green book with many pages.’

‘Hah hah!’ he cackled, pushing me into the cell and clanging the grill door behind me. ‘How do you know it’s a green book? We’ve been looking for that book for years! There was only one copy! You must be the one who stole it! This country has been without the Rule of Law all these years, just because of you! Now we’ve got you! You’re under arrest!’

‘What!’ I gasped. ‘Surely there must be more than one copy!’

‘What are you talking about! Everybody knows that the Rule of Law completely disappeared in 1973 when the Mad Munshumfwa burnt all copies and replaced it with Humanism Part II. He kept only one copy, just for himself, which he wouldn’t show to anybody. That’s what we were looking for when we searched his books!’

‘Is it an offence to have a copy of the Rule of Law?’ I asked innocently.

‘Of course it’s an offence! That’s how you’ve managed to write all these seditious criticisms of the government, you have a secret and illegal copy of the Rule of Law!’

I languished in the cell for nearly an hour before Kapumpunta came back. ‘We’re off to search your house,’ he declared, as six policemen threw me into the back of a police van already stuffed with twelve CID officers. We were followed by a truck load of paramilitary with AK47s, and a pick-up full of barking dogs.

‘What are the dogs for?’ I asked.

‘Because we don’t need a search warrant if we’re looking for drugs,’ he laughed.

‘You won’t find any drugs,’ I retorted.

‘Don’t you be too sure,’ he laughed. ‘Alcohol, tobacco, aspirin, they’re all drugs.’

‘What’s all this?’ asked Sara, as the convoy swung into our yard.

‘There looking for something to charge me with!’ I said.

‘They should find plenty!’ she laughed. ‘See you later, I’m off to a women’s meeting, so I’ll leave you boys to play your games.’

‘You promised to stick by me, for better or worse!’ I pleaded.

‘Hah!’ she snorted as she drove out, ‘I didn’t know how worse you could get!’

‘What’s this?’ growled Kapumpunta, waving under my nose a paper entitled How the Shushushu Rigged the Election. A story like this could bring down the government! Therefore it threatens the security of the state, so I’m arresting you for treason!’

Just then a dog came running out of the kitchen with a cabbage in its teeth. ‘We’ve found the Rule of Law!’ shouted a policeman. ‘Big and green, with many leaves, just like he said!’

‘They were promised the Rule of Law,’ I laughed, ‘but all they got was a cabbage!’

‘Well done, Kalaki,’ laughed Suspector Mumbo Kampumpunta, taking off his hat.

‘Mumba Kapumpa!’ I laughed. ‘I should have guessed it was you! I thought the name sounded familiar! But I didn’t recognise you without the whiskers and wearing that silly hat! Are you all from Twikisa Theatre?’

‘Of course. We’re thinking of developing one of your stories as a comedy at the Playhouse, so we decided to do a theatre workshop with this one.’

‘This one? I never wrote this one!’

‘But you will,’ he laughed. ‘You will!’

‘Do you know,’ I confessed, ‘I actually believed you were real police!’

‘Don’t be silly,’ he laughed. ‘We don’t have any real police!’

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Forget It!

Forget It!

The lawyer leant forward menacingly towards the man in the witness box. ‘Professor Donald Amnesia, you were born in 1957, is that correct?’

‘I can’t possibly be expected to remember that My Lord,’ said the absent-minded professor, looking to the Judge for mercy. ‘I was far too young at the time. I have only hearsay evidence from my parents, who were both notoriously unreliable.’

‘Surely you must know how old you are,’ said the Judge irritably. ‘Don’t you have a birth certificate?’

‘You will appreciate, My Lord, that a learned professor such as myself has an extensive personal library. Looking for one small document like that would need a bibliographic search that could take months.’

‘Just get on with it,’ the Judge snapped at the lawyer. ‘You are supposed to be looking for stolen property, not missing birth certificates.’

‘Moving on,’ said the lawyer, ‘in 1985 you came back from the States with a Doctorate in Amnesia and Forgetfulness?’

‘That’s right,’ said the professor proudly, thrusting his big belly forward and adjusting his wonky spectacles. ‘I wrote a thesis entitled The Role of Forgetfulness in the Criminalisation of the State.

‘What was it about?’

‘I can’t remember,’ said the professor. ‘But it was mainly composed of impressive quotations from other people.’

‘But soon after you came home, you were appointed Economic Adviser to Mupupu Wabufi, even though you had no qualifications in economics!’

‘I was not an adviser in the economy of money. I was an adviser in the economy of truth!’

‘You mean that you advised him how to lie?’

‘Good gracious me no! What are you suggesting! He was already an excellent liar! Everybody believed his lies! He didn’t need any advice from me!’

‘So what did he need you for? If nobody knew he was lying, there was no problem.’

