Thursday, July 14, 2011

Road to Manda Hill

[Back in April 2000, Kalaki wrote this advice on how to win an election]

Road to Manda Hill

It was three o’clock in the afternoon, but nothing of much interest had come down the wire from Reuters, and we had drawn a blank on the Internet. ‘If Sir Fred comes in and finds we haven’t got a story,’ I said to Sam, ‘he’s going to get a bit ratty.’

‘Let me show you the new Manda Hill,’ said Sam. ‘There’s always something going on there. If not, we could easily provoke something.’

So off we footed, up the Great East. As we came to the traffic lights, there loomed into view a massive monstrosity, without shape or form, let alone architecture.

‘My God,’ I said. ‘What’s that? Another Namboard Depot? An aircraft hangar? Or has Simon Mwewa built himself another house?

‘Don’t be silly,’ laughed Sam. ‘This is Manda Hill!’

‘Who’s being silly?’ I snapped. ‘There’s no hill here at all. I thought we were heading for parliament!’

‘If you want to go to parliament,’ explained Sam, ‘you have to start here. This is where you can buy all the things that will get you up the hill, and into parliament.’

As we got closer, I could see that the Manda Monstrosity was divided into different sections: Political Game, Hoprite, Truthworth, Moore Flattery, Supreme Tarnishers, and so on.

Political Game is the most popular nowadays,’ said Sam. ‘Let’s go in there.’

Each section had its own sign hanging from the ugly tin roof. Selection Game, Nomination Game, Membership Game, Dark Corner Game, Expulsion Game, and so on.

‘Let’s see what they’ve got in Electoral Game,’ I said.

People were flocking around the shelves, where big notices advertised the goods on sale. Under a notice saying Organise Party Defections were the following items for sale:

Forged membership card, 1 pin

Genuine card of deceased, 2 pins

Genuine card of living, 3 pins

Buy a hundred and get ten free!

All UNIP cards half price!

‘Now you can see,’ said Sam, ‘how the free market has liberated politics. Previously this was all done secretly up the Hill, and the rest of us didn’t know what was going on. Now it has all come down the hill, where anybody with money can join in.’

‘It has certainly come a long way down hill,’ I admitted.

We walked on until we came to a notice saying Buy Your Votes Here, and showing another pricelist:

Voter’s Cards 50pins

Green Reggies 100pins

10% Discount if you buy a hundred!

‘Some of these prices seem a bit steep,’ I said. ‘I know for a fact that a reggie from the back door of the Green Registration office costs only 30 pins.

‘But the advantage here,’ Sam smirked, ‘is that you can buy in bulk.’

The next section was entitled ‘Ideal Qualifications for Candidates’, where Form V certificates were going for 50 pins, diplomas for 100 pins and degree certificates for 500pins. ‘Some of these prices are quite reasonable, I admitted. ‘I mean, why spend a fortune buying back door examination papers, when instead you can get Form V certificate for only 50 pins!’

‘The liberalization of the economy has made things much easier,’ laughed Sam. ‘With enough money you can even become Bantu Botatwe. The really difficult and expensive thing is to become indigenous.’ As he was speaking he pointed towards the central display of certificates in gold frames, and a notice which said:

Genuine indigenous birth certificates while you wait! Essential for all aspiring presidential candidates. Only 5,000 pins for a genuine indigenous parent. Buy one parent and get the other one free! You too can be president!

‘Excellent investment,’ said Sam. ‘For only 5,000 pins, you could soon be in a position to empty the entire national treasury. That’s a very high rate of return on your capital investment.’

We walked down further to the Salaula Nikuv Computers, where a big sign read

Get your own Nikuv computer to ensure your own party members are on the Register. Just press the ‘Upload’ button’ to give yourself an inbuilt majority. Just press the ‘Delete’ Button to entirely remove all opposition voters. Election success guaranteed!

‘All these things used to be secret,’ explained Sam. ‘But now we have transparency, so that everybody can see what’s going on. Let’s go and have a look at Hoprite. Its much more fun.’

‘There aren’t any commodities!,’ I exclaimed, as we walked in. ‘Just people sitting on the shelves!’

‘They are the commodities!’ laughed Sam. ‘Hoprite is where the party hoppers hop from one party to the next.’

On the shelf sat an ancient forlorn Munkombwe with a placard round his neck saying Up and Down provincial chairman seeks job as Minister for Muddle in the Movement for Marketing Democracy. The saliva dripped down his poor old chin as his left eye looked to the left, and his right eye to the right, each trying to spot a prospective buyer.

‘He can’t get a job like that,’ laughed Sam. ‘For one thing, he’s well past his shelf life. And for another, the exchange rate is well known.’ He pointed to Bank of Zambia notice on the wall, clearly setting out the current party-hopping exchange rates:

50 party members = 1 councilor

10 councilors = 1 provincial chair

10 provincial chairs = 1 MP

10 MPs = 1 Minister

‘Is that entirely correct?’ I wondered. ‘I thought Independent MPs were supposed to be much more valuable than ordinary party MPs.’

‘Its difficult to say,’ replied Sam. ‘There hasn’t been enough trade to establish a firm market price.’

‘But I heard that Chastity Mwansa was promised a job as Minister of Helicopters.’

‘Promised,’ he laughed. ‘Promises are very cheap. Up to now she hasn’t been given anything. The silly girl thought she could collect her own lobola! But it’s only her father who can be made Minister of Helicopters!’

‘Before we go,’ I said, ‘let’s have a look at Bookworld.’

‘Actually, it’s called Cookworld, because they sell only cookbooks.’

‘Can a cookbook help you win an election?’

‘Of course,’ Sam laughed. ‘Winning an election is just like stuffing a chicken and cooking it. If you stuff a ballot box you can cook an entire election.’

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