By Roy Clarke
‘What on Earth next?’ hooted Sara, as she looked up from the newspaper. ‘Have you read this story about Kambilimbili grazing his cattle on Mpatamatu Golf Course?’
‘He’s supposed to be the Minister of Sport,’ I sneered, ‘but now he’s busy destroying a golf course. Our whole way of life is under threat from these barbarians.’
‘I don’t know why you read newspapers if they upset you so much,’ said Kupela, as she buttered yet another slice of toast. ‘We’ve got a new government with new ideas, but you two are still stuck in the past. And anyway, which of you has ever played golf? The only game you know is darts!’
‘You always argue the opposite of anything we say, just for the fun of upsetting your parents, even before we’ve finished breakfast. You know very well that that this monstrous upstart Kambilimbili is not in the business of introducing any new ideas, he’s just stealing council land.’
‘Your trouble is,’ said Kupela, ‘that you assume the worst instead of looking for the best. What Kambilimbili is actually trying do is to transform the ancient Bemba game of bulunshi into a modern form of golf.’
‘Bulunshi? Never heard of it!’
‘Well well, my know-all parents,’ Kupela scoffed, ‘Then I have to inform you of something you don’t know, probably because you’ve never bothered to read Audrey Richards book about the Bemba, who were famous hunters. Bulunshi was an ingenious way of hunting an elephant by using a stick to hit a stone right up its bum.’
‘Would that kill it?’ Sara wondered.
‘It would die a week later of constipation,’ Kupela explained, ‘providing enough meat to feed a whole village for a couple of months.’
‘Huh,’ I scoffed, ‘there aren’t any elephants in Northern Province.’
‘Precisely because they were all victims of bulunshi,’ explained Kupela. ‘That proves my point.’
‘So what’s this got to do with golf?’
‘Golf started in a similar way. The Scots used to kill ferrets by swinging a club when the ferret put its head up from its ferret hole. It was great sport. But after they’d killed off all the ferrets, they had to invent golf as a substitute.’
‘So Kambilimbili is not farming but playing bulunshi?’
‘Have you ever heard of a Bemba farming cattle? Of course not! He’s invented a modern adaptation of bulunshi, called bulunshi golf, which involves hitting golf balls up a cow’s bum.’
‘Oh My God!’ said Sara. ‘Doesn’t it hurt?’
‘Only if swing the club clumsily and hit your foot,’ said Kupela.
‘So how do you get the ball out of the cow’s bum?’ I wondered.
‘Ball boys are being trained by the National Service,’ she explained. ‘It’s the first time they’ve ever done anything useful. It’s all part of the government programme to increase employment.’
‘And does the National Service also mow the lawns and apply the fertilizer?’
‘No, the cows do all of that, the whole system is self-sustaining and eco-friendly. Hundreds of Americans are already flying in to play bulunshi golf, it’s the latest fashion in ethnic sport. New lodges are being built all over Luanshya to accommodate visiting golfers. It’s just a pity you’re so out of touch. You just don’t know what’s going on.’
‘It’s a pity that Kambilimbili can’t think up some more ideas like this,’ said Sara.
‘What are you talking about?’ laughed Kupela. ‘He’s a lateral thinker who is absolutely bristling with lots of new ideas.’
‘All imagination and no brains,’ I suggested.
‘So you may imagine,’ retorted Kupela. ‘I suppose you haven’t heard of his brilliant scheme of tearing up the railway line and sleepers between Luanshya and Kitwe, and registering the track with the International Olympic Committee. It’s now the official route for all international marathon races.’
‘But where shall we find the athletes for running up and down this track in the middle of nowhere?’ I wondered.
‘His ideas don’t stop there,’ explained Kupela. ‘He has used his position as Minister of Sport to throw all the students out of Yunza, which is now being rehabilitated as a SADC Regional Sports Centre. We shall soon be producing top-level athletes by the thousand!’
‘What will happen to all the Yunza students?’
‘The government has finally admitted that we don’t need any more unemployable university graduates, and instead we are going to train athletes to run round in circles at incredible speeds in order to earn lots of money and become world famous. Kariba Lake is to be turned into the world’s biggest swimming pool, and Kariba Dam Wall is to become the highest diving board in the world. Zambia Airforce is going to increase its number of aeroplanes to three to provide sky-diving, and the Great Bag of Maize is going to plunge from forty kilometers high in the sky in order to break the World Stupidity Record, and…’
‘And, and, and,’ I interrupted. ‘And Kambilimbili is just an odious little thief who is stealing land in Luanshya.’
‘But you have to realise,’ Kupela conceded with a sigh, ‘that some little things do go wrong. But they will soon be corrected by Our Great Leader, who is allergic to corruption.’
‘But you have to realise,’ said Sara, ‘that our Great Leader has just received medical treatment in Seoul, and his allergy has now been cured.’
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