Sunday, December 30, 2018

A year of the gecko

“Politeness, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy."
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911

A gecko is a creepy-crawly that often, when seen, results in involuntary ceiling-high jumping competitions of fright in some, and deep reflective melancholic times in others.

This year ending, had evoked memorable gecko-like behaviours in me, as we continued witnessing a government swing on a pendulum leaning on morass.

We competed the most in ceiling-high jumps of fright when we learnt that the country’s external debt stock has increased from US $8.7 billion as of end 2017 to some indeterminate figure pivoting at US $9.4 billion mid this year. Our fright was founded on the past experiences of high debt levels and its effect of likely lower government spending on social sectors like education and health., which inarguably affects the poor and vulnerable the most.  

Do not forget this is a year, in which we also hit the ceiling when we learnt that monies meant for the vulnerable among us, that led to the British suspending its contribution to the social cash transfer, was actually ‘taking a nap’ in some bank account. So we howled that the British imperialists (oh, and Africa Confidential) owe us an apology, as they were tarnishing the image of our holy nation.  In our howling, we even forgot that the State had already sanctioned an investigation as a response to the British government’s suspension of aid payments amid the allegations of corruption and fraud.

Well, I must admit. The revelations of fraud and corruption in the 2017 trends report of the Financial Intelligence Centre, the continued observations of misappropriation of funds in the Auditor General's report, still no idea how essential drugs took a leisurely walk from government warehouses, made me jump so high that my head got stuck in the ceiling. Well, some medics came in a very expensive public ambulance, and saved my sorry head!

Then there were those low jumps of fright, were we simply muse and say – well it is not falling on me. There were several, but the most memorable include.

The anarchical use of the law to suppress dissent, as witnessed in the trial now known as ''42-for-42''. That is, the protest questioning the purchase of 42 fire tenders at US$1 million each.

Pilato arrested after returning from South Africa, where he fled after receiving threats for his Koswe Mumpoto song. Don’t blame the guy for cutting and run. He has a dental formula I would kill for. He surely did not fancy it being re-arranged by political thugs. Well, glad he came back home.

Opposition party leaders and NGO personnel continued being ‘frog marched’ from districts and even church premises, as the State continued negating freedom of movement, expression and assembly with impunity.

But what the heck! Let me not lie.

2018 was not all about the gecko on the wall resulting in involuntary ceiling-high jumping competitions of fright, there were also deep reflective melancholic times.  

How a State till end year has not provided answers on the death of Vespers Shimuzhila, the University of Zambia (UNZA) student who died from suffocation during riots at the institution. What those fellows in sisal wigs are still pondering in the Judicial review proceedings challenging the Speaker of the National Assembly decision on the impeachment motion.

Anyway, in hindsight, there is no doubt in my mind that 2018 was just another year of the gecko.  We squealed, we reasoned, yet we moved on like we are just tourists in our own country.

It is like even though we jumped in fright, we knew that it will actually not fall. We reflected on the transgressions of the State, but we moved on immediately another gecko appeared.

About it all, we forgot that, as Sri Aurobindo writes, “our actual enemy is not any force exterior to ourselves, but our own crying weaknesses, our cowardice, our selfishness, our hypocrisy, our purblind sentimentalism".

And, indeed, our polite reverence of creepy-crawlies.

Verbum satis sapient.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

In God's country

From the archives The Monitor Newspaper July 11, 2003

God is omnipotent. God is respect. God is Christopher. This I know and I do not need any self-godly chosen individual to tell me so.

I also know that God is not neurotic or hysterical; God dwells not in the sanctity of a few self-godly chosen individuals; and, God seeks not that I shall be saved by chanting, wailing and raving about how glorious God’s name is. In addition, God chooses not a nation, for God discriminates not.

God seeks not that I am Christian, Moslem or Hindu. God seeks that I walk not with Christopher, but that I walk in Christopher. For God teaches me that, the fish lives not in the waters; the fish lives with the waters.  In teaching me this, God seeks that I am the epitome of humaneness.

This is God, as I know him. It is as God seeks to be known.

