Friday, September 30, 2011

Haunted House

[First published on 10th January 2002, this piece looks at the new arrival in State House, the clumsy foot-in-mouth Kabeji]

Haunted House


Dear Diary, today we moved into our marvellous new home, now that my derar husband Kabeji has got the top job. The previous tenant, Wabufi Kafupi, was in tears as he handed over. He had kept the house marvellously, but was refused an extension of the lease after having been caught stealing the cutlery and eating all the peacocks and impala from the garden.

Please,’ said Kafupi, as we said goodbye, ‘don’t change anything. Leave it as it is. Even the pictures on the wall.’


Kabeji slept like a log last night, after I’d given him his pills. But I just couldn’t get comfortable on that mattress. The springs are all finished. ‘What was Kafupi doing on it?’ I asked Kabeji at breakfast, ‘to get it in such a state?’

‘I’m told he never slept much,’ he replied. ‘Often he would spend the whole night wrestling with weighty problems.’

‘That reminds me,’ I said. ‘We’ve got to discuss your acceptance speech. Have a look through this draft, my dear, while you’re swallowing your pills. We need a strong message of reconciliation, all work together for the sake of the nation, that sort of thing.’

With a little encouragement from me, he made a first attempt to read it out loud. ‘My intention is to appoint some of my pop pop pop…’

‘Opponents,’ I said.

‘I know that,’ he shouted, stamping his foot. ‘My intention is to appoint some of my popponents to my new team…’

Then he stopped, look up and seemed to go into a trance. Finally he shouted at me ‘But if they oppose me, that is treason, they’ll be arrested, found guilty and sentenced to death!

I wiped his brow with a white embroidered linen serviette, and got him to lie down on the sofa. ‘Don’t upset yourself, my dear,’ I said gently, as I gave him his medicine. ‘We’ll have another try tomorrow.’


Dear Diary, I’m worried that this job may be too much for my husband. At breakfast he did manage to read the second sentence quite nicely. All about the members of his team being people of integrity and honesty, and above reproach, who will put the national interest above personal interest.

But having said this in a calm, magisterial and convincing voice, my husband put down the paper, and looked vacantly into the far distance. Then his face twisted into an ugly sneer, which strangely mirrored the picture of Kafupi hanging on the wall. ‘However,’ he snarled, clumsily spilling his tea all over the nicely printed speech, ‘it is also important that I repay my personal debt to my closest associates. These are the liars, dealers and crooks who gladly and willingly besmirched their reputations in order to devise the various dirty tricks that put me into this high office.’

‘Darling,’ I said, holding his hand and trying to calm him, ‘it would be better if you could just stick to the official text. We are aiming for something calm, diplomatic, reassuring, and statesmanlike. Under no circumstances should you actually say what is on your mind.


I tried again with Kabeji at breakfast, but he was still in a terrible fit, as if he’d been tormented all night by one of the springs in Kafupi’s mattress. I got him to read another sentence, saying ‘All leaders must be humble and accept criticism, and work amicably with our co-operating partners.’

Then he fell onto the floor in a furious rage, shouting ‘I’m not having these donors criticising our election, or asking what has happened to their funding. What are they doing here anyway?’

And something very creepy, Dear Diary. He seemed to be looking up at the picture of Kafupi. And when I glanced up at it, I thought I saw the eyes move! Oh My God, am I living in a haunted house?

I was shaking with fear as I gave him some more pills, and laid him down quietly on the sofa.


This morning I got up early to make breakfast, and discovered something really ghoulish and goose-pimply about this house. I found the Kafupi picture with empty holes where the eyes should be! But it had eyes yesterday! I got a torch, stood on a chair, and looked inside. A tunnel! I knew it! Kafupi is still here! He’s in the tunnels! Casting an evil spell over my husband!

So I arranged breakfast on the patio, away from the evil eye. And do you know, Dear Diary, Kabeji read the speech perfectly! No problems at all! Every successful man has a little woman right behind him!


Today is my big Kabeji’s big day before the cameras. So I buttoned up his shirt properly, straightened his tie, gave him a double dose of pills, and sent him on his way.

Oh Kabeji, your dear wife and the whole nation has so much hope invested in you! Please don’t disappoint us!

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