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!’

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Handover

[It is just after the election in 2008, and the time has come for Morleen to hand over State House to Thandiwe]

The Handover


My poor Old Sugar has gone to bed and is already snoring, so its time to confide in you, My Dear Diary. When my dear Sugar finally woke up this morning, he was like a dinosaur with a sore head. ‘I’ve been president for over a week,’ he roared. ‘When is that woman going to let me into State House?’

‘Don’t you worry My Darling,’ I said gently, ‘I’ll have a word with Morleen, and find out what’s causing the delay.’ So I gave her a call on my new Blackberry, and she invited me round the next day. ‘I’ve been waiting for your call all week,’ she said, ‘what was the delay?’

‘Shall I bring Old Sugar?’ I asked. ‘No,’ she replied, ‘its better to keep things between the two of us at this stage.’


Dear Diary, Today was so exciting. I’ve been learning all about furniture and the art of government. This morning, before Old Sugar had woken up, Morleen was already taking me on a tour of my new home. ‘You won’t have to change anything,’ she said. ‘Your husband is exactly the same size as the previous president, so everything will fit perfectly.’ ‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ I admitted. ‘I’d been wondering why he was chosen.’

‘There were terrible problems previously,’ explained Morleen, ‘when we had to replace a large president with a small one, and after that change the small one with my beloved Muwelewele. You can’t have a huge president balancing on a tiny chair, it lowers the dignity of the presidency, quite apart from the threat to national security.’

‘So we don’t have to bring any of our own things?’ I asked.

‘Good gracious no,’ laughed Morleen. ‘The wardrobe is full of suits that will fit your Sugar Daddy…’

‘I call him my Sugar,’ I corrected her, ‘Not Sugar Daddy.’

‘Oops,’ she said, ‘My mistake. Anyway, your Sugar should be able to step into the same shoes. Its all part of the legacy.’

‘And fit into the same old policies?’ I wondered. ‘Perhaps I should bring him along tomorrow to talk about that?’ ‘Good gracious no,’ she laughed, ‘its better to keep things between the two of us at this stage.’


Dear Diary, this morning I confided my fears to Morleen, about whether my poor Old Sugar could really run the country. ‘On our little farm in Chipata,’ I explained, ‘I used to have to do everything, because he was usually asleep. But if he woke up, I would send him into town to attend party meetings. Otherwise he would hang around the farm and start quarrelling with the workers.’

‘It’s much the same with this job,’ said Morleen. ‘You just take charge, and if he becomes a nuisance, you send him to meetings of SADC or the AU to talk about Darfur or Mugabe. Then, while he’s away, you can continue to govern the country.’

Now she had me really worried. ‘How can I do that?’ I asked her. ‘What if ministers try to interfere?’ But Morleen just laughed. ‘Never talk to a minister, just phone his secretary, and tell her you’ve got instructions from State House. That way, the minister just does as he’s told.’

Oh Dear Diary, I’m really worried that Morleen’s system won’t work for me. Supposing these ministers have ideas of their own? Even worse, supposing my Old Sugar starts to interfere. He could really mess things up.


Dear Diary, I’m feeling more confident today, after Morleen explained everything. ‘These ministers,’ she said, ‘are specially chosen because they have no ideas of their own. They’re all old and dull, and rather sleepy. The only one who understands how a ministry works is the minister’s personal secretary, who has been there for years. So the country is always run by the First Lady and the ministers’ secretaries. It’s women who govern this country. Men just steal and talk.’


Dear Diary, the newspapers are starting to gossip that Old Sugar hasn’t been seen for two weeks, and maybe he’s fallen asleep. So I woke him up early, and took him round to Morleen for the Big Handover. She made him sit on the great throne at the head of the long table. ‘I’ve called your press conference for tomorrow,’ she said, as she put a sheaf of papers in front of him. ‘It will be very simple and straightforward. All you have to do is read out this list of new ministers.’

‘Oh goody,’ yawned Old Sugar. ‘I hope I can get along with all of them.’

‘Just make sure,’ said Morleen sternly, ‘that you don’t lose any of these sheets of paper, or you might end up with more ministers than ministries.’

But my poor Sugar had already fallen asleep. I turned to Morleen and whispered ‘Is it really alright for me to take charge? After all, I haven’t been elected.’

‘Don’t worry,’ snapped Morleen. ‘Nor was he!’

Friday, October 7, 2011

All Hail the New Speaker!

[First published on 7th February 2002, just after the election of a new Speaker]

All Hail the New Speaker!

Sam and I were sitting in the Press Gallery of the Great Cathedral at Manda Hill. We were about to witness the consecration of the new priest to preside over all their ancient and medieval rituals.

‘Why is the priest in charge called a speaker?’ I whispered to Sam. ‘Shouldn’t he be a cardinal, or at least an archbishop?’