‘On the contrary, My Lord, there was a very big problem. The problem was that he knew he was lying. All his lies and misdeeds used to give him nightmares. He dreaded the day when it would all catch up with him, and he would have to stand in this court and tell the truth.’

‘So you had to teach him to believe his own lies?’

‘That wasn’t possible either. Wabufi was a very clever little chap, and not gullible enough to believe his own lies. This is the terrible burden of great leadership.’

‘So what did you advise?’

‘I advised him that the solution to his problem was forgetfulness, which is the key concept in the economy of truth. I taught him how to forget all the lies and misdeeds of yesterday, so that he could better concentrate on lies for today and tomorrow. That is the secret of how to be a great leader. The secret of an easy conscience is lack of memory.’

‘Since you must know where all these lies were buried,’ suggested the lawyer, ‘it seems that you may be the very one to unravel the mystery of the missing funds. The incoming government has found that the entire contents of the Treasury have disappeared, and they have inherited nothing but huge debts. Do you have any information about this?’

‘I certainly do. I know for a fact that the previous Minister of Finance was extremely forgetful. Perhaps he absent-mindedly banked the money in a wrong bank. Or took it to the National Assembly instead of the Ministry of Finance. Or put it in a wrong tin trunk. I suggest you ask him.’

‘So you have managed to remember that he was forgetful. I was beginning to think you couldn’t remember anything!’

‘It is important to remember when to forget, but not to forget when to remember.’

‘How many houses do you own, Professor Amnesia?’

The absent-minded professor looked over his spectacles, put his tongue in his cheek, and scratched his head for a couple of minutes. But finally he had to admit his difficulty. ‘I have to admit,’ he admitted, ‘that as an academic specialised in qualitative matters, I cannot speak with any precision or certainty on purely quantitative matters. I’ve never had a good memory for figures. I suggest that you put your question to the Director of the Central Statistics Office.’

‘I put it to you that you bought twenty-four houses in the last year!’

‘Really? I can’t remember any such thing. It sounds rather unlikely. I’m sure I would have noticed all the title deeds. Perhaps you should ask my wife, she might know something about it. She runs a very successful little cafĂ© in Katondo Street.’

‘Are you the director of ten different companies which have all collapsed?’

‘You forget that a company which has collapsed doesn’t have directors, only liquidators.’

‘Why did you drive here in an old Datsun 120Y, when you have three new Mercs at your mansion in New Kasama?’ shouted the lawyer, banging his fist on the table.

‘Even me, I’ve been wondering about those Mercs. My wife says that they belong to the Shushushu. She says they parked them in my yard because they were short of space, but they seem to have forgotten about them.’

‘Nobody can remember anything!’ yelled the lawyer. ‘Can you remember swearing on the Bible?’

‘Swearing on the Bible?’ said Amnesia, stroking his chin thoughtfully. ‘No, I’m sure I never did anything like that,’ he finally replied. ‘I’ve sworn never to swear. I couldn’t forget a thing like that.’

The lawyer came close and hissed into the professor’s face. ‘Will you ever remember anything?’

‘If I ever get back into power,’ Amnesia growled menacingly, ‘I shall certainly remember you!’

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Commission of Insanity

[Written in May 2003, this story anticipates the Long Lunacy of the Constitutional Commission of Inquiry]

Commission of Insanity

The Press Conference was so long and boring that I was almost falling asleep. Then suddenly I heard something more interesting…

‘… so now I have fuh-fuh-finally decided to announce my position on these recommendations from the Constoootional Commission of Inquiry.’

‘What’s poor old Muwelewelewele talking about?’ I whispered to Sam, ‘He’s only just appointed them!’

‘Kalaki, my dear,’ said Sam, putting his arm round my shoulder, ‘you’ve been sitting here longer than you realise. The Commission was appointed in 2003 and they presented their report in 2008. And even that was two years ago!’

‘What! What are you saying? Where have I been? Have I been sitting at this same Press Conference for seven years? Is that what you want me to write in my column tomorrow? People will think I’ve gone mad!’

‘My poor dear Kalaki,’ said Sam, ‘You went mad years ago, but people still read your stories every week. But I should explain to you, this is not a press conference at State House, this is the lawn at Chainama Psychiatric Hospital. I’ve come here this afternoon to visit you. You’ve been here for seven years!’

‘My God!’ I hissed, looking around, as people started to stare at me. ‘What happened?’

‘You began to write stories that were more and more insane! Every week a bit more bonkers!’

‘But my stories are always true!’

‘That was the problem. It’s not good when insane stories turn out to be true! The whole country was going insane, and people were beginning to blame you. And you couldn’t stand the responsibility for what was happening, it drove you insane!’

