'Come in!' said a big voice as I put my head round the door of the huge office. I walked in and looked around. There seemed to be nobody there. 'Take a seat, Spectator Kalaki, and make yourself comfortable!'
The voice seemed to be coming from behind the huge ornate mukwa desk. I walked up to the desk, and looked behind. There, wearing a little check suit far too big for him, sat a tiny wizened figure with a huge mouth. It was Mighty Mouth Mulufyanya, Chairman for Lies and Deception in the Mighty Mouth Diarrhoea, the dreaded MMD.
I carefully picked up the little fellow and put him down gently in a corner of a vast hideous bulbous armchair on the other side of the room. 'That's better,' I said. 'Now I can see who I'm talking to.'
'I prefer not to see who I'm talking to,' he replied. 'I get distracted by the look of disbelief on their faces.'
'I wanted a word with you,' I said, 'about your statement last week that government is only human and is bound to make mistakes. I just wondered if you could use your Mighty Mouth to amplify your remarks. Is this the beginning of a new government policy to make mistakes? Perhaps the MMD is now the Movement for Mistakes and Disasters? Or maybe the reporter made a mistake and
misquoted you? If not, perhaps you could say something about your government's future
programme of mistakes, so that the nation can begin making precautionary preparations.'
'Not so fast, Kalaki, or you may be making a mistake. You're confusing policy with strategy. Sometimes it is strategic to admit a mistake.'
'You mean that if you admit a mistake,'
I suggested, 'then people will forgive you,
saying that you're only human?'
'When you say that, Kalaki, you're confusing strategy with tactics. The tactic of admitting a mistake is used when a policy misfires and everything goes wrong, and then we admit our mistakes in order to defuse public anger. But the strategy of admitting a mistake is quite
'How is strategy different?'
'A strategy of making mistakes,' explained Mulufyanya patiently, 'involves deliberately making mistakes, and then explaining these mistakes in such an infuriatingly insolent manner as to foment public anger.'
'But why do that?'
'In order to divert public anger away from unpopular policies which are not mistakes.'
'So the fuel crisis was intended as a deliberate mistake?'
'I should have thought that was
obvious,' chuckled Mulufyanya, waving his little arms in the air. 'Everything about it was carefully designed as a ghastly mistake!'
'Beginning with the original contract?'
'Exactly,' agreed Mulufyanya. 'Imagine giving a contract to a company called Rip-off and Backhanders Ltd…'
'Better known as RB Ltd!'
'Exactly,' laughed Mulufyanya. 'A company that owns only one lorry and a small office in Mombasa Market, whose entire previous trading experience was in delivering chibuku.'
'But I thought our oil comes from Dar, not Mombasa!'
'That was all part of the deliberate mistake!' laughed Mulufyanya.
'And this contract was swiftly followed,' I reminded him, 'by your decision to close down the Indolent Refinery in order to facilitate further archaeological research into the history of
mismanagement in Zambia.'
'And then,' laughed Mulufyanya, 'we cut off all other supplies by imposing a 25% penalty tax on anyone who attempted to import petrol into the country.'
'And best of all,' I said 'was King Kong on TV every night, announcing that the crisis was caused by greedy motorists who were hoarding petrol!'
'Then finally,' laughed Mulufyanya, 'I announced that the whole thing was a mistake, and the nation should forgive us.'
'That's what I can't understand,' I said. 'People are not saying that the government is only human and should be forgiven. They are saying you're corrupt idiots who don't know what you're doing. They're wondering why you can't steal a bit of the oil money without
accidentally closing down the whole country.'
'Again, my poor dear friend Kalaki, you have confused our grand strategy with a mere tactic. Seeking forgiveness is a minor tactic. But the fuel crisis was a well-planned national strategy for getting everybody very angry, and therefore talking about nothing else. When I asked the people to forgive us, this was of course well calculated to make them even more furious.'
'But why do it?'
'Because the people who are furiously shouting about the petrol crisis have completely forgotten about all the other issues!'
'Selling off Zamtel to Gaddafi. Or destroying the judiciary and the NGOs. While people are shouting about petrol, we have been quietly
getting on with our business!'
'But even in the petrol queues, people were still gossiping, saying that Nyamasoya is plotting to steal the next election!'
'Don't worry about that,' he assured me, 'we're going to give our entire maize crop to Kenya, entirely free of charge!'
'My God!' I gasped. 'That would be a big mistake!'
'Exactly!' he said, rubbing his hands with glee. 'That'll give everybody something else to talk about!'
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