Thursday, January 26, 2012

St Ignominious

Back in August 2000, a priest was explaining how a Christian Nation could also be a Police State…

                 St Ignominious

It was rather late when Sara and I slipped into the Sunday morning service at St Ignominious. The congregation was just beginning the Lord’s Prayer ...

Our Christian Nation, which art in Zambia,
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy terror come
To us in Lusaka, as it is in Jerusalem.
Save us each day from daily dread,
And forgive our legislators,
As we forgive those who legislate against us;
Protect us from the Secret Police,
And deliver us from evil.

By now Father Mupulumpunshi was already in the pulpit, ready to begin one of his meandering sermons ...

‘As we sit here this morning in the Church of the Most Magnificent Deity, many of you have been asking yourselves whether things have really changed for the better since we became a Christian Nation. Do we have Good Governance? Do we have God’s Governance?

‘Look into your soul, and ask yourself honestly. Was your faith shaken when you turned on your radio this morning, and heard that armed police had invaded the house of Bululu Mwila? Admit a small sinful thought! Did you not say to yourself that it reminded you of the Mad Munshumfwa’s Dictatorship, rather than the Good Governance of God?

But I say to you,’ he cried, raising his arms to Heaven, ‘where is your faith? Where is your loyalty? Who are we, as mere mortals, to question the Most Magnificient Deity?

‘I know what you thought!’ he trumpeted, ‘when the Chief of Police could not explain it, and the Minister of Home Affairs knew nothing about it! I can see it in your eyes,’ he said, leaning forward and pointing an accusing finger at the congregation. ‘You thought that they were evil men, and that they were lying!

‘Oh ye of little faith! Have you not considered that they were struck dumb by the sight of a miracle! Was this not the angels of the Lord descending on a sinner? The Great Shepherd descending on his flock! What could mere mortals say about an Act of God! Theirs was the silence of the lambs!

‘When the Lord sends his Heavenly Police to descend directly to deal with sinners, he does not need to inform the Chief of Police or the Minister! Let alone the Magistrate! The Lord does not need a search warrant! I refer you to the Word of God! I ask you, where is the Magistrate’s Court in the Book of Genesis?

‘Do you think because the Heavenly Police found nothing, then the raid was a waste of time? Think again! If the Lord visits you tomorrow night and finds nothing, are you innocent? Instead of faith, he finds nothing! Instead of belief, he finds nothing! Instead of blind loyalty, he finds nothing! Then you are guilty! How then will you get to Heaven? Will you not go to Hell?

‘So it was with Bululu Mwila. The Heavenly Police searched his house all night and found nothing. Neither bible nor hymn book. Neither prayer book nor liturgy. Neither rosary nor crucifix. Not even a picture of Our Lord! The house of a fallen sinner!

‘Our Lord is a fisherman, and every night he must go on his fishing expeditions. But before you scorn a fallen sinner, ask yourself if you are ready to be visited by the Heavenly Fishermen.

He raised up his eyes, and addressed the stained glass windows with fervour. ‘But for the righteous amongst us, the Lord is our shepherd, and we are his sheep. We must follow him, and obey his every word. If we have blind loyalty and faith, then we need not fear the Heavenly Police.

‘So that is my message to you today. Now all rise to sing Psalm 23.’

As the organ struck the first note, we all burst into song ...

The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not scream,
He makes me down to lie;
On Nondo’s swing he tortures me
The quiet waters by.

My house he doth invade again
And me to walk doth make;
Under the threat of pointed gun
Even for my Leader’s sake.

Yea, when I walk in death’s dark vale
Then I shall fear much ill;
For he is with me, and his rod
And staff are meant to kill.

Torment and terror all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in Red Brick forevermore
My dwelling place shall be.

Dark clouds scurried across the sky as Sara and I hurried away from the church.

‘What do you think to the priest’s question?’ I asked. ‘Do you think God has really taken over?’

‘Difficult to say,’ she said. ‘Either God or the Devil.’