‘It wasn’t like that at all,’ I protested. ‘It wasn’t my fault if the whole country was going insane. In fact I was the only sane person left.’

‘When you begin to believe that,’ said Sam solemnly, ‘it means you’ve gone mad.’

Maybe he’s right, I thought to myself. Even Sam could be right sometimes. Even Stutter Muwelewelewele had been heard to mutter a few wise words amongst all his nonsense. Wise constructions may arise sometimes by mere grammatical accident. And as I was thinking of my predicament, Stutter Muwelewelewele continued to stutter on…

‘The Cuh-Cuh-Commissioners were asked to consider whether all the decisions of government should be decided according to the unrestrained whim of a President with limitless powers. Or whether, instead, we shouldee ah, shouldee ah, change the Constootion, so that Presidential decisions are be guided by procedures for enshooring rational thought and balancing the interests of all stek-stekholders.’

‘Ha ha,’ I whispered to Sam, ‘you really had me worried for a moment. But that old fellow is definitely old Stutter Muwelewelewele. I really believed that I had been locked up at Chainama Hospital!’

‘Stutter is also a patient here,’ said Sam calmly. ‘He also got caught in the loop between rationality and insanity.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Just wait,’ said Sam. ‘Just give him plenty of time. He’ll explain it himself.’

‘Andee now ah, andee now ah,’ continued Stutter, ‘I have this list of 354 suggestions from the Commissioners on a new Constootion, which would entirely remove the power of Presidential Whim. Instead they seek to limit the power of the President by making all Presidential decisions subject to the rationality of due process.

‘Whereas I agree with the Commissioners in principle,’ declared Stutter, ‘there seems to be a legal difficulty which the Cuh-Cuh-Commissioners haven’t cuh-cuh-considered, and which is insurmountable or even insurmountainous.’

‘Here it comes,’ chuckled Sam.

‘As President, according to the Constootion, I am the one who has to take the decision to introduce the new Constootion. Now ah, now ah, now ah, how can I suddenly introduce rationality into a Presidential decision when the present Constootion requires me to take decisions on the basis of Presidential Whim. There is no Constootional precedent for a President using a rational argument to support a decision. And until we change the present Constootion I am sworn to defend the present Constootion.

‘If I use a rational argument to justify rationality, I shall have exceeded my powers under the present Constootion, since my powers are based on mere whim and not rationality. And if I am not at present given the Constootional power to exercise rationality, then how can I justify introducing rationality without a rational supporting argument? On the other hand, how can rationality be introduced on a mere whim? Unfortunately we have here an insurmountable cuh-cuh-contradiction.’

Muwelwelewele looked up at a tree with a puzzled expression. ‘Why do they want to make all these new rules? Did I not appoint all of them from pure whim, completely ignoring all rational advice from all around? Where would they be today if I had used rational justification for my actions? Why can’t people just respect my whimsical decisions? Why doesn’t anybody trust me anymore?’ He put his head in his hands and sobbed. Then two men in white coats took him by the arms, lifted him up, and led him away.

‘I suppose,’ I said to Sam, ‘That people lost trust in him after he went insane?’

‘No,’ laughed Sam. ‘He went insane because people wouldn’t trust him.’

‘So who’s in charge now?’

‘Nobody.’

‘Nobody?’ I gasped. ‘Then if Presidential Whim has been locked up, we are now free to change the Constitution!’

Just then a peacock screeched, and I woke up with a start. ‘You dozed off,’ said Sam, ‘You’ve missed everything! You’ll have no story for tomorrow’s edition!’

‘Don’t worry,’ I laughed. ‘I wrote the story before I left!’

‘You’re insane,’ he said.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kawalala

[Written in February 2002, when the new government was just beginning to investigate the previous gang of plunderers]

Kawalala

‘Its quarter past seven, we’re missing the news!’ exclaimed Sara, as she pressed the remote control, and the face of Dozy Dee filled the screen.’

‘She looks beautiful again,’ I said.

‘Just a fresh coat of paint,’ laughed Sara. ‘Its all part of the New Deal.’

‘There have been conflicting reports,’ began Dozy Dee, ‘about the troubles at the FTJ Institute.’

‘What’s FTJ?’ I asked.

‘The Institute for Fraud, Theft and Jerrymandering,’ said Sara.

‘I have with me in the studio today,’ said Dozy Dee, ‘the two main protagonists. On my right I have the President of the Institute, Dr Wabufi Kafupi, Professor Emeritus of Political Engineering and Jerrymandering. On my left is the President of the Board of Governors, Mr Excellent Kabeji. Now first of all Dr Kafupi, I’d like to hear your side of the story …’

‘My God!’ I said. ‘Two sides of the story! I thought they dropped that sort of thing in 1969! Where’s Velvet Mango to give us the official version?’

