This article was authored by satirist Roy Clarke on his weekly blog, Kalaki’s Korner.
‘Will you not have a drop yourself?’ I asked Sishuwa Sishuwa, as I poured myself another stiff brandy.
‘I’ll stick to the water,’ he replied, as he nibbled on a dry biscuit. ‘I have to maintain absolute clarity of thought.’
‘Good gracious,’ I gasped. ‘Why?’
‘Because I’m preparing a paper for a conference in Oxford next month,’ he explained. ‘My topic is Army Worms and the Destruction of Democracy in Zambia.’
‘Ha ha,’ I laughed, ‘that should entertain them in Oxford, I know they always enjoy amusing tales from the colonial periphery. Of course it wouldn’t be so entertaining for us if it actually happened.’
‘It is happening!’ he retorted, as he snapped a dry biscuit with carefully controlled ferocity. ‘These army worms are not just biological and agricultural. Like everything else in Zambia, they’re politically motivated.’
‘Come come,’ I sneered, ‘You’re getting drunk on that water while I remain sober on brandy. Or maybe you’ve been drinking muddy water?’
‘Have you seen the pictures of these worms on the TV?’ he asked. ‘Have you seen how they move? The front and back legs come together as the body of the worm comes up in the air. Then the front legs move forward as the body comes flat. In this way the body of the worm moves up and down, up and down, up and down.’
‘So what?’ I laughed. ‘Are you reading too much into this? Are you over-theorizing?’
‘Don’t you see?’ he screeched, as his thin body trembled with intellectual excitement, ‘They’re Up and Down worms! The Up and Down party has recruited its own army!’ So saying he leant forward and treated himself to the luxury of a small sip of water.
‘Are you seriously suggesting that the Up and Down Party is employing these Up and Down worms to destroy the next maize crop in order to undermine the government?’
‘There’s more to it than that,’ said Sishuwa, his foot twitching up and down with excitement. ‘The Up and Down party has been Down for so long, but now at last it has found a strategy for coming Up, using the Up and Down worms. Never mind the maize crop, an army of worms can destroy all the institutions of the state!’
‘Poof!’ I scoffed. ‘I’d like to see it!’
‘It’s already begun! Why d’you think GBM and all his generals with all their binoculars could not find a single member of the Barotse Liberation Army in Western Province? Because they were looking for men, and failed to notice the millions of worms all around them!’
‘If the worms eat all the maize, the government will just import from abroad. Such things don’t bring down the government.’
‘That’s only part of it,’ said Sishuwa. ‘Having feasted on the maize and multiplied, the worms are now invading government itself. Why do you think GBM’s belly has grown so gross? It is full of worms! Why do you think Splinter Kapimbe’s behaviour is so strange? Worms got into his ear and ate his brain. The worms are taking over the government!’
‘So does the government know what is happening?’
‘The Shushushu,’ said Sishuwa, ‘have been telling the government, but they won’t listen.’ ‘Why not?’
‘Don’t you see,’ explained Sishuwa, getting agitated, ‘Worms have no ears! When you are taken over by worms, you cannot listen to anybody!’
‘Even you,’ I sneered, ‘I wonder if you are listening to me. Your theory seems immune to my objections. And what about Cycle Mata, is he also infected?’
‘According to my high level sources, he’s still alright. But this is why he is holed up in State House, trying to keep away from everybody. That’s why there are no press conferences, no cabinet meetings and no explanations on these strange goings on. He’s being kept apart in a sealed room, so he has no idea what’s going on in the wider world.’
‘Can nobody do anything?’
‘The Minister for Botched Deportations, Eager Bungle, signed a Deportation Order for all the worms to be deported because they’re foreigners. But the Up and Down party got the order overturned in the High Court, which ruled that all the worms were born in Zambia.’
‘Can’t the police take action?’
‘All they did was to declare that the worms need a permit to assemble, and then arrested Pastor Mumbo Jumbo on the grounds that his party is just one big can of worms. The evidence increasingly suggests that the police have also been corrupted by worm infestation, because all their actions seem calculated to make the government look foolish.’
‘Couldn’t the ACC take action if the government is being corrupted by worms?’
‘They did open an investigation, but they hadn’t realized that Splinter Kapimbe was already infected, and he sent an army of worms to take over their building.’
‘I don’t really see,’ I said, ‘how all this will cause the government to fall. Previously governments have been corrupted by money, but they didn’t fall on that account. So how will being corrupted by worms bring about any different result?’
‘The end will be swift and terrible,’ explained Sishuwa grimly. ‘In the end, the worm always turns. As these ministers turn into worms, they will begin to turn on each other. Each worm will try to worm its way to the top by eating all the other worms on the way. They will destroy each other, and that will be the end of them!’
‘And how do you know all this?’
As he looked at me steadily, I saw a little worm wriggling out from the corner of his eye.
‘Aaarrrghhh!’ I screamed, as I sat up with a jerk.
‘There there,’ said Sara gently, ‘you’ve had another bad dream.’
‘I dreamt!’ I shivered, ‘that I was going to be eaten by worms.’
‘Another of your prophetic dreams,’ she laughed. ‘We’re all going to be eaten by worms.’