I write this because this is God’s country, for God so chose, is the Christian claim. Fact is, Zambia is not a Christian nation. Zambia, like many developmentally lost nations is simply a nation calling out to ecclesiastic intervention into its self-afflicted socio-economic and political abnormalcy. 

There will be no ecclesiastic intervention as far as God’s manifestation in current and past events in this country show a God-loving people exhibiting hypocrisy, naivety, fear and political immorality. After all, the country’s history is replete with so-called people that answered the calling of God being messiahs of governance impunity.

In any case, God did not declare Zambia a Christian nation. Frederick Chiluba did, and it was for political interests that he did so. Sects of the Christian faith jubilated Chiluba’s unconstitutional declaration.

What is clear in my mind is, if this is God’s country, how then can an act of impunity be celebrated? God is respect, and the constitution before it was adulterated manifested this respect. The constitution of Zambia respected my choice to seek God in whatever faith I so wished. 

It is in this viewpoint that for a minister to assert that the Christian faith is superior is a simple manifestation of impunity and lack of respect. The ‘honourable’ Nyirongo is on record as having asserted this, when followers of the Islamic faith held prayers during a football match at independence stadium a couple of weeks ago. 

That this God’s country is everyday waning into an abyss of socio-economic despair is inarguably, in part, because we have as leaders individuals who, not only do not respect the citizenry, but perpetuate the disrespect through infantile attributions of God’s calling.

This impunity and disrespect is today manifest in Nevers Mumba’s assumption that he is the substantive vice-president, just because president Levy Mwanawasa first nominated him as MP, then appointed him as vice-president. Mwanawasa appointed Nevers Mumba as vice-president, and it is his discretion. Nevertheless, a president’s discretion is bounded by the rationality provided by a country’s laws or behavioural limits, and the contentions, thereof.

If it is that this is God’s country, and Nevers Mumba is a man of God, then it should be expected that Mr. Mumba (hon. PhD, Flint College, Michigan) knows too well that his continued pursuance of the duties of a vice-president is morally unsound.

Many have argued (e.g. respected professor of law at Cornell, Muna Ndulo), that the act of nominating an individual an MP demands that such a person takes the prescribed oath of office of Member of Parliament. Being an MP is the condition for being a vice-president, and not the simple nominative act of presidential discretion.

Mr. Mumba is not an MP. Or could be, the Speaker acted ‘in camera’ and swore the man of God into the house. Who knows, miracles happen in Zambia, and the Press were not privy to the communication between the Speaker, president and vice-president.

In any case, if Mr. Mumba has taken the oath of parliament, a historical perusal of his acts preceding his appointment to Veep shows acts that one does not expect a person that knows God to have accepted the appointment.

In September 1997, in defence of his decision to join politics, Mr. Mumba argued that “politics was about people and that it was a Christian's responsibility to steer the nation on a God-fearing path.”  Surely, a God-fearing path demands that one respects and protects other’s and one’s moral soundness. The question is: has Mr. Mumba manifested moral soundness?

In December 2001, during the court contention of Mr. Mwanawasa’s election, Mr. Mumba is reported by Reuters as saying - "We do not want the chief justice to swear in a new president before these allegations of massive vote-rigging are thoroughly investigated."  The allegations are today the grounding of an election petition, thereby indicating that there are now being subjected to judicial interpretation.

A president was sworn-in, and that president appointed him, vice-president!

Mr. Mumba’s argument so far has been that the president’s corruption agenda is also his bidding. The cardinal point that shows a questioned integrity or moral soundness is that Mr. Mumba knows to well that the allegations of electoral corruption still stand, yet he accepted the appointment of Veep. A suspected crime is a suspected crime, until the courts clear it.

In addition, around the same time was it not Mr. Mumba who said: "We want at least the Zambian people to feel that what they voted for is what they have in office… until this is achieved, the opposition front shall not rest until we make sure that the will of the Zambian people is respected and honoured."

Further, in January 2001, Mr. Mumba is reported to have said “only crooks, thieves and those who buy votes from the electorate can win an election under the current electoral process.”  Mr. Mwanawasa was sworn in as the winner. Now Mr. Mumba, is Mr. Mwanawasa a crook, thief and vote-buyer?