Friday, January 20, 2012

Malicious Allegations

[First published in June 2000, this piece looks at the prospects of getting a court judgement against a government minister]

       Malicious Allegations

All rose as Judge Chibepesho walked solemnly into the court and sat down at the bench.
 ‘This court is hereby convened,’ said the Judge, ‘as a Tribunal on Ministerial Conduct, to hear the case against Mr Newspeak Dimba, Minister for Misconduct.
 ‘Mr Newspeak Dimba, you have been charged with misusing your position as Minister. The facts before this court are that you were appointed in 1991 as the guardian of Ms Zambia, but that you misused your position, and neglected her. How do you plead?’
 ‘I am innocent, M’Lud. I bought Zambia legally during the 1991 elections, paying ten gluders and a bottle of beer. Since then she has been my property, to do with as I please.’
 ‘The law of property cannot take precedence over human rights. Look at the poor wretch,’ said the Judge, pointing to Ms Zambia who sat on the floor, thin and shivering. ‘Is she attending hospital?’
 ‘The poor woman has no money to pay hospital fees.’
 ‘As her guardian, are you not supposed to take care of her health and welfare?’
 ‘Ha!’ snorted the Minister, thrusting forward his fat waistcoat, ‘I made it clear to her from the start that she had to stand on her own feet. I told her plainly that she could expect nothing but self-sacrifice. Now she has the audacity to come here and complain that I never provide for her!’
 ‘So you have refused to take her to hospital?’
 ‘M’Lud, you must understand my predicament. My own children are away at university in America, where I have to pay both school fees and medical expenses. They will need a high standard of education if they are to manage all my property, and take their position in society.’
 And did you manage to provide university education for poor little Zambia?’
 ‘What use would it be to her? What future does she have?’
 ‘Well, you may have a point on that one. But now I must turn to the more serious charge against you. The plaintiff has complained that ever since she came into your house, you have raped her every night.’
 ‘Rape is a foreign word, M’Lud. Foreign to our custom and tradition. As a man, I am entitled to take pleasure in my own property.’
 ‘She claims that you have invited your whole gang of friends to share your pleasure.’
 ‘Really, M’Lud, is it not a basic right that I may share and enjoy my property with my friends? What sort of friend would I be if I did not ask Zambia to entertain my visitors?’
 ‘So it wasn’t rape?’
 ‘We are entitled to take what we have paid for. I refer you, M’Lud, to the Law of Contract.’
 ‘But what about women’s rights? Has Zambia not ratified the Declaration on Equal Rights for Women?’
 ‘Exactly, M’Lud. She was given an equal right to each of us, and we shared her equally amongst ourselves. I am sure the medical evidence will support my claim.’
 ‘So this was more of a business proposition?’
 ‘That’s right, M’Lud. My friends are all foreign investors who have bought shares in Zambia.’
 ‘She also complains you took her house and sold it.’
 ‘It was a government house, M’Lud. If you look at the Contract of Sale drawn up in 1991, you will find that ten gluders and a bottle of beer was the price not only for Zambia herself, but also for her house. This was clearly part of our policy of privatisation.’
 ‘Where exactly is this house situated?’
 ‘Along Corruption Avenue, M’Lud, just behind this High Court. As part of our policy for ensuring the independence of the judiciary, this house is now available to any judge for the price of only five gluders. We are looking for a judicious person of property, wishing to extend their property portfolio. Such a house would undoubtedly be most suitable to a gentleman such as yourself, M’Lud.’
 ‘I have heard enough,’ said Judge Chibepesho, ‘and shall now pronounce judgement.
 I find that Mr Newspeak Dimba, as Minister of Misconduct, has done everything expected of him. I would like to take this opportunity to reassure him that the judiciary supports the principles of the Law of Property, and the policy of privatising government houses, especially those in the vicinity of the High Court. I therefore dismiss all the charges against this Most Honourable Minister.
 ‘As for Zambia, normally I should have sent her to prison for prostituting herself, and for making malicious allegations. But since she is already dying and cannot afford medical attention, and since this is a Christian nation, I shall leave her to the mercy of the Lord. May her soul rest in peace.’

Friday, January 13, 2012

Playing the Game

[First published in February 2001, when the cunning little Kafupi was beginning to dream of a Third Term]
Playing the Game

