As we sat on the veranda having a New Year’s drink, Sara was in reflective mood. ‘I wonder,’ she said, ‘what exactly is the government’s thinking, bringing in the army to tackle to the cholera crisis?’
‘Surely it’s obvious enough,’ said Mupeta. ‘the council has failed to clear up the garbage so they called on the Ministry of Local Government. But the Ministry couldn’t do it because they’re busy building their mansions, so they appealed to the President. State House couldn’t do it because they don’t have any garbage trucks, so they’ve called in the army.’
‘But the army can’t do it,’ I laughed, ‘they’re only trained to polish their boots and iron their uniforms so they can march up and down at the airport to welcome distinguished visitors.’
‘But we don’t have any distinguished visitors anymore,’ laughed Ngoza. ‘So all those trucks that used to carry soldiers and their drums and trumpets and flags and ceremonial guns, all those can now be used to carry garbage.’
‘Otherwise,’ explained Mupeta, ‘the army would have nothing to do except sit in the army mess and drink duty free beer. They’d be completely unemployed at vast public expense. So the government, faithfully following its election promise, has at last found a way to give employment to the unemployed.’
‘But I’m not sure it will work,’ said Sara. ‘If the army only has experience at marching up and down and drinking beer, how are they going to suddenly know how to collect garbage? It’s work for which they haven’t been trained and which will mess up their lovely uniforms.’
‘You don’t understand how the army works,’ said Mupeta. ‘What they are good at is discipline, giving orders and marching to meet the enemy. Now that garbage collection will give them all the real-life military experience that they have been missing while marching up and down at the airport.’
‘Ha ha,’ I laughed. ‘Are they going to order the garbage to jump up on the truck, failure to which they will shoot it? Or will they attempt blow up all the cholera microbes with hand grenades, thereby causing a massive spread of cholera into the general population?’
‘Don’t be silly,’ said Mupeta sternly. ‘I said that the army is specialized at discipline and giving orders. The job of the army will be to drive the trucks and then order other people to load the trucks. They will order all the tujilijili drinkers out the bars at gunpoint and set them to work, thereby further solving the unemployment problem.’
‘Suppose the tujilijili drinkers refuse?’
‘That is where the discipline comes in,’ explained Godrey. ‘The tujilijili drinkers will be made to do frog jumps up and down the road until they decide of their own free will to load the trucks.’
‘I can see,’ said Ngoza, ‘that the entire country can be made to work properly if only we bring in the army.’
‘The entire country? How would that work?’ I wondered.
‘Well, look at the health service for a start,’ said Ngoza. ‘The only decent hospital that works properly is Maina Soko. The army has plenty of very good nurses and doctors, all recruited to treat war injuries. But since we’ve never had a war, the doctors have no patients except a few who attempted at self-destruction at the army mess. So Maina Soko Military Hospital could be put in charge of the anti-cholera campaign.’
‘Not just in charge of anti-cholera, but in charge of the entire Ministry of Health,’ suggested Sara. ‘Our confused government hospitals have just become waiting rooms for the mortuary. They need some military-style organization.’
‘The army should also take over the police,’ suggested Ngoza. ‘They could remove all the speed traps and road blocks so that people could get to work on time, then the country could be very productive.’
‘The army could also intervene to stop gender based violence,’ said Sara. ‘A ZAF helicopter would land outside any house where a man is trying to murder his beloved.’
‘But where would all the police go?’ I wondered.
‘A period of army training would give them discipline and education,’ suggested Mupeta.
‘So they don’t bring charges of treason for traffic offences,’ Sara suggested.
‘But how would the army stop our courts from entertaining cooked up cases?’ I wondered.
‘The army has its own military courts,’ said Mupeta. ‘And a special military court would need to convene a public enquiry into the recent behaviour of the judiciary.’
‘Half a minute,’ I protested. ‘Are you are now suggesting that the army take over the entire government?’
‘Why not?’ laughed Ngoza. ‘The government can continue with what they understand best, such as building huge mansions, holding whisky parties and organizing shopping trips to London. But, in the meantime, somebody has to impose discipline and run the country.’
‘You’ve forgotten why the army has always been confined to barracks,’ I said. ‘Let them out and they’ll soon take over everything. We shall sink deep into a military dictatorship.’
‘Nonsense,’ laughed Ngoza. ‘If we don’t want them, we’ll just vote them out!’
‘Really? Have you forgotten what happened at the last election?’
‘Oops,’ she said, ‘I’d quite forgotten about that.’
(Read Kalaki’s corner only in your Thursday print edition of News Diggers!)