‘The New Deal has got him confused,’ said Sara. ‘He’s been sent to London for treatment.’

‘I’ve come here especially this evening,’ said Kafupi, ‘to announce that I’m expecting …’

‘Even me, I’m also expecting,’ said Sara.

‘Are you really?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ she laughed. ‘I’m expecting Kafupi to be sent to jail.’

‘… that I’m expecting twins,’ said Kafupi.

‘Oh congratulations,’ squealed Dozy Dee, her face transfigured with joy, ‘What a great joy and blessing after your recent troubles.’

‘Yes,’ said little Kafupi, bouncing up and down on his pile of cushions. ‘The previous lot were such a disaster, I thought I’d make a fresh start!’

‘Turn over a new leaf!’

‘Turn over a new wife!’ laughed Kafupi.

‘Look here,’ shouted Kabeji suddenly, ‘He’s telling me about stolen wives instead of stolen gluders. I’m not interested in his philandering, I want to hear about his plundering. Its ten years since he was given 300 billion gluders to build the Institute, and it still hasn’t even got a roof. Meanwhile his building foreman, Mr Tricky Kawalala, has built mansions all over town, three hotels in the Bahamas, and caused the Meridien Bank to go bust.’

‘I wonder why,’ said Kafupi, edging closer to Dozy Dee, and putting his arm around her, ‘you bothered to invite this Kabeji. He’s just President of the Governors, in charge of routine administrative matters. As Professor Emeritus of Political Engineering, I’m the one in charge of buying and selling presidents. In fact I’m the one who bought him, I mean appointed him. If he doesn’t behave himself,’ he said, getting closer and taking a little nibble at Dozy’s Dee’s ear, ‘I could even appoint you as the next president.’

‘Ooh you naughty little Kafupi,’ simpered Dozy Dee, ‘don’t say things like that. There might be people listening!’

‘This is better than Kabanana,’ I said.

Now the camera turned to Kabeji, who was becoming inflated with rage, like a huge football.

‘I can see why he’s called Kabeji,’ laughed Sara.

‘What I would like to know,’ shouted the Kabeji, ‘is whether the name of this Institute indicates that we are in favour of Fraud, Theft and Jerrymandering, or are we against it?’

The camera returned to Kafupi, who was now sitting on the lap of Dozy Dee, with his back towards the Kabeji. ‘Ooh my darling Dozy Dee, I’ve always liked big women, and you could be quite a challenge. What’s the silly Kabeji talking about now?’

‘He’s asking whether you are in favour of fraud and theft.’

‘What a silly question. Does the Drug Enforcement Commission force people to use drugs? Of course not! Are ordinary people forced to join the Police Force? Of course not, entry is restricted to criminals! Is the Anti-Corruption Commission against corruption? Of course not! We’d better stop answering his silly questions or he’ll work himself up into another rage!’

‘Ooh you’re such a delicious and witty little man, and so affectionate as well,’ purred Dozy Dee, as she put Kafupi’s head on her breast, and tenderly stroked his bald patch. With that, Kabeji roared with rage and marched out.

‘I don’t blame him,’ said Sara. She was so biased against him.’

‘She let her emotions get the better of her,’ I said.

Then ‘THE END’ filled the screen, as the continuity girl announced ‘The part of Kabeji was played by Augustine Lungu, Kafupi was played by Benne Banda, and Dozy Dee was played by Doreen Mukanzo. This episode was written and directed by Spectator Kalaki.

‘Has Dozy Dee made the right choice?’ continued the faceless voice. ‘Will she also have twins? Will Kawalala really be arrested? Does the Kabeji have a heart? Where is Velvet Mango? Tune in next week for the next episode of Kawalala!’

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Civics Lesson

[First published on 4th April 2002, this article reveals the strange education which gave rise to such peculiar leaders]

Civics Lesson

The Civics Teacher, Mr Amuna Mupampamina, swept into the classroom and wrote the date in the top right hand corner of the board. ‘4th April 1972!’ he proclaimed, as he turned triumphantly to the class. ‘And where are you all going to be in thirty years time?’

‘We are the leaders of tomorrow,’ said a voice from the back. ‘We shall be members of parliament and ministers.’

‘That’s right,’ replied the teacher. ‘That’s why you have been specially selected as the worst delinquents to come here to Numali Secondary School. You are the elite!

‘Take Mupupu Kafupi,’ he said, pointing at a tiny boy busy carving his initials on the desk. ‘He was sent to us from Lubumbashi Boys, after impregnating the headmaster’s daughter and killing his dog. Or was it the other way round?’

‘Excusez moi, mon professeur, maintenant mon nom est …’

‘English, please, Kafupi!’