Interestingly, Mr. Mumba has always argued that Zambia does not require a man with vast knowledge in managerial and business skills to turn around the economy but a man of morality and integrity.  If he believes he is a man of morality and integrity, unfortunately his historical and present acts do not attest.

In retrospect, when conceived beyond politics, Mr. Mumba’s continued pursuance of Veep duties exemplifies a narcissistic God’s country. 

Indeed, Zambia is God’s country, where men of God walk the earth with impunity. What then stops me, a mere mortal, from watching Big Brother Africa – an anti-Christ, anti-African reality show!

Saving Christopher

From the archives Monitor Newspaper October 10, 2003

This week I am starting the case for saving Christopher. I have no apologies if readers find the language sometimes hard. But, like Stephen Lewis (UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa) noted in January this year after his tour of Southern Africa, “..., the time for polite, even agitated entreaties is over.” Our present times are no longer the age of timeworn politeness or civility, simply because we are living in times of impunity and hypocrisy.

The citizenry and indeed all that dwells on this planet must realise that democracy, the very much touted commodity of governance in the 21st century is slowly becoming the yoke of our enslavement, debasement and impoverishment. This is done with impunity, mostly, because we still have inane and absurd beliefs of respect, when politicians (in government and the opposition) do not show any iota of respect for the citizenry.

The power that as a people we have over politicians does not seem to be realised. It is absurd of people to kow-tow before and after politicians.  A politician does not feed you, nor do you owe him or her your servitude. It is the politician that actually owes you his or her servitude.

Lest you forgot, a politician is just as ordinary as yourself, only difference is, this is an individual that seeks to represent you (and the ideals you subscribe to) in your everyday interaction with the State.  And not a single individual, other than a dictator, can represent you without your sanction. Consequently, it is irresponsible to sanction someone to represent you, and then allow them to behave with impunity and in a manner that kills Christopher.

That in this century, our relationship to our representation is that of servitude, is because as a people we accept and sustain impunity and hypocrisy.

Okay, so there are no WMDs in Iraq. Of course, there were no WMDs, except the ones in Collin Powell’s PowerPoint presentation at the UN. George and Tony being allowed impunity could not differentiate a PowerPoint presentation from reality, so they went looking for things that only existed in a presentation.  Any way, forget global impunity, hypocrisy and idiocy, it rarely saves Christopher, and that is fact.

How about on the home front? Children are being defiled at an alarming rate, so every Tom, Dick and Harry says, and the media is having a field day.  Last week, there was even a protest march. Members of civil society, politicians and yes, children went to air their grievances to Mr or Mrs. Freedom Statue along Independence Avenue in Lusaka. They went to tell him/her, that the law on defilement should be stiffened, defilers should be castrated, and so many other blah blahs.

Without seeming to minimise the problem of child abuse and in particular defilement, from beyond politics, the fact is the Freedom Statue is not the entity to which such grievances or protests should be addressed. As more grey hairs pop up on my head, understanding humans, is becoming an exercise in futility. It is clear the act of doing anything right in this country is shockingly far-fetched. Could be that is why, even our governance is in a serious mess. Or it could be, ‘being seen’ or the ‘wannabe’ syndrome is inadvertently now a state of our existence.

I was asked if I would march, and I said yes. But when I was told we would be protesting at Freedom Statue, the meaningless of the protest was evident and not worth participating in.

The protest march should have been to State House, cabinet or parliament, and not a damn statue. Could be we respect politicians so much that we seek not to disturb their peace in their places of work, so we humbly march to a statue. What impunity!

Impunity is a crime. The perpetuation of impunity by parties affected by impunity is also a crime. It is absurd that this country’s citizenry continually behave in a manner that not only perpetuates impunity, but also sustains and nourishes it.

Our everyday existence as Zambians is riddled with impunity. Walk into any service providers’ place (public or private), in over 99 per cent of the cases, the service provider at the other end of the table or counter will look at you like you are lost, or you are simply wasting their time. Tragically, the majority of Zambians seeking the service that took them there will simply timidly take the nonsense.

