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