‘Pardon, monsieur, I was just saying that I changed my name last week to Wabufi Kadoli. So now I have a clean record.’

‘Whoever you are,’ laughed Mupampamina, ‘I’m sure you’ll go a long way. Can anyone suggest any reasons why it is that delinquents always make the best leaders? Let’s have a little parliament to debate the issue. I shall be your Speaker. Will Samba, what do you say?’

‘In my considered opinion, Mr Speaker, the reason is that delinquents have a healthy contempt for all established traditions and rules, so they have the imagination to envisage a different society.’

‘But is that entirely true?’ asked the Speaker. ‘I’m not sure if I can allow that.’

‘Sir, as the Speaker, are you supposed to join in the debate, and suppress other people’s opinion?’

‘Be quiet, Sibetta. You’ve forgotten that I’m also your Civics Teacher. I shall put the question to Vicious Malambo. What do you think are the special qualities of the delinquent? Why do they always despise the rules.’

‘Not entirely correct, sir! Delinquents don’t always despise the rules, sir. Once I have changed the rules to suit myself, I always have the greatest respect for them.’

‘Very perceptive,’ said Mupampamina. ‘Sometimes the principles of delinquency seem to fit well with the principles of government. So what is the basic principle of government to which we have to adjust?’

With the lesson now warming up, several hands were raised towards the teacher.

‘The re-re-re-rule of rule of of raw,’ stuttered Stutter Mwansamumbi.

‘But who makes the rules?’ scoffed Cycle Mata. ‘Is it not the rule of men!’

‘It’s the words that matter!’ countered Velvet Mango. ‘The rule of lies!’

‘But why do we lie?’ asked Bedstead Dimba. ‘Isn’t it because we’re ruled by our appetites!’

‘Then it’s the rule of money!’

‘Order, order!’ shouted the Speaker. ‘Eunuch Kapimpinya! You’re asleep!’

Kapimpinya woke up with a start, and looked round for his lunch box, which had disappeared. ‘Thievery! Theft!’ he shouted.

‘I’ll accept that!’ declared the Speaker. ‘Thievery and Theft, those are the basic principles of government. All the other suggestions can be struck from the record, I’m not interested in them!

‘Now somebody tell me,’ said the Speaker, ‘what is the difference between the rich and the poor?’

‘Theft,’ said Machungwa. ‘The wealthy become rich by stealing from the poor.’

‘Quite right,’ said the Speaker. ‘And what is the method for this essential process of capital accumulation?’

‘Taxation,’ replied Kasonde, ‘is the principal method for transferring money from the poor to the rich.

‘And why is this money transferred to the rich?’

‘So that the poor will respect them as their betters and their rulers.’

‘So can you give me an alternative word for property?’

‘Theft.’

‘Very good. And what is the purpose of the judiciary?’

‘To protect the rich from the poor.’

‘Why do the ruling class need so much money?’

‘To buy votes to steal the election.’

‘But why do they need to steal the election.’

‘So that they can steal the presidency.’

‘And why do they need to steal the presidency?’

‘To be given immunity from theft.’

‘Very good. I’m sure you’ll all pass the exam, and never have to do a day’s work in your lives. But I must particularly draw your attention to the vocabulary we have been using. This is the vocabulary of the classroom, meant only for the training of the elite.

‘In later years, when I am the Speaker, and you are my members of parliament, I don’t want to even hear the word theft. You must stick to the proper parliamentary vocabulary of taxation, property, profit, privatisation, compensation, emoluments, allowances, gratuities, and so on. The word theft is used only when the poor steal from the rich. Therefore it is a word for the courtroom, not for parliament.’

Kadoli yawned and looked at his watch. ‘Half past ten. Time for break!’

‘That’s my watch!’ shouted Mupampamina.

‘I’m a quick learner,’ laughed Kadoli. ‘Its just been privatised!’

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Stray Bullet

[A Commission of Inquiry investigates a gang of criminals called the Police Farce! Is this the Barotseland Inquiry of 2011? No! This piece was written in July 2001]

Stray Bullet

It was the morning of 15 January 2002, and the Truth Commission was sitting in the Mpulumushi Conference Centre. In the chair sat Saint Simon Sucker, with his two other Commissioners, Quack Quackwie and Clueless Cluo.

‘In the dock this morning,’ began Saint Simon, ‘we have the former Inquisitor General, Mr Slyarse Nyangalala.’

Turning to Nyangalala, Saint Simon spoke slowly and solemnly. ‘The People of Zambia charge you with arming a gang of thieves and criminals, commonly known as the Police Farce, to protect the Movement for Murdering Dissidents from the consequences of their crimes.’

‘My client Mr Slyarse Nyangalala,’ said Robot Siboza, ‘has hired me as his attorney, to speak for him. He refuses to speak because he has done nothing wrong.’