How often have you walked into your Bank, and you have been subjected to a wait of over half an hour, just because despite the Bank wasting money on constructing 10 counters or so, most of the time only 50% of the counters provide service.

In our understanding of the effect of impunity and hypocrisy, the answer that always fails us is how we contain impunity and hypocrisy in our poorest of the poor country.

From beyond politics, the answer is simple.

All donors and supposed international development agencies should vacate the nation space defined as the state of Zambia. Donors and supposed international development agencies have been round this country since the time I used to believe James Brown was cool, yet zilch has been done to change Christopher’s plight.

All civil society leaders that claim to fight for what is just, should shut up. Just is not about politicians and the State. Just is about Christopher.

All politicians that exhibit monkey-like tendencies of swinging from branch to branch under the misguided assumption that it is only by being in the ruling party that one can contribute to the development of this poorest of the poor countries should be weeded.

All presidents that parade such individuals as saviours should be impeached.

Lest I forget, in addition, all politicians holding government office should relinquish their office and vamoose. All civil servants who owe allegiance to the president should be arrested. They are a travesty of the expectations of a civil servant.

Take away the franchise from all citizens that continue voting for individuals that exhibit monkey-like behaviours, such citizens are demented and not worthy the right to the franchise.  These individuals simply epitomise the likely dangers of democracy of rule by the majority through mediocrity. The franchise should be the preserve of reasoning individuals.

So Mr. Liato, Tetamashimba retained their seats, and the MMD is asserting its political hegemony. Who cares, after all a one party state is what appeals to the citizenry? Mr. Imenda was allowed to contest his seat despite the courts affirming that his last election was fraudulent.  Can not fault him, after all the continued adherence to illegitimate laws allowed him. So again, who cares?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The blind side of my beatitude

“This is my testament. Tomorrow I may not walk among you. For I man, like many before me has to pass on.  I am not immortal, and this I have always known. As celestial is the eclipse of the end of time, tomorrow, I will walk away, far beyond the future. A distance, the past can not equal.” He paused, and I looked searchingly into his eyes. Trying to understand, a lesson I knew may be the last. He sighed, and I sat up.  Yonder into the deep blue skies, his eyes locked. Mine too, sought the depth of the deep blue skies. It can not be. It surely can not be. But it was. In the deep blue skies, I saw him.

From the depth of our silence, he continued.

“I may not have lived my existence to the fullest. I may not have been as good as many may have expected. And, indeed, I may not have achieved what many thought I would achieve. But, in my heart I am contended. I walked in meadows, dry brushes and patchy sands attesting to the footprints of those who heard my cries. I sought not echoes of understanding from others. But, if it be there were echoes of understanding, and nought was learnt, then let it be known, I too have my failings.

In this testament, I seek that you not look to the heavens seeking that which afflicts you, I seek that you look closely into your shadow, look over your shoulder and seek my understanding.

If it be that you relate to my understanding, I am sad. For how it be, we continue letting a truth that should create deeper blue skies for the children be shrouded in our own inability to walk among the free.

 Didn't, you hear that child yesterday calling out for someone to reach and touch her hand? You heard, but just like me, you said it is not my child. If it be it is not your child, how it be you too where a child.  Look inner yourself and reflect on whose child you were, then you will surely find that it was the child in you that was calling out to you.” He paused, looking down on his scraggy hands like he was counting the many years gone, toiling for a people.

“So what you say for yourself,” he asked.

And I answered.

“I grew up in a rather moderately well off family. In the early years, we did not lack for anything. We grew up as most urban kids did. The tribulations of our parents were their own. After all, there was always food on the table. That a people could go hungry was alien, until in later years. But then, it really did not happen to us. This I only witnessed. Could be if I too had been hungry, may be I could understand why a people can let themselves slide into an abyss of despair. Yes, why a people can let themselves slide into abject poverty, while the very people they voted for to govern and realise their aspirations line their pockets to utterly contemptible levels.

When, I was of school going age, again there was nothing lacking in my existence. The politician was there, but really the politician was merely the person who at Independence Day celebrations delayed the fun. The politician always seemed to enjoy talking to himself. It was mostly a him, then.

