Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Patriachal Property

[First published in October 2005]

Patriarchal Property

The Local Court Justice leant forward on his bench, towards the woman standing in the witness box. ‘I understand that you, Ms Georgina Zambia, are petitioning this court for a divorce from your husband, Mr Patriarchal Property. Is that correct?’
‘Yes, Your Worship.’
The judge now leant forward to the portly figure of Mr Patriarchal Property, whose pompous paunch occupied the front pew. ‘And you, Mr Property, are you seeking a divorce from Ms Georgina Zambia?’
‘Certainly not!’ exclaimed Mr Property. ‘Firstly, the person in the witness box is not Ms Georgina Zambia. Since she became my property, she is Mrs Patriarchal Property. If she wants a divorce, she would have to seek my permission as head of household. Since she has not spoken to me about this, I have no opinion on the matter, and the case is null and void.’
‘On the contrary!’ contradicted Ms Zambia, ‘When I married him he was plain Peter Pauper, and I was the one with property. In those days, as Ms Zambia, I was a wealthy woman, owning mines, houses and filling stations. But when I married this Peter Pauper he took everything, calling himself Patriarchal Property.’
‘Is this true?’ asked the judge, turning to Mr Property.
‘When I married her she became my property,’ explained Patriarchal Property with portentous pomposity. ‘So all of her property became my property.’
‘Not true, Your Worship,’ protested Zambia. ‘The property remained in my name, I only asked him to manage it on behalf of Zambia Limited. But he paid himself such a large salary, and gave himself such huge loans and allowances, that all my companies went bankrupt.’
‘He ate all the companies?’ asked the judge in genuine wonderment and hushed respect. ‘What did he do with all the money?’
‘Adultery,’ sobbed Ms Zambia. ‘He bought girlfriends everywhere, and bought each of them a house and Merc. He is a serial adulterer!’
‘What do you say to this?’ asked the judge, turning to Patriarchal Property with a twinkle in his eye. ‘Are you really as successful as this accusation suggests?’
‘On the contrary,’ smirked the husband, ‘the accusation is entirely ridiculous and arises from my wife’s ignorance of the law. She knows that if she sleeps with another man, both she and her partner have committed adultery, and she foolishly  imagines that the same rule applies to me. But when I take a girlfriend, it merely means that I am seeking an additional wife, to which I am entirely entitled, since polygamy is allowed under customary law.’
‘Quite right,’ said the judge. ‘The very legal point I was about to make myself. We must keep to our traditions. A nation without kulcha is lost.’
‘But he has six wives and twenty-six girlfriends!’ exclaimed poor Ms Zambia.
‘I think she may be exaggerating,’ said pompous Property, as he pulled a little black notebook from his pocket and began to count .
‘He stole all my companies!’ cried Zambia.
‘Half a minute,’ said the judge, ‘I thought you said they were in your name.’
‘That’s how it was,’ sobbed Zambia, ‘until the new law that all companies belonging to Zambia Limited had to be sold off. So Patriarchal Property, being the manager, bought them all in a management buy-out, at one kwacha each.’
‘So cheap?’ wondered the judge.
‘They were all bankrupt,’ laughed Patriachal Property, ‘because I bankrupted them! It was all legally done!’
‘Very good,’ laughed the judge. ‘We must stick to the law!’ Now, turning to Ms Zambia he said ‘It seems we can’t find fault with your husband in his treatment of the marital property, which clearly belongs to him. So let me ask you about how well the children were looked after.’
‘Your Worship,’ sobbed Ms Zambia. ‘He does not provide for his children, neither those he has had with me, nor all his other children. He provides no food, no health care, no school fees, nothing. We are destitute.’
‘According to our tradition,’ said the judge, with a self-satisfied smile, ‘it is the mother’s duty to provide for her children. I have no wonder that your poor husband is bankrupt, if his greedy wives have been making such demands upon him. So I am still wondering what prompted you to bring this divorce petition. We may yet find some grounds somewhere. Does he treat you kindly?’
‘Your Worship, every time I ask him for something, or suggest something, he beats me!’
The judge now adopted a solemn tone. ‘Listen to me, Ms Zambia, or whatever you erroneously call yourself. Your husband is the head of the household and you must listen politely to all he says, with acceptance and gratitude. Naturally, if you are rude and unreasonable, and refuse to accept his authority, he is entirely entitled to discipline you. The divorce petition is denied. And let this be a lesson to other cheeky women who want to bring frivolous petitions before my court!’
So saying the judge got down from his bench, shook hands with Mr Property, then ran out of the court, jumped in his car and drove off. Ms Zambia turned to the Clerk of the Court, asking ‘Where’s the judge off to in such a hurry?’
‘He’s late for the UNIFEM meeting at Mulungushi Hall,’ laughed the Clerk. ‘He’s delivering a paper on Equal Rights for Women in Zambia.’

1 comment:

  1. Nice piece Kalaki. Very clever way of putting it a sad situation in our society today.