‘I wonder,’ quacked Quack Quackwie, ‘if he has done nothing wrong, then why has he hired a lawyer to defend him? Perhaps there is another reason why he refuses to speak?’

‘Yes indeed there is,’ replied Siboza. ‘After thirty years of service in the Police Farce, his English is very limited.’

‘Let’s get down to particulars,’ said Saint Simon, with some irritation. ‘Let us take, as an example, Nyangalala’s strange inability to find out who murdered Mr Paul Baldwin Ronald Wezi Ng’uni Ngenda Tembo …’

‘His long name was the main obstacle,’ interrupted Siboza. ‘By the time Nyangalala had finished writing out the name of the alleged murder victim, the witnesses had always forgotten their evidence.’

Alleged murder victim?’ queried Quack Quackwie. ‘The victim took a bullet right between the eyes! Is that not murder?’

‘There remains the intriguing but unanswered question,’ smirked Siboza, ‘of whether the alleged victim may have accidentally and allegedly walked into a stray bullet which had been allegedly wandering around the town quite innocently, thereby causing the alleged death.’

Alleged death?’ clucked Clueless Cluo.

‘With all due respect,’ sneered Siboza, ‘if the Commission had more forensic experience, they would be aware that not all bullets cause death. In the case of politicians, it is common for bullets to pass straight through the head without doing any damage at all.’

‘I myself attended the funeral,’ cried Clueless Cluo, her wobbly fat trembling with rage. ‘Ten thousand mourners saw the corpse laid out in the coffin.’

‘But did you have a doctor check the pulse of the alleged corpse?’ asked Siboza. ‘Do not forget that the opposition is in the habit of staging mock funerals, merely as a way of causing political embarrassment to the government.’

‘I can assure you,’ said St Simon grimly, ‘that all three of us Commissioners followed that coffin to the grave, and saw it buried six feet down.’

‘I don’t doubt that you all followed a coffin to Leopards Hill,’ laughed Siboza. ‘The only question in my mind is whether you followed the same coffin as you saw in the church.’

‘Are you suggesting it was switched?’

‘There are various possible explanations. For example, you must surely be aware that there is always a continuous queue of coffins travelling up the Leopards Hill Road. It is very easy to accidentally join the wrong burial. I myself have done so several times.’

‘Is your client seriously claiming that Mr Paul Baldwin Ronald Wezi Ng’uni Ngenda Tembo is still alive and well?’

‘Excuse me,’ protested Siboza, ‘my client is not making any claims. It is your Commission that is making claims. My client has no information on the whereabouts or health of this person. I was merely pointing out, since you asked me, that there is no convincing or conclusive evidence of murder.’

‘In that case,’ cried Saint Simon triumphantly, ‘could you please explain why the three notorious brothers, Innocent Kaponya, Blameless Kaponya and Harmless Kaponya, were, on 19 July last year, charged in the High Court with the murder of Mr Paul Baldwin Ronald Wezi Ng’uni Ngenda Tembo?’

‘If you refer to the case record,’ retorted Siboza. ‘These three Kaponya brothers were known criminals, who had already used a gun to steal a tube of toothpaste from Shoprite.’

‘But they confessed to the killing.’

‘That was just to try to avoid the death penalty. It turned out, after further beatings, that they made this false confession because they were trying to avoid the mandatory death penalty for armed robbery. To avoid this dreadful fate, they falsely confessed to the lesser crime of killing a politician, so that they would serve only five years for manslaughter.’

‘Then this Commission will also question these Kaponya brothers!’

‘They were all hung last week.’

‘But why were they hung?’ asked Saint Simon. ‘I thought you said they didn’t commit the murder!’

‘You’re not following,’ explaind Siboza patiently. ‘They were hung after being found guilty of armed robbery involving a tube of toothpaste.’

‘Very well then,’ sighed Saint Simon, with some exasperation. ‘We will proceed to the next case. Let us look at Nyangalala’s failure to arrest the culprits in the case of the six hundred petrol tankers which disappeared, and the case of the bogus ICASA contracts.’

‘It will be more difficult to go there,’ Quack Quackie quickly declared. ‘Unfortunately all those secrets went to the grave with Mr Paul Baldwin Ronald Wezi Ng’uni Ngenda Tembo.’

Saint Simon Sucker sighed sadly. ‘So what can we do?’

‘Don’t ask me,’ said Clueless Cluo. ‘I’m Clueless.’

Friday, October 28, 2011

Where is it?

[Every time the government changes hands they begin looking for the property stolen by the previous incumbents. This was the situation in May2002, when Kalaki wrote this piece]

Where is it?