I never really could understand why the people afforded this fun-spoiler so much time. There they were looking up at the podium, gobbling even the foulest words that fell out of the foulest mouth. And did they clap!

Like thunder the ovation always was and the birds the skies they took. I guess the birds too really did not understand why a people could disturb so much peace just because the politician has opened his mouth. It never really occurred to me that this person who the people seemed to love so much could be the very person who in time the people come to hate so much. I believe I was one up from the people. After all, I already hated this person. But I guess it was all for the wrong reasons. Surely, I could have had more reasons, but really it did not matter.

The politician I recall used very strange words. Humanism, man at centre, was rather prevalent those days. Words that had no meaning to me. I was innocent as all children are. Then, there were the times, a new tall building came up, and the politician would again make an appearance. Of course, having a two storey building in your town was something exciting. And if it had lifts, then you should imagine how much fun us kids had!

Yes, my father would also often be there. Being a somebody in the town, he somehow had to make an appearance. And did we glow. That is my father up there.

Looking back, I believe I never really witnessed my father smile whenever next to the politician. Could be he always knew something. Must have been a secret. For why else did he not tell us what it is about the politician’s presence that did not make him smile?”

He raised his scrawny hand, you could count the veins. I paused.

“What you say is of the other, what I ask is of yourself,” he slowly said.

“Perhaps, my happiness is in seeing wrong in others. For of their wrong, I can speak well.” I replied.

He coughed, spittle dripping down his lips.

“My son. That is the blind side of your beatitude. Your happiness should lie in seeing the wrong in yourself. Your father did not smile in the presence of a politician, because in the politician he saw himself. A failing, an abyss of reason. Go now and redeem your beatitude.”

I sadly looked at him, stood up, and walked away. A tear fell, but I knew his last words were an altruism.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A panga for my grandmother

“Those of us who have only ever known life in a democracy, however flawed, would find it hard to imagine what living in a dictatorship and enduring the absolute loss of freedom really means”
-  Arundhati Roy (Not Again)

 MY grandmother recently turned 90 and if I thought I will be free of her inquiries on why the myriad political promises she has been hearing for nearly all her life-time have not come to roost,  I was very wrong. The old fellow now seems to have a keen interest in the political happenings in Northern Rhodesia. With every call, SMS I receive, I regret having bought a television set for her. Now she wants a panga!

Strange, because out there in Shangombo, she always tells me she is a citizen of Barotseland, and not Northern Rhodesia.

This is how, the panga demand came to be.

"Sonny! Please, come quickly. I am in big trouble."
"What, Nana?" I asked. My mind dancing around whether that third Baobab tree by the second bus stop, near the first Baobab tree at the Shangombo market is still standing. Who knows! Someone could have mistaken it for Mukula ornamental wood.  Else, it will be a tall order to locate her hamlet in the Barotse sands.

"Last night, there was a big crowd at my shebeen. Was a busy, profitable night. They danced and chanted some unknown psalms. I could not help, but join in the chanting as I served them." She paused. I waited. Really, forgot I meet her mobile talk time bill. And it is not cheap.

"Couldn't understand what they were on about, as they were using their own local language." Well, I could relate to that. Most Lozi speaking people can barely understand each other, when the other uses his or her own local language. Lozi is a national language, by the way.

"Imagine! I actually, joined in the chanting, when suddenly they stopped. You should have heard their heartbeats. Boom, boom, boo. Then, this elderly weasel that always drinks on credit pointed at me, and shouted. 'That is the witch killing us with her paraffin and battery acid laced seven days. Today, the witch will die. We need development, the seven days is making us always vote for the opposition'." A long pause again. Thick foul tobacco spittle must have hit the ground.

"Sonny! All this time they were actually chanting, 'today the witch will die, today the witch will die' meaning me. Please, bring a panga for me." And the phone cut.

Tried calling her back. But that jealousy girl, I hate so much, answered my call.

"Sorry. You have insufficient Jameson alcohol to make this call". My apologies, the tragic tale of the dance for Nana must have made Jameson intrude in my thoughts.

