I was sitting quietly on the veranda when around the corner came my grandson Khoza. 'Good Gracious' I exclaimed, rising to give him a hug, 'You're all grown up! I haven't seen you for ages! Where've you been?'
'I was sent to Mumbwa to do my Form Five.'
'Mumbwa Secondary School?'
'No, the School for Man Made Democracy, MMD.'
'Tell me all about this school,'
I said, as he returned from the kitchen with a bottle of coke. 'Why is it called Man Made Democracy?'
'Because the main subject is democracy.'
'What!' I exclaimed in amazement. 'Schools are supposed to be little fascist dictatorships, designed to crush your imagination and initiative. Do you actually have lessons in democracy?'
'Not exactly. We learn democratic behaviour from the way the school is organised. We elect a school council to make the school rules, ministers to run the school, prefects to catch wrongdoers, and so on. The pupils are in charge of the school.'
'Dear dear,' I said, 'you'll never be able to survive in Zambia with an education like that. Pupils are supposed to be taught to do as they're told. Anyway, my dear Khoza, let me not prejudge the place, tell me what it was like.'
'Its been a great educational experience,' he replied. 'Especially after I was elected editor of the school newspaper, Democracy Today.'
'Reporting the football results, expeditions of the Science Club, the health of the headmaster's dog, and that sort of thing?'
'We do have a back page for that sort of trivia,' laughed Khoza. 'But obviously, in a democratic establishment, our main interest is issues of accountability. We report on whether our elected representatives are abusing their authority, or pocketing the school fees, and that sort of thing.'
'And did you find everything above board?'
'Unfortunately not,' said Khoza grimly. 'I soon found out that the Food Ministers were guzzling most of the food in the kitchen, and leaving little for the dining room, the councillors were bribing voters with Tujilijili, and prefects were accepting bribes to put pupils in detention.'
'So did you publish your findings in the next edition of Democracy Today?'
'Yes. It was a sell-out! We had to do another print run!'
'And were you praised by the headmaster for exposing this undemocratic behaviour?'
'Unfortunately the headmaster, poor old Round Belly Nyamasoya, is long past his sell-by date, so the school is run by his deputy, Mukunda Makukuma. He called me into his office and told me not to abuse the freedom I had been given, and not to insult elected leaders, or I would cause chaos and mutiny in the school!'
'What sort of person is this Mukukuma?'
'Very strange. He rarely comes out of his office, except at night. He dresses all in black: black suit, black shirt, black tie, dark sunglasses. When I went into his office I found the curtains drawn. All I could see was his red lips and white fanged teeth. His nickname is the Red-Lipped Snake. Some pupils even told me he's a vampire, who sleeps in a coffin behind his desk.'
'Schoolboy rumours!' I laughed. 'But did you respect his warning?'
'I stuck to my principles,' said Khoza. 'In the next edition I accused Mukukuma of not respecting the constitutional role of the press in holding leaders to account.'
'So did he summon you again?'
'No. Instead I found myself put in detention by the Chief Persecutor, Chabe Muchenche, pending trial for circulating pornographic material.'
'Good gracious! Had you really done that?'
'Of course not. But the prefects found a drawing of a naked woman in my school biology textbook.'
'So was it a trumped-up charge?'
'Of course. But as it happened, the detention provided a great source of information. One of the other detainees explained that Mukukuma really is a vampire, who appoints his ministers by sucking their blood. After selecting his next victim, he creeps into the victim's dormitory at the dead of night, slithers into his bunk, winds himself tightly around the victim's body and sinks his fangs into their neck. That's how he got his name, the Red-Lipped Snake.'
'So all this talk of democracy is just empty talk, a cover for vampire rule?'
'Exactly. The elections are all rigged, and boys are initiated into the ruling class by being bitten by the vampire. After that they do his bidding, enjoy the perks, and rule by blood and fear.'
'And what about the Chief Persecutor, Chabe Muchenche? Was he one of the vampires?'
'He's nothing more than a spineless parrot, mouthing the words of his master, and despised by the other vampires. I exposed the whole system in the final edition of Democracy Today, which I called Vampocracy Today.'
'What a very frightening school,' I said. 'You were lucky to escape! What are you going to do now? What are your ambitions?'
'I'm going into politics!'
'What! After your experiences in MMD!'
'Yes,' he said, as he pulled down his shirt collar to show me two little scars. 'I'm now a member of the ruling class!'
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