‘Mr Cycle Mata,’ said the Judge, ‘According to the evidence put forward by Inspector Waffle Watumpa, you secretly stole the Rule of Law from the government, and have been driving it around as if it were your own.

‘But I am much persuaded by the evidence from many witnesses that you have never had anything to do with the Rule of Law. Whenever you wanted to fix your enemies, you always hired your own gang of thugs. I therefore absolve you of all charges of ever having had anything to do with the Rule of Law, and you are accordingly acquitted.’

‘Thank you My Lord. I should just like to say how grateful I am for my stay in Kamwala Prison. Despite my considerable previous experience, I had never before managed to meet so many thieves and criminals in such a short time. I have recruited them all into my party, and we will soon be in a position to take over the government.’

‘Splendid!’ laughed the Judge. ‘That’s what we mean by democracy in this country!’ Then the Judge turned more seriously to the Clerk of the Court. ‘I am very concerned about how this case was botched by this baffled buffoon, Inspector Waffle Watumpa. Weren’t the Police supposed to have brought the Rule of Law here, as an exhibit of the stolen property?’

‘My Lord!’ exclaimed the Clerk of Court in alarm, ‘the Suspector General has always been very clear that the Police will never have anything to do with the Rule of Law! We are trained to never go near it.’

‘Then why wasn’t it brought by an officer of the court?’

‘It would set a disastrous precedent, My Lord. The Rule of Law has never had any role in court proceedings, and has never previously been found in any court room.’

‘Really? Why’s that?’

‘Due to the constitutional separation of powers, My Lord. We are concerned with administering the law, not with ruling. That’s the job of the executive. Once a court concerns itself with the Rule of Law, it would set a dreadful precedent. All previous judgements would be wide open for appeal, because of evidence obtained under torture. Even those hanged would have to be dug up, resuscitated, resurrected and retried. Both the cost and the smell would be inestimable.’

‘So where is the Rule of Law now?’

‘It was Mr Bigwig Abashi who claimed that Cycle Mata stole the Rule of Law. So perhaps he’s the owner!’

‘Now we’re getting somewhere!’ exclaimed the judge. ‘Call Bigwig Abashi!’

An ancient little bald fellow hobbled arthritically into the witness box. ‘Are you the owner of the Rule of Law?’ asked the Judge.

‘I am the Very Right Honourable Doctor Bigwig Abashi, constitutional lawyer with three degrees, and currently Minister of Perks for Supply.’

‘Yes yes,’ said the Judge irritably, ‘we know all that. The question is whether you are the owner of the Rule of Law?’

‘Ha ha,’ cackled the wrinkled old lizard, ‘I’d never fix my enemies if I bothered with that! The very existence of the Rule of Law is a great mystery. But as far as I understand the matter, the Rule of Law is supposed to be kept in a safe place, locked up in the cells of the Shushushu.’

‘The Rule of Law is locked up? Has it committed an offence?’

‘It’s not that, but rather a matter of constitutional principle. You see, My Lord, if the Rule of Law were set free, the Shushushu themselves would immediately become unconstitutional.’

‘Good gracious!’ exclaimed the Judge. ‘I hadn’t thought of that! But to settle this case we should really find the Rule of Law, since Cycle Mata was accused of having stolen it. So I order that the Supreme Shushushu be brought here before this court, to confirm that he really has the Rule of Law under lock and key.’

‘We can’t do that, My Lord,’ screeched Bigwig, ‘you must surely be aware that the Shushushu does not officially exist.’

‘Oops, I quite forgot that!’ said the Judge, as he scratched his smelly yellow wig with his filthy fingernails. ‘But if we can’t be sure that the Rule of Law is locked up, then how can we be sure that it hasn’t escaped or even been stolen?’

‘There is quite a bit of general evidence,’ smirked Bigwig, ‘that the Rule of Law is safely under lock and key.’

‘What evidence?’ demanded the Judge.

‘There’s so much evidence,’ replied Bigwig. ‘Let me give you an example. We have so many investors in the country who treat their workers like slaves, pay them starvation wages, and beat them if they protest. Now, if the Rule of Law were set free, obviously all these hideous investors would be prosecuted, punished and then deported.’

‘A good point,’ said the Judge. ‘We certainly need to protect the economy from the Rule of Law. Indeed, if the Rule of Law were to escape, it could cause havoc. That’s why this court must be in a position to assure the nation that the Rule of Law has not escaped, but is locked up in a safe place. I have a duty to the nation to get to the bottom of this matter. Bring the Chief Government Spokesman.’

So now the fat face of Mr Bedstead Dimba blinked uncomprehendingly at the court. ‘Mr Dimba,’ said the Judge sternly. ‘Can you tell us the whereabouts of the Rule of Law?’