Perhaps, I really don't need to rush to Shangombo. My beloved grandmother is wise enough to know, you don't just join in a dance and chant without first asking what it is all about.

In hindsight, I laughed softly. Her world famous paraffin and battery acid laced seven days alcoholic brew is a marvel!


The brew actually removes cobwebs that prevent the gray cells upstairs from communicating properly. Now not surprised they believe she is a witch. Unfortunately, they need development served on a sizzling platter of rats in sindambi[1] soup. They surely must have heard someone saying, if you do not vote for the party in government there will be no development in your area.

Sic! This fellow thinks he uses money from his dear departed father’s hamlet. Anyway, that is a story for another day.

The point is, the paraffin and battery acid laced seven days always made them realize that tyranny is an erotic temptation, when the delusion of power is one's eiderdown.  They live apart from their sons rotting in prison for simply asserting that Barotseland is a State within a State.

In voting for the opposition, they were simply asserting that obedience of tyrannical rule is no different from the obedience of corpses; throw them in an ox-cart; turn them roughly in the morgue, chop them up in the guise of a post-mortem, not a protest will you hear. And more so that, development served on a sizzling platter of rats in sindambi soup only during an election is sophistry. After all, they have evidenced a people being pulverize to pulp, so that they accept the tomorrow promise of development!

Well, I am off to the nearest hardware shop to buy a panga for my beloved grandmother.  I really hope, I will not regret my decision. Tomorrow, I head off to Shangombo, to deliver the panga. I am sure she will proudly hang it under the Baobab tree in the centre of her hamlet, so that all can now see her new political affiliation.

I really love my grandmother. But, in the days to come, I am slowly seeing myself on fast twos, her in an ungainly sprint behind me with panga raised. At 90, how will she easily differentiate between her grandchildren and members of the opposition? Perhaps, I should tell her that a panga is violence, and that violence, is the nemesis of democratic rights?

Or that the law obligates a State, the executive and legislature, to do something for the citizenry, not just for those with a particular political affiliation? Hence that, the psalm of development served on a platter of rats in sindambi soup, only when one has a panga hanging outside their door is not right. It is immoral.

No. I will just have to seek solace in the gecko on my wall, and deliver the panga. I hear in Shangombo they still burn witches. Wouldn’t want that to happen to Nana.

But, before I hand it to her, I will remind her that she once said,
"Being in authority or power, or being close to authority or power, does not mean instruments of authority or power are one's toilet tissue. Even if it became so, one has to be careful as unwise use of toilet tissue can soil one's hand."

And further that,
"The denial and defense of rule of lawlessness, is no different from wondering why everyone you seek to greet refuses to touch your hand. It is simply because you soiled your hand after number two, but you deny the smell".

I am sure my grandmother is wise enough. Can’t wait. It surely cannot be a case of the Iron Age never really ending in some parts of the world. Were pangas not first invented in the Iron Age?

Via, veritas, vita.

[1] Sindambi is a Lozi traditional vegetable

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Thief outside the window

Off portraits, rat whiskers walking sticks and being God chosen.

I once read somewhere that, "a thief is always outside the window". No, I think I wrote that before the grey matter got clouded with my beloved grandmother's paraffin and battery acid laced seven days. 

Now tired of running to look outside the window whenever I hear a fire engine's siren. I always really want to jump out of the window and chase after our new Lego set of fire tenders, shouting "lisholi, lisholi". Catch, them and do a citizen's arrest. But, I don't do so. 

For, outside the window I also see a Kawambwa Tea Mukula tree, gold plated bitumen drums, sisal and rats. I end up getting spoilt for choice, as to which one I should chase.

"I will chase them, tomorrow", I always console myself. Yet I know, tomorrow I will simply walk among the tombstones in the graveyard of hope. Hoping someone else, not me, will do the chasing, shouting and arresting.

I really just hope, tomorrow those to come after me, will not be chasing me and shouting, "lisholi". For in my reticence, I am actually stealing their future.

Yes, in my reticence, I am also the thief among the thieves that only see thieves outside the window.

Ora pro nobis.


"Lisholi" means thief.