‘A double brandy please,’ I said to the barman, as I looked round at the assembled company, spotting a well suited gentleman sitting all alone in the corner. As soon as I got my drink I went over to him. ‘May I sit down?’ I asked.
‘Sure,’ he said with a smile. ‘It’s very lonely sitting here all by myself, worrying about how to stop all this corruption.’
‘Such as the mukula logs,’ I suggested, ‘they were found escaping from the country without even applying for passports. How can such strange things be explained? Is it witchcraft?’
‘No,’ he replied, ‘It’s robots.’
‘Robots!’ I exclaimed. ‘I haven’t seen any robots!’
‘Nobody has,’ he replied. ‘The trouble is that they look like people, but actually they’re robots.’
‘People are suspicious’ I said,’ that the mukula logs are being stolen by officials within the government.’
‘People always blame the government,’ he sighed, ‘but the government was equally puzzled to find these logs just slipping out of the country all by themselves. You heard for yourself how the Ministers of Defence, Natural Resources and Local Government were all confused about the situation and busy issuing contradictory statements. That was when the Joint Operations Committee finally realized that the mukula lorries were being driven by robots that were outside government control.’
‘Outside government control? The mukula lorries were being escorted by the police!’
‘No, that was not an escort. The police actually chasing them but couldn’t get them to stop. The robots proved to be immune to any police orders, tear gas or bullets and they just kept driving.’
‘But the PF cadres managed to stop them.’
‘That was because the mukula robots recognized the PF cadres as fellow robots, although operating under a rather rudimentary and outdated system of control.’
‘Good gracious,’ I said, ‘So these robots are taking over the government!’
‘Let me get you another drink,’ he laughed, ‘you’re getting too agitated.’ He turned to the barman saying ‘Two double whiskies if you don’t mind.’
When the double whisky arrived he tipped back his head and swallowed it in one gulp. Then he turned back to me. ‘The robot problem has arisen because the government made the mistake of giving control of the airwaves to different foreign companies. We suspect that these robots are being controlled from Bejing.’
‘Perhaps this is how our maize has just been walking out of the country after the government banned exports.’
‘Exactly. That’s why the government couldn’t explain what was happening because the government was just as puzzled as everybody else.’
‘So even copper can just walk out of the country before the mines have paid even one ngwee of mineral tax or profits tax. Similarly for nickel, manganese, uranium and emeralds. All our resources are being stolen!’
‘Yes, that’s the problem the Joint Operations Committee is looking into. In fact the mines are equally concerned that their copper is mysteriously escaping the country before they have had a chance to pay any tax.’
‘My God,’ I said. ‘Then all the wealth of our country is just slipping away. Why don’t you call in the army to stop these lorries with tanks? They could blow up the robots!’
‘Unfortunately the army is fully occupied with waging war on cholera. They are clearing away dirty vendors and destroying their filthy stalls, closing down the city centre and all food shops, removing all the filthy garbage left lying around, and making people wash their hands wherever they go.’
‘So the people’s own filthy behaviour is the cause of cholera?’
‘Of course,’ he replied.
‘Some people,’ I said, ‘are claiming that cholera is really spread by the water and sewage companies that pump infected water into peoples’ homes and spill raw sewage in the streets. And also by the failure to provide public toilets.’
‘That’s just fake news on the social media…’
At that moment our conversation was interrupted by the noise of police sirens coming along the road, and then stopping right outside the bar. Whereupon my companion stood up and shook my hand. ‘I do apologise,’ he said, ‘But it’s time for me to go. But you didn’t give your name.’
‘Just call me Kalaki,’ I said.
‘Just call me Jameson,’ he replied. Then he turned to the barman and said ‘Just a couple of bottles to take with me, please.’ He took the two bottles and then leaned down towards my ear. ‘You realize I told you these things in confidence. I’m sure you’ll respect that.’
‘Of course,’ I replied. With that, he walked out, slightly unsteadily.
‘Who is this Jameson?’ I asked the barman. ‘He seems very knowledgeable about what’s going on.’
‘Don’t believe a word he says,’ laughed the barman. ‘He makes it up as he goes along.’
‘But who is he?’
‘I don’t know exactly,’ said the barman, ‘nowadays a lot of these government officials move around with a police escort.’
‘Always by himself?’
‘Yes,’ said the barman. ‘He used to come with a group of friends, but nowadays he comes alone. His only real friend is the bottle.’
‘By the way,’ I said, ‘did he pay for those two bottles?’
‘Of course not,’ laughed the barman. ‘We have to give to the government but we never get anything back.
(Catch Kalaki’s Corner in your Thursday Diggers edition)