‘Come on, hurry up,’ said Sara. ‘If you haven’t finished ironing your black shirt, just make do with a black tie. I swear you’ll even be late for your own funeral.’
‘I hope I will,’ I laughed. ‘I’m in no hurry to get there.’
By the time we reached the Freedom Statue, the funeral procession was already setting off. On the back of an old mealie-meal lorry lay a coffin draped in a black cloth on which the word SUBSIDY was written. In front of the lorry a man in black slowly banged a black drum, while marching forward at a funereal pace. Behind the lorry marched the mourners, all dressed in black.
‘This is not a funeral,’ I hissed, ‘It’s a political demonstration. We’re not supposed to have political opinions. Any minute now the police will be here to beat the shit out of us!’
‘We don’t need a permit for a funeral,’ Sara chuckled. ‘The police have great respect for the dead. Once you’re dead they will even stop beating you. Even the government respects death. They see it as the long term solution to unemployment.’
‘I don’t like this at all,’ I said, looking around fearfully, as we joined the back of the procession. ‘And who are all those women on the lorry?’
‘They’re the widows of the deceased,’ said Sara grimly, ‘that’s why they’re wailing. Now that their Subsidy has been taken away from them, they’re following him to the grave. One funeral can cause many more.’
As we were talking, the long procession wheeled right into Burma Road, in readiness for the long march to Leopard’s Hill. ‘I had been wondering,’ I said to Sara, ‘why your relatives were dying so regularly, one every week, and always with the burial on Friday.’
‘Every week we hold a Black Friday burial for another of the government’s promises,’ said Sara sadly. ‘But this one is a special event, because today is Africa Freedom Day, when the government celebrates freedom.’
‘Then why haven’t we found all our government leaders at the Freedom Statue, waiting to help us celebrate our freedom from Subsidy. Where are they?’
‘All gone to Addis Ababa,’ Sara laughed, ‘to celebrate their freedom from promises and freedom from the rule of law.’
And so at last, after a long march, we found ourselves in Leopards Hill Cemetary, and marching down a dusty path lined with the epitaphs of many a departed promise from long ago:
Here lies the Barotseland Agreement
Born October 24 1964
Cruelly murdered 25 October 1964
Here lies AnEggaDay
Born 24 October 1964
Died of starvation 19 March 1973
Here lies ShoesForAll
Still sadly missed
By five million feet
And then we came to the more recent graves of Free Education, Education for All, Free Health Care, Full Employment, Lower Taxes, Money in Your Pocket, New Constitution, Windfall Tax, Freedom of Information, and many more, all of which came into this world full of promise and with much celebration, but which ended their short and miserable lives in death and destruction.
And so, finally, we came to the open grave awaiting the arrival of poor Subsidy, who was soon lowered into his grave, and covered with five tons of cement to prevent any possibility of resurrection. Then the earth was replaced into the grave from which it had been so recently removed, leaving only a small lump on top to indicate that the much loved Subsidy had once walked this land, and had helped the poor.
Now the priest hoisted himself onto the grave of a broken promise in order to address the multitude, saying ‘We have here today buried our departed friend Subsidy,’ whereupon there arose a great wailing from all the women around the grave, revealing that he had left behind many more dependents than originally suspected. ‘Subsidy,’ continued the priest, ‘worked for some years at the Ministry of Finance, taking tax money from the rich and giving it to the poor in the form of lower prices.’
‘He was our Saviour,’ chanted the crowd.
‘But one day,’ continued the priest, ‘the minister declared that when the poor took money from the rich, this was called stealing, and therefore Subsidy was guilty of theft.’
‘But when the rich take from the poor, it’s called profit,’ muttered Sara.
‘And so Subsidy was fired, prosecuted for theft, and died a broken man,’ said the priest sadly. ‘With him, the last promise has been broken and buried. The graveyard of promises is now full.’
‘Oh no it’s not,’ said Sara. ‘Their next task is to bury the opposition!’
‘They won’t be able to do that,’ I pointed out. ‘The graveyard is now completely full.’
‘Once the one-party state has been resurrected,’ sneered Sara, ‘they’ll be plenty of space to bury the opposition.’
Courtesy of http://kalakikorner.blogspot.com