I insulted the President of Zambia
By Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.
Professor of Sociology
My sweet Linda Jitanda chipesha mano (one who kills my brain), chipha dzuwa (the sun killer) was gone on the fish truck back to Mwinilunga. I was now singing my painful personal national anthem of a broken heart: “Linda Jitanda is gone!!” “Wayenda sure!!” (She is gone sure!!) I began to whisper under my breath as I wandered aimlessly along the shops and the corridors of the Kamwala Shopping center. The ache in my heart was building steam of heat in my heavy chest. I had to do something or anything to seek some relief from the profound and deep sorrow that Linda Jitanda had left in her wake. I wandered into Bula Bupo Bar to some Rhumba Juke Box music. Suddenly I wanted to not just drown but kill my sorrows. I was angry and heart broken, and it was the early months of 1977.
I ordered a mosi and furiously gulped half of it down in 30 seconds. I placed the half empty bottle on the counter. I slowly rotated the moist cold bottle of Mosi on the counter and began twirling it around slowly. I was waiting for my sorrows to begin choking and eventually drown. Since it was midafternoon, the afterwork crowd had not yet walked into Bula Bupo bar. The Juke Box was sometimes quiet. I put in ten ngwee and selected 3 Rhumba songs including Adza by Franco.
Into the nearly empty bar walked a young man my age carrying a box. He plopped the small brown carton box on the bar counter almost next to me and ordered a coke. I knew exactly what he was doing because I had done it so many times before whenever I was broke as a student at the University of Zambia. I had become expert at it. You walk into a bar, look for a man who is alone drinking. You go next to him when there is a whole empty bar counter and loudly order a coke. Your hope is either the man is bored and lonely, knows you from somewhere or he is too drunk and he might just order you a beer even by mistake.
“Hey! Ba Barman!” I shouted. “Mubapaseko one Mosi aba! “(Give him one mosi)
I slapped the 25 ngwee coins on the counter and the bar man scooped them up.
“Thank you, Mwana” he said as he began to swig the Mosi.
“Ine ndine Mwizenge,” I introduced myself as I shook the young man’s hand. “Imwe ndimwe ba ndani?” (Who are you?)
“Neo George Mukasa”. We shook hands. “Ninkala pa Chawama apa ndine mechanic” (I live in Chawama nearby and I work as a mechanic assistant.)
“Mungakambe mu ChiBemba nimvera,” (You can speak in Bemba because I understand Bemba.) I said this because I noticed he was speaking Nyanja with a strained strong Bemba accent.
We spoke in Nyanja mixing with Bemba words and a mix of English as we Zambians do. George and I laughed as I ordered a third round of beer.
“Mwana, Mwizenge you look sad, what is wrong,” George asked.
“It’s a beautiful woman Linda Jitanda, she just left me!!”
“I knew right away, Abanakashi baliyafya!!!(Women are trouble some)
“Just Imagine! I met Linda Jitanda at Sinjonjo bar in Mongu. She is not even Lozi. She is Kaonde from North Western Province and I am Tumbuka from the Eastern Province. Some idiot man in her village impregnated her!”
“Ah! Sure!!!” George reacted in disbelief.
“She came to say bye to me at NAMBOARD. Now she just left me on the fish truck!! This is all the President’s fault!!”
“Mwana how can that be the President’s fault?”
“I don’t care. I have a degree but no house no car and me and her can’t even talk! What kind of One Zambia One Nation is that? Ha!!!”
George knew when to leave. He said he had to take the spare parts for the car which was being fixed at his Chawama Compound street makeshift garage.
“Mwana Mwizenge meet me here at Bula Bupo bar on Saturday at 10:00hours. I will have money then to buy you beer,” George said as we shook hands and he walked out of the bar.
I kept on downing Mosi beers and buying random men a beer so I could rant to them about my sweetheart chipesha mano Linda Jitanda leaving me.
I had lost count of how many beers I drunk. I told the last man I ranted to that I was going to the State House to tell the President. I half staggered out of the bar and began to walk along Independence Avenue toward the State House. I muttered under my breath that I was going to tell off the President. This is a one-party dictatorship. As I crossed many side streets on Independence Avenue I heard a lot of hooting of cars but did not know why.
When I arrived at the gate entrance to State House, I saw two soldiers standing rigidly eyes up front into the air. I walked to the small booth.
The soldier who checked Ids for people who go into State House could see I was drunk. He came out of his booth.
“I want to see the President!!” I shouted. “Linda Jitanda is gone! I am Tumbuka and she is Kaonde. I love her but an idiot man impregnated her! Now she is gone! The President is to blame!!! How can we have One Zambia One Nation like this!! The President is stupid!!!”
The soldier leaped toward me like lightening as I instinctively ducked back as his open palm missed the side of my cheek and his fingers hit my upper lip and the tip of my nose. A civilian man suddenly grabbed me from behind pinning both of my arms back together dragging me away.
“Uyu mufana wanga wamwa maningi akolewa!!” (My young man drunk too much beer) “Musiyeni nizamumemnay ni ine. (Leave him alone I will beat him myself). He was pretending to be dragging me away forcefully.
“I have a degree is psychology,” I protested. “I know Marxism!! The President is a bourgeoisie, I am a working class!! A peasant!! Linda Jitanda is gone!! Life is not fair!!”
After 50 meters of pretending to be dragging me away as his younger brother, the man rebuked me. Telling me to stop shouting insults otherwise I was going to end up in police cells or worse. A few passers-by gathered to watch the spectacle. A car stopped. The man who had rescued me talked to the driver.
“Young man where do you live?” the man who had rescued me asked me.
“Northmead Supermarket, Northmead Supermarket!!” I repeatedly ranted in my drunken stupor.
The driver opened the back door of his car and the 2 men dumped me in the back seat. I must have half passed out because I felt the car move for what felt to be about a hundred meters then it stopped.
The driver came out, Dragged me out of the back seat by my legs. Lifted me out. Pulled my left hand over his should and his other hand around my waist and propped me up in front of the Northmead Super Market.
The driver went back to his car and slammed the car door shut and he started his car.
“Ba Malonda!! (Security Gurad!!) the driver shouted from his open car window. “Mumuuze uyunayende kunyumba kwake ngati moba wasila.”(Tell him to go to his home once his head is clear of beer).
There was a little cake of dried blood on the side of my nose. Other than that I was alright and my head was very clear. It was dark and late.May be 22 hours. I walked to my aunt and uncle’s house praying that they would still not be up that late. They were asleep and their bedroom lights were off. Indeed, I used my key to open the side door and quietly slipped into my bedroom as I had done so many times late at night. Sometime at 4:00am.
To my huge relief, as always, my aunt had left nshima for me with meat as ndiwo or relish. I was starving from all the drinking without eating. I ate the whole nshima with the soup and the meat.
*Dispatch from Mika Lodge, Jesmondine, Lusaka, Zambia