‘Hey,’ shouted Sara, ‘come and look at this.’
I hurried into the sitting room to find her staring at the TV, which showed yet another parliamentary ritual in progress. ‘What’s this?’ I asked irritably. ‘If it’s Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address then I’ve already heard his smooth and devious hypocrisy.’
‘That’s why I want you to watch this one,’ said Sara. ‘This is from the Republic of Bamzia, and the President is actually telling the truth and admitting that the State of the Nation is a disaster. You just watch…’
‘As an honest and humble man,’ the President was saying, ‘I have to tell the truth about the State of the Nation, which is a complete disaster. That is why my Address to Parliament today is entitled The State of the Disaster. The essence of this disaster is that the government spends much more than its revenue, and therefore has to seek foreign loans. This means that the national debt increases every year and has now reached $20billion.’
‘Hurray!’ cheered the MPs. ‘What an honest man to admit the disaster! How well His Clever Excellency understands the problem!’
‘Since the government continues to spend much more than we earn there is no chance of ever repaying any of these loans. Worse than that, we can’t even pay the interest on any of these loans unless we again borrow more money.
‘Yes!’ they shouted, ‘That’s the solution! Let’s borrow more money!’
‘But it is very difficult to reduce expenditure because ministers and MPs have to reimburse themselves with all the money they spent getting themselves elected…’
‘And to collect money for the next election,’ said the Minister for Allowances and Reimbursements.
‘I am humbly obliged for the Minister’s further explanation,’ said the president. ‘It is particularly because of this pressing finance problem that my ministers have a habit of swallowing most of the money allocated to projects. This means that money allocated to projects has to be inflated by 300% to allow for ministerial appetites.’
‘Quite right!’ cheered the MPs, ‘We must eat well! We are the representatives of the people! We eat on their behalf!’
‘That is why I have advised my ministers that uubomba mwibala, alya mwibala, tabatila kulya nembuto kumo, meaning that those in charge of a maize field can eat well, but must not eat everything.’
‘Yes, we must respect our culture!’ laughed the MPs. ‘A nation without culture is lost!’
‘But in one of our road projects,’ said the president solemnly, ‘All of the cement just disappeared into nowhere.’
‘But lots of mansions have appeared from nowhere!’ shouted somebody, as the whole House cheered.
‘As the nation heads towards disaster, what is the government to do?’ asked the president.
‘Increase our allowances,’ somebody shouted.
‘If we cannot reduce our expenditure,’ said the president, ‘the only alternative is to increase national income in order to increase government revenue. But the huge national debt has sucked up all the money from local investors and nobody can afford to borrow at 25% per annum.’
‘I charge 25% per month,’ laughed a fat fellow on the front bench.
‘And foreign investors,’ said the president, ‘are frightened away by our custom of alya mwibala, which they think is a form of corruption.’
‘They don’t understand the local culture,’ chuckled a backbencher.
‘So if we can’t attract foreign investment,’ said the president, ‘What shall we do?’
‘Conduct national prayers,’ suggested the Minister for Religious Affairs.
‘I’ve already tried that and it failed miserably. So my new policy is to capitalize on the disaster.’
‘Policy? Policy,’ laughed members of the opposition, ‘He’s got a policy at last!’
‘Already in this country,’ said the president, ‘we have 35% of our people at the starvation level. If we can increase this to 60% then we can qualify for assistance from international disaster relief agencies.’
‘Hurray!’ they laughed, ‘Simple! That’s the answer!’
‘Already we have 90% of our school leavers out of work, so we are well on our way to the target. The farmers are already near to starving, and if we remove the rest of their farm inputs and reduce the price of maize they will all qualify for international assistance.’
‘A much better way to help the farmers,’ they laughed.
‘And we must close all the universities,’ said the president.
‘We’ve already done that,’ laughed the MPs.
‘And send all the students to national service.’
‘They’ll certainly starve there,’ they laughed.
‘In addition,’ declared the president, ‘I shall reduce the minimum wage and declare all jobs outside government to be casual labour.’
‘Long overdue,’ they cheered, ‘Let them tighten their belts!’
‘Then we shall easily reach our 60% starvation target and be able to call in the disaster relief agencies – Feed the Children, Food for the Hungry, Action Against Hunger, and so on. We shall abolish government health care and instead call in Medecins Sans Frontieres. This will increase our national income, reduce government expenditure and save us from disaster!’
‘Hurray!’ they all cheered. ‘A new plan for national development! We shall need massive loans to build more roads for the better distribution of disaster relief!’
‘But surely,’ I said to Sara, ‘to qualify for disaster relief you need a real disaster such as a hurricane, an earthquake or at least a civil war. Where is the disaster?’
‘The disaster,’ she replied, ‘is the president.’