‘I can assure you,’ said Dimba slowly, ‘that the Rule of Law is safely in the custody of the government.’

‘The government! The government!’ snapped the Judge irritably. ‘Who is the government! Who governs this country?’

Dimba paused, scratched his head, and looked at the ceiling. ‘This country is governed,’ he said slowly, ‘by the Rule of Law.’

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Struggle

[First published on Independence Day in 2002, this piece looks at the past years of glorious struggle…]

The Struggle

The Big Man, otherwise known as His Most Highly Excellent Excellency, climbed slowly and majestically up the steps to the podium and looked solemnly out at the crowd gathered on the lawn under the midday sun, as they sweated in their heavy Paris and London suits, fanning themselves with their gold printed programmes, and mopping their faces with their silk handkerchiefs.

‘Imagine the scene here thirty-eight years ago,’ began the Big Man, ‘when we first celebrated our independence. Instead of the select few we see here today, there were thousands from every walk of life. I am told that one minister arrived on a bicycle, and rode across the lawn with such enthusiasm that he crashed into a drum of chibuku, which soaked the American Ambassador.’

‘Ha ha,’ everybody laughed. ‘Probably from Lundazi! We were all villagers then!’

‘Yes,’ said the Big Man. ‘That was the problem. We were all villagers then. In 1964 we all looked the same, frayed shirts and laughing shoes. Just a bunch of freedom fighters straight out of the bush.’

‘Probably the Bush Hotel in Ndola!’ somebody shouted.

‘Some of these new political leaders had never even seen the inside of a hotel,’ continued the Big Man. ‘But now they had to weld themselves into a political elite that could enjoy the best hotels in London and New York. This meant that they had to struggle to develop as a new political class, with the wealth and experience to be respected in the world. Above all, they had to struggle to avoid falling back into the starving masses from whom they has so recently emerged.’

‘More champagne!’ shouted an irritable voice, summoning one of the small army of uniformed waiters.

‘And as we keep the champagne flowing,’ said the Big Man, ‘it is fitting that we should today honour the man who did so much to establish us as the ruling class…’

As he was speaking a bald old man in a white silk safari suit walked from the marquee and stood in front of the podium.

‘Bashimpundu Munshumfwa,’ said the Big Man, ‘we honour you today for your great role in our struggle for independence. In those early days, after our colonial masters had been chased, it was left to you to establish the new political elite from amongst an unlikely band of undisciplined malcontents. In those days, your new elite were in a dangerous position; they could easily have been swept away at the first election. But thanks to your foresight and determined action, many of that original band of pioneers are still with us here today.

‘It was you, Bashimpundu, who solved the problem of elite class preservation with the brilliant electoral innovation of the one party election. This enabled six candidates from the same party to stand for each parliamentary seat. Since the electorate had now been relieved of the bothersome task of choosing between different party policies, they were now free to sell their votes to the candidate who paid them best.

‘It is this system which has ensured the stability of government, and the formation and independence of an enduring political elite, because only those presently within government had access to the funds to buy sufficient votes. Although the one party state has now been abolished, we have managed to extend this free market in votes to the multiparty system. In this way our multi-party system has managed to preserve the essence of the one party system, which is the provision for the intergenerational reproduction of the elite class. This has enabled us to triumph in the long struggle to create and preserve the elite class.

‘The Struggle!’ they all chanted, as they raised their champagne glasses.

‘I therefore,’ continued the Big Man, ‘appoint you Hero of the Struggle, First Class. I also award you a free house and six free Mercedes for life, irrespective of the cost to the starving masses.’

The old man took out his white silk handkerchief and shed a few tears of joy as the gold medal was put round his neck. As he walked away, an old woman took his place.

‘Mama Chibebebe Kakasha, we honour you today for a different type of struggle. In those early days, many women who had played their part in chasing the British now demanded their equal place in society and in government. But we must thank you, Mama Kakasha, for confining them to the Women’s League. You managed to keep them busy dancing for the Great Leader at the Airport, and making the tea at party conferences. In the continuing struggle for men’s domination over women, you are our heroine. I am sure all the women of Zambia must know what you have done for them. You were the heroine who assisted us in our struggle to respect our traditional culture by maintaining male supremacy in the nation, and…’

As he was speaking, shouts and shots were heard from behind the marquee, and then a hoard of skeletons in rags came galloping through, falling upon the waiting banquet, sinking their teeth into the lobster and crab, and spilling a big bowl of caviar all over the American Ambassador.

‘How did they get in?’ squealed the Big Man.

‘We’re dealing with it, Your Most Highly Excellent Highness,’ the Chief of Oppression shouted back, as the tear gas blew the wrong way. ‘We were taken by surprise. They tricked us by being so thin that they walked straight in through the front railings!’