By Roy Clarke
Last Saturday saw the return of Sparkling Margaret, with a bottle of Naughty Girl Sparkling Rose in each hand.
‘Good gracious,’ I said, as we all sat down on the veranda, ‘It must be seven years since you went back to Australia. Why did you leave us? It wasn’t because you reached the UN retirement age, was it?’
‘Of course not,’ she laughed, ‘I’m far too young for that. I left because I had solved all of Zambia’s problems and handed all my responsibilities over to the Zambian government. There was nothing left for me to do here except attend the cocktail parties.’
‘That didn’t stop the others staying on,’ said Sara.
‘The booze is cheaper in Australia,’ explained Margaret, as she opened the first bottle of Sparkling Margaret and filled our glasses, ‘so I decided to return to my roots.’
‘So what brings you back now?’ wondered Sara, ‘apart from missing us terribly.’
‘I just had a funny urge to make sure,’ she said, ‘that I really had solved all the problems, and that everything is now working perfectly in Zambia.’
Just then our daughter Kupela came sailing out onto veranda. ‘Everything working perfectly in Zambia?’ she cackled, spilling some of her gin and tonic onto floor. ‘You’ve come back at the right time! After all these years of peace, a terrible thing has just happened! An unprecedented scandal has shaken the country to its foundations! An opposition MP, Mr Mangle Kayungulu, has just torn up a copy of our Great Leader’s speech to parliament!’
‘Oh My God!’ screeched Margaret, raising her hand to her forehead in mock horror. ‘I thought I had left the country in safe hands! Now all my good work has been mangled! Tell me more, and I shall seek UN funding and expertise to investigate this problem and make recommendations for a return to peace and tranquility.’
‘With a thousand dollars a day for you as the lead consultant,’ I suggested.
‘Don’t sneer,’ said Margaret, ‘there could be some pickings in it for you.’ Then turning to Kupela she asked ‘Why did he tear up the speech?’
‘According to him, what the Great Leader actually said was completely different from the printed version which had been distributed earlier. So Kayungulu demanded that the house should debate what our Great Leader had actually said, and not the printed version, which he then tore up.’
‘Good on him,’ declared Margaret. ‘If the written version is not what Great Leader actually said, how can it be called his speech?’
‘Half a minute,’ I said. ‘Parliamentary rules require the greatest respect rather than vulgar speaking of the truth. Dishonesty is the essential element in all polite and civilized behaviour. For example, members of the house have to call each other honourable even when each knows the other is not. Similarly a speech must be called a speech even when everybody knows it is not. And to tear up a speech of the Great Leader shows an intolerable level of disrespect!’
‘Huh,’ Margaret scoffed, ‘in Australia MPs just shout at each other. Doesn’t Kayungulu have freedom of expression?’
‘You’ve missed the point,’ I explained. ‘In a Christian Nation like ours, people believe that the Great Leader is appointed by God, so to tear up his words is blasphemy, like tearing up the Bible or the Koran.’
‘We have a similar belief in Australia,’ laughed Sparkling Margaret, as she reached for another glass of the sparkling wine. ‘We believe our leader was appointed by the Devil.’
‘Maybe,’ said Kupela, ‘there’s a much more simple explanation, and you are trying to politicize everything. I mean, look at these Barotse rebels who are being accused of malicious damage to state property for tearing up copies of the draft constitution. This quite overlooks the well known fact that poor people cannot afford toilet paper. So was the Barotse behaviour caused by treasonable intention or merely the call of nature?’
‘If the government can’t put more money in our pockets,’ I said, ‘at least it can put more paper in our toilets!’
‘This house has received twenty-five copies of the draft constitution,’ said Sara. ‘So we kept one for reading and consigned the remainder to the toilet. Except of course for the page on women’s rights.’
‘On the other hand,’ said Kupela, ‘there is the witchcraft explanation.’
‘Witchcraft?’ we all asked in unison.
‘Witchcraft,’ said Kupela, ‘is still very prevalent. Don’t you remember, some years ago, the opposition leader who held up a cabbage at a rally, then took a knife and cut the cabbage into four parts, each of which was thrown to different sections of the crowd. Before long the Great Leader fell apart.’
‘Have you gone off at a tangent?’ I wondered.
‘It’s the nyanga method of witchcraft,’ explained Kupela. ‘If the Leader is represented by a copy of his speech, and then you tear it in half, what exactly are you doing to him?’
‘I wonder,’ said Margaret, ‘whether the nation will ever get past this endless analysis of Kayungulu’s behaviour and start discussing the Great Leader’s speech.’
‘What was the speech about? insisted Margaret.
‘Nothing,’ Sara replied.
‘What do you mean, nothing?’
‘Everybody was waiting to hear how he is going to implement his manifesto.’
‘And he said nothing about that?’
‘But don’t people want to know why he said nothing?’
‘We already know why.’
‘And what is the reason?’
‘The manifesto has disappeared.’
‘What happened to it?’
‘He tore it up!’
‘How disrespectful,’ said Margaret.
Kalaki’s korner is found here