Michael Sata’s integrated theory of corruption
Posted Sunday, March 17 2013 at 02:00
For days, the old men and women of the village would peer in the sky at the dark clouds, and predict a heavy downpour. But the only thing that came was Michael Sata. We were gathered in Old Nyati’s compound one afternoon when we heard someone singing cryptically at the top of his voice: “One Zambia, one nation, zero corrupt criticism.”
We turned in the direction of the off-key performance to see a heavy-set man, the bottom half of his paunch showing from under a shirt decorated with his airbrushed likeness. To add to the incongruity, the man would execute a few dance steps with both his arms raised up, which had the effect of further exposing his considerable girth.
“Welcome to our village, sir,” shouted Old Nyati. “I am Mike Sata, President of Zambia,” announced the man happily, “and I want to take advantage of the peace and quiet of your village to complete my groundbreaking integrated theory of corruption.”
We escorted the president to the residence reserved for important visitors. Before he disappeared inside the house, Mike Sata broke into a spirited rendition of his song and dance, his belly trembling happily as beads of sweat broke out on his forehead.
I was curious about Mr Sata’s theory and the meaning of his song, but whenever I passed by his compound, hoping for an invitation inside, I would spot the great theoretician in sublime repose in the hammock, the open exercise book covering his face rising gently up and down to the sound of heavy snoring.
One afternoon as I peered over the picket fence, intrigued by the illusion of the notebook moving to the snoring , the president - obviously in the grips of a dream - sat up in the hammock, proclaiming in a loud voice while pointing a finger in my direction, “Arrest him, his criticism of my government is corrupt.” I stepped back, a little alarmed, and was about to make a quiet retreat when the president woke up from his dream and saw me standing hesitantly at the fence.
“Hey, come over,” he shouted, rubbing his eyes with the back of one hand. He put his legs over either edge of the hammock, and swung them back and forth, describing a running motion, clearly, I said to myself, the only running he ever did.
“I hope I am not intruding …I offered uncertainly, as I sat on the bench next to the hammock. “No, no…,” declared Mr Sata, “I was dreaming…” “You were ordering my arrest…” I said jokingly.
“Hehehe,” guffawed the president, “not you, not you, my friend...” “You see,” he began after he had recovered from his huge laugh, “journalists and opposition leaders have become so mentally corrupt, they even criticise my government, so in order to end this corruption…..” He checked himself, no doubt having noticed a look of confusion on my face.
“Look,” said Mr Sata in a serious voice, “I want to eradicate corruption in Zambia, but corruption, as my theory shows, can be in terms of money, morals and ideas.” He paused a little, rubbing his famous midsection. “Hitherto, corruption has been thought of only in terms of…”
“But, sir, those whose arrest on corruption charges you have ordered all happen to be people critical of you or your government.”
“Exactly,” said the president, warming up to the discussion, “their criticism is corrupt”. “Can there be criticism of your government that is not corrupt?”I asked.
“No,” said the president without any hesitation, “since my government is not corrupt in any of the senses I have mentioned, it follows that any criticism is corrupt, and is propagated by corrupt people.”
In the same serious tone, the president delved into his theory of corruption, explaining how corrupt criticism of African governments by journalists, opposition parties and democracy activists had retarded GDP growth on the continent.
As the president expounded on his theory, I mulled over the phenomenon that has characterised Africa’s post-colonial history - leaders reversing democratic gains after coming to power on promises of greater freedom: Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Museveni, Chiluba, Mohammed Morsi, etc.
Even the recent election in Kenya of ex-Kanu stalwarts and ICC suspects Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto looks certain to slow down what has been a steady march towards a social democratic future in that country.
My thoughts were interrupted by Michael Sata singing his favourite song. He stood up in the hammock and attempted to perform his dance. But the hammock swung side-to-side beneath his feet, and before I could do anything, the President of Zambia slipped untidily from the hammock and landed with an unhealthy thud on the ground.