We were sitting outside on the lawn at Culinary Creations, waiting for the waiter to bring the brunch that would enable us to celebrate Mothers Day.
‘Tomorrow I have to write my story for Diggers,’ I said, ‘so can anybody suggest which was the silliest news story of the week?’
‘For me,’ said Koops, ‘the silliest story was the notice that was pasted all over the UNZA Library telling female students that they had to dress decently to enter the library, and not to be half naked, as this was causing male students to become sexually aroused, thereby losing concentration on their studies.’
‘Even in darkest days of the Kaunda dictatorship,’ said Sara, ‘when UNIP thugs were roaming the town to catch and strip naked any girl found wearing a miniskirt or tight trousers, UNZA remained a refuge of civil behaviour and respect for women’s rights.’
‘The most absurd thing about it,’ said Mafipe, ‘was that this new dress code was only for the library and not the rest of campus. So were girls supposed to go and change their clothes before entering the library?’
‘And what does ‘half naked’ mean?’ I wondered. ‘If a woman wears a dress, does showing her legs mean she is half naked? Do her sandals reveal naked feet? Does her lack of a veil reveal a completely naked face?’
‘Perhaps,’ Mafipe suggested, ‘the library intended to have a supply of burkas available at the door, so that women could completely cover themselves before entering.’
‘But even then,’ I said, ‘the library security might want to check inside the burka to see if it is concealing a naked woman.’
‘For me,’ said Koops, ‘the silliest part of the story was the Chief Librarian’s claim that the notice was put there by a student. She also claimed that she only learned of the notice from the newspaper story, even though many copies of the notice had been plastered all over the library. This strongly suggests that the Chief Librarian is not really in charge of the library, and probably doesn’t even visit the place.’
‘A clear case of the lunatics taking over the asylum,’ suggested Mafipe.
‘Exactly,’ said Koops. ‘That’s my point. The whole thing was an inside job. We imagine that the library staff is in charge, but actually a gang of students had hijacked the place.
‘But how does that make it an inside job?’ I asked Koops. ‘Surely whether the notice was posted by the library staff or the students, it was still an inside job.’
‘You’ve missed my point,’ said Koops. ‘If the library staff are in charge then they are answerable to the vice-chancellor, the university council and ultimately the people of Zambia. If the students are in charge then power has been usurped by people pursing personal and illegitimate interests.’
‘The other absurd story of the week,’ said Sara, ‘was the theft of medicine from Medical Stores, and that was also a clear example of an inside job. No sign of a break-in. No outsiders involved. Completely an inside job.’
‘But the minister defended the staff,’ I pointed out. ‘So if he was part of the scam, and he is not one of the staff at Medical Stores, then surely we can’t say it was an inside job. It seems to be wider than that.’
‘If he defended them then he’s part of the inside job,’ declared Koops. ‘The medicine was intended to cure poor people on the outside, not enrich those on the inside. Maybe all aspects of government are now being converted to inside jobs.’
‘Now you’re trying to stretch your inside-outside theory a bit too far,’ said Mafipe. ‘Take the main story of the week, that the government will not present the Bill on Constitutional Amendments to parliament next week, but has withdrawn it pending comments from stakeholders. So it seems that the government is following an open process rather than the constitution being hijacked by a gang of insiders for their own benefit.
‘You couldn’t have picked a worse example,’ laughed Koops. ‘After three commissions of inquiry the Zambia people made clear that they wanted a new constitution with reduced presidential powers, ministers appointed from outside parliament, regional devolution and some MPs elected by proportional representation. Now, after twenty-five years, we have an amended constitution which provides none of these changes, but instead provides a dog’s dinner of ambiguities and internal contradictions.’
‘But was that an inside job?’
‘Of course it was, the ruling party highjacked the process and brazenly wrote something to suit themselves.’
‘It seems that you want everything to fit your inside-outside theory,’ I said. ‘Am I the only one to have noticed that the waiter hasn’t brought the food we ordered nearly an hour ago. So Koops, why don’t you go inside and find out why our food can’t be brought outside.’
‘OK,’ she said, and off she went. She came back only three minutes later with a fierce scowl on her face. ‘I found all the waiters sitting inside eating a meal which looked suspiciously like our brunch.’
‘A clear example of an inside job,’ laughed Sara.
‘Hurggh,’ I growled, and thumped the table. ‘Had it not been for your inside-outside theory, we could have had our food ages ago!’
‘Calm down and behave yourself,’ said Sara. ‘This is Mothers Day, not Fathers Day.’