‘This is a different sort of church,’ explained Sam, ‘Instead of priests, bishops and pope, here we have members, ministers and speaker.’

‘But do they all worship God?’

‘Here God is Money, and Money is God,’ chuckled Sam. ‘So they worship Money, which they believe to be the visible sign of God on Earth.’

‘But does that explain the Chief Priest being called the Speaker!’

‘He is called the Speaker because Money talks,’ explained Sam. ‘The old God of Morality has not muttered a word for two thousand years. But the God of Money is chattering all the time, through his representative here on Earth, the Speaker. When the Speaker speaks, even the bishops tremble, because they also fear and respect the Power of Money.’

Just then a shabby little figure shuffled in and crouched in front of the Speaker’s Chair. ‘Good God!’ I exclaimed, ‘is this odious little creature the new Speaker?’

‘Of course not,’ laughed Sam. ‘This is Chiwelewele, the church rat. He’s been here so long that he was made the Chief Clerk. His job is to officiate over the proceedings, and then creep back into his hole.’

‘Please be upstanding,’ said Chiwelewele, ‘to sing the Money Anthem,’ as the entire congregation stood up simultaneously. For all their political differences, they were all united in their praise of their One God…

Stand and sing of Money,

market free,

Land of bribes and joy in unity,

Victors in the struggle

for our right,

We hold money tight,

Praise our Great Dollar,

Praise be, praise be,

Fat men we stand,

In the desert of our land,

For our Great Dollar,

Praise to thee,

Strong and free.

‘There are two candidates for the position of Speaker,’ continued Chiwelewele. ‘Firstly there is Bumfutu Bapunda, who is well known as a silly ass. Standing against him is the most famous and distinguished son of this House, Mr Alesosa Mwelwamwelwa. Those who want Mwelwamwelwa should walk past the right side of my chair, for righteousness is next to godliness. Those who are misguided should walk on the wrong side.

‘What’s that?’ I asked Sam, pointing to the large copper cross hanging high on the wall.

‘Copper crosses were used as money in pre-colonial day,’ he explained. ‘That’s our old traditional Copper God, worshipped long before the God of Abraham, in the days when the slaves dug up the copper and the chief grew fat on the proceeds.’

‘And the tatty old cabbage, hanging on the cross?’

‘Shush,’ said Sam, ‘that is the Great Cabbage that now rules the land. ‘Some people think that it’s just a useless cabbage, but actually it’s represents the big bundle of greenbacks which command the loyalty of our most illustrious crooks and thugs.’

‘It looks a bit tatty round the edges,’ I sniggered.

‘Some of the honourable members of the house are known to have a nibble now and again, according to the understandable demands of their extravagant lifestyle.’

As we were talking, the fat and honourable members were filing back from voting. ‘Look!’ I said. ‘Some have cabbage leaves sticking out of their pockets.’

‘Dollar notes,’ laughed Sam. ‘They’re already finding out how to get nearer to God.’

‘Our new Speaker,’ announced Chiwelewele, ‘is the Right Honourable Alesosa Mwelwamwelwa!’

‘Hear hear,’ cheered the members, as they counted their dollar notes, and Chiwelewele dressed the new Speaker in skirt, cloak and long white wig, so that his past reputation might be clothed in the finest disguise.

‘He has to wear the wig,’ whispered Sam, ‘to cover the panga scars acquired during his years as a party cadre in the Movement for Murdering Dissidents.’

‘My first duty,’ said the new Speaker, ‘is to lead this August and Honourable House in the Oath of Allegiance. ‘Please bend the knee, and repeat after me…’

All the ancient honourables attempted to bend their fat and arthritic knees as they chanted their Oath of Allegiance to the Holy Dollar…

Our Dollar, which art in pocket

Hallowed be thy name;

Our brown envelopes have come,

A new deal is done,

With Pajeros, to take us all to heaven.

Give us each day our daily bribe,

As well as our government houses,

And imprison those who speak out against us,

For ours is the dollar, the power and the glory,

With girlfriends for ever and ever,

In bed.

‘And now,’ the Speaker solemnly announced, as he gave the sign of the cross, ‘I do adjourn this House sine die, while I await further instructions from God the Kwacha, God the Dollar, and God the Holy Cabbage.’

What freedom it was to walk out from the fetid flatulent air of the Cathedral of the Holy Cabbage, into the fresh breeze outside.

‘There’s something familiar about the appearance of that new Speaker,’ I said to Sam. ‘He looks remarkably like the previous old villain. I seem to get a whiff of the same stench!’

‘You’re right!’ said Sam. ‘They’ve had the previous fellow resurrected! It’s a miracle!’

‘Who performed the miracle? Was it the God of Abraham or the God of Money?’

‘In this Christian Nation,’ laughed Sam, ‘who can tell the difference?’