            ‘Good morning honourable ministers,’ said the Great Wabufi. ‘I declare this Cabinet Meeting open. For newly appointed ministers, I should first explain that I am the Sole Cabinet. I am the one who was elected, and I have the mandate. You are appointed by me to minister to my needs. That’s why you are called ministers. I let you do the discussion, then I take the decisions.’
          ‘What discussion?’ whispered Mafusha Mpamba, ‘We have never even discussed anything. Not even economic policy.’
          ‘I heard that,’ snapped Wabufi. ‘I have told you before, economic policy is in the hands of the IMF. The Cabinet just has to decide which roads to repair, and where to put the drains, and things like that.
          ‘As for you, Mpamba,’ continued Wabufi, ‘you just look after your little Health Budget, and make sure you don’t give any of it to the doctors.’
          ‘Health?’ sneered Mpamba triumphantly. ‘You’ve forgotten, I’m the Minister of Poaching.’
          ‘Its you who’s forgotten,’ sneered Cycle Mata, ‘you were moved to Health last week.’
          ‘Can you honourables stop twittering and listen to me!’ shouted Wabufi, his little legs swinging angrily in the air. ‘The agenda for this morning is the National Football Team. We about to be kicked out from the second round of the Cosafa Cup. The nation is in disgrace. The government must take action!’
          ‘I thought we were all agreed,’ said Hacksaw Sengana, ‘that FAZ is an independent body, and government cannot not interfere.’
          ‘Don’t be silly,’ laughed Wabufi. ‘If we agreed, then we can change our minds anytime. Now, any suggestions? What do you say, Billy Baritone, you’re the Minister of Sport.’
          ‘I was in Sport, Mr President, but now I’m in the Environment …’
‘We’re all in the environment!’ laughed Cycle Mata.
‘I mean, er, Commerce,’ bleated Baritone.
          ‘You were moved to Poaching last week,’ advised Cycle Mata. ‘Sorry, Old Sport!’
          ‘Sport!’ said Mad Kuku suddenly. ‘That’s me!’
          ‘Then why didn’t you say so earlier?’ snapped Wabufi, banging his little fist on the table. ‘That’s why Cabinet Meetings take so long, with all you half-wits trying to remember which ministry you belong to! Now tell me, Kuku. Why have we lost seven games in a row?’
          ‘So many reasons, Mr Chairman. I think this foreign coach Brewer is a bad influence on the team. Dutch beer instead of kachasu. Tobacco instead of dagga. Training instead of resting. Celibacy instead of healthy exercise …’
          ‘But what is the main problem?’
          ‘We can’t score.’
          ‘Of course they can’t score if they remain celibate!’ guffawed Lawless Repugna. ‘Me, I scored twice last night!’
          ‘So what can we do?’ persisted Wabufi, ignoring gormless Lawless.
           ‘We’ve got the highest number of red cards. When it comes to shin kicking, elbowing and ball squeezing, we’re the best in Africa!’
          ‘That’s it then! We just need to be given proper credit for our talents. One point for a goal. Two points for a yellow card! Three for a red! We’ll be world champions within a month!’
          ‘But according to the FAZ Constitution,’ interrupted Hacksaw Sengana, ‘we have to follow the rules. Games are won according to goals.’ 
          ‘Then we must change the rules! Don’t we have a majority of Chipolopolo fans who want us to win? Rules are made by people! So they can be changed by people! That’s what we mean by democracy ! Democracy is about people. If democracy is not about numbers, its not about anything!’
          ‘Excuse me,’ rumbled Hacksaw Sengana. ‘But if we change the rules, it won’t be football anymore. We have to play according to the rules!’
          ‘I don’t care what game you call it, so long as we win. The only question is, how do we get into the third round of the Cosafa Cup?’
          At that moment there was a chanting heard from outside the cabinet room. Third Round! Change the Rules! Third Round! Change the Rules!’
          ‘That is the voice of the people,’ said Cycle Mata. ‘We have to follow the majority.’
          ‘No,’ said Hacksaw. ‘We can’t change the rules after we have joined the game.’
          ‘This Hacksaw had better stay quiet,’ hissed Cycle Mata, ‘or I’ll extract his teeth. He is deliberately fomenting discontent, and identifying himself as a threat to national unity.’
          ‘Referees are appointed by FIFA,’ Hacksaw persisted,  ‘and not by the government.’
          ‘Then I shall appoint my own Football Administrators,’ said Wabufi, ‘to draw up a new constitution to suit myself. So long as we retain a level playing field, that’s the main thing. And as President, it’s for me to decide where to put the goal posts. I declare this discussion at an end, and the meeting closed.’
          As they trooped out of the Cabinet Room, Hacksaw was heard mumbling to himself ‘What does he know about football?’
          ‘Beware of low level strategies,’ said Billy Baritone. ‘A little chap like that can run straight between your legs and put your balls in the back of the net.’