By Roy Clarke
It was the strangest case of a missing person that I had ever heard of. Because, you see, usually you’ve never heard of the person until they go missing. They become famous by going missing.
This was scarcely the case with the famous Employment Policy. He was already famous before he went missing. He rose to fame last September, standing on the election platform and promising everybody ‘Vote for me and I’ll bring full employment!’ And he won by a landslide.
But after the election, when the excitement had finally died down, and different people had been assigned ministerial jobs, and the president’s friends and relatives had all been given jobs in diplomatic missions, it gradually began to dawn on people that the famous Employment Policy had gone missing.
Where was he? Where was his constituency? Which was his ministry? Had he been given a job? Was he unemployed? As the weeks went by, and the weeks turned into months, these were the questions that people were asking each other. They couldn’t ask the president, because he adamantly refused to hold a press conference. And so the mystery continued, and deepened.
That was when my editor called me in. ‘Look Kalaki,’ he said, ‘you’re supposed to be my Chief Investigative Reporter, but you’ve never investigated anything!’
‘On the other hand,’ I retorted, ‘You’ve never paid me anything!’
‘That’s because you’ve never investigated anything!’ he sneered. ‘Get off your backside and find out what happened to the famous Employment Policy. Has he been allocated to a non-existent ministry? Decentralised? Reshuffled? Merged? Murdered? Dismembered? Or what?’
So I phoned Dotty Scotty. ‘Hallo,’ he replied, ‘This is the Vice-President in charge of Cutting Ribbons, Funerals and Miscellaneous Ceremonials.’
‘I thought,’ I said, ‘that you were also in charge of Disaster Management.’
‘That also,’ he admitted. ‘I’m very good at disasters. Which disaster are you particularly interested in?’
‘Employment Policy,’ I said. ‘He seems to have disappeared. I can’t find him anywhere.’
‘I only deal with sudden disasters like floods and by-elections,’ he explained. ‘Employment Policy is not a sudden disaster, he’s a long-term problem, an unsolved mystery. I suggest you try Education. When it comes to impossible problems, we usually just add them to the curriculum.’
So I phoned the Honorable Minister for Insulting Students, Professor Pompous Phiri-Phiri. ‘This is Kalaki here,’ I said, ‘I wonder whether I might find Employment Policy at your ministry?’
‘Certainly not!’ he shouted angrily. ‘Education has nothing to do with employment. That’s why all of my students remain unemployed. Sitting around in classrooms for twenty years has made them completely unemployable!’
‘Then Honorable Minister, without upsetting yourself any further, perhaps you could give me a hint on where I might find the famous Employment Policy.’
‘I suggest you talk to an employer,’ he shouted. ‘He’s the sort of fellow to have an Employment Policy.’
So I rang Lumano Mine, and asked the Mine Manager, Mr Boss Muzungu. ‘Nobody of that name here,’ he answered. ‘We have only three employees – myself as Managing Director, my wife as the Mine Secretary, and my son as the General Manager.’
‘Good God!’ I exclaimed, ‘I thought you employed thousands!’
‘We have a contract with Modern Slavery Ltd,’ he explained. ‘The mine provides only essential equipment for their labour force.’
‘Such as overalls, boots, hardhats and that sort of thing?’
‘No. We only provide essential control equipment such as whips, shackles, batons, handcuffs and that sort of thing.’
‘So you don’t have any Employment Policy?’
‘Certainly not. Not here. Try the Ministry of Labour. I’m told they have an office in Lusaka. But they never come here.’
So I phoned poor old Feckless Shambles. ‘Is that the Ministry of Labour?’ I asked.
‘Certainly not,’ he snapped irritably. ‘This is the Ministry of Information! No, wait, I mean this is Youth and Sport. No, half a minute, it’s Youth without the Sport. Is that Kalaki? No, you’re right, this is Labour, I’d quite forgotten. You caught me in the middle of my afternoon nap.’
‘Do you have the famous Employment Policy?’ I asked.
‘With all these reshuffles,’ sighed Feckless, ‘the poor fellow got lost. He’s been reported as a missing person. Phone the Suspector General.’
So I did. ‘Hullo,’ I said. ‘This is Kalaki from the Daily Notion. I’m told that the famous Employment Policy has been reported as missing. What are you doing to find him?’
‘My dear Kalaki,’ she assured me, ‘This is a caring government, so everything possible is being done. The vendors are being swept off the street so that they can join the search. School leavers are being sent to the Zambian National Service and trained in how to look for Employment Policy. The World Bank is funding the search, they’ve always wanted us to find our own Employment Policy. Within ninety days we expect a million people to join the search!’
I was so impressed that I rang Dotty Scotty. ‘A million people will soon be employed to search for our famous Employment Policy,’ I told him. ‘This will solve the employment problem!’
‘You see! Let this be a lesson to you!’ cackled Dotty Scotty. ‘You must trust this government, and not be criticizing us all the time!’
‘There’s only one problem,’ I said.
‘What’s that?’ he wondered.
‘If they find our dear Employment Policy, they’ll all be out of work again! And people will blame PF’
‘Yes, PF,’ I said. ‘Policy Failure!’
‘Yes, PF,’ I said. ‘Policy Failure!’