No Place for 'Animal Farm': Roy Clarke, a British-Born Satirist, Who Tried to Ride on the Back of George Orwell's Animal Farm, Has Been Brought to Earth in Zambia Where the Government He Compared to Animals, Wants Him out of the Country He Has Called Home for over Four Decades. Samu Zulu Reports

By Zulu, Samu | New African, March 2004 | Go to article overview

No Place for 'Animal Farm': Roy Clarke, a British-Born Satirist, Who Tried to Ride on the Back of George Orwell's Animal Farm, Has Been Brought to Earth in Zambia Where the Government He Compared to Animals, Wants Him out of the Country He Has Called Home for over Four Decades. Samu Zulu Reports


Zulu, Samu, New African


According to the Oxford Advanced Dictionary, satire is "an attack on foolish or wicked behaviour, by making fun of it, often through the use of sarcasm and parody (amusing imitations presented in an exaggerated way)." In Zambia, the British-born Roy Clarke is reportedly one of the best satirists the country has fielded recently.

The only trouble, it seems is that Clarke, a white man of foreign origin, has stepped hard on the toes of some very sensitive government officials--mainly home affairs minister Lt-Gen Ronnie Shikapwasha and his permanent secretary Peter Mumba, whom it seems, are not going to allow the happy-go-lucky sexagenarian scribe to bite off more than he can chew. They are gunning for his deportation from Zambia.

As we went to press, The Zambia High Court had granted Clarke a reprieve against his deportation, allowing him to come out of "hiding" until his case is heard again before Judge Philip Musonda, whose decision will finally seal Clarke's fate at a date yet to be set.

Clarke's deportation was first announced on 5 January this year. Five days later, Zambia's National Mirror newspaper reported the "disappearance" of Roy's wife, Sarah, a gender and feminist activist. "We do not know where our mother has hidden," Clarke's children moaned "and she obviously vanished from home because her life is at risk".

On 6 January, Shikapwasha told Zambia's Post newspaper: "We will eventually get him [Roy Clarke] because he cannot hide forever in a small country like Zambia. Mr. Clarke will not have more than 24 hours in this country. He does not need to be in Zambia where he considers us to be animals. Therefore the word is deportation."

At the heart of the matter is the New Year's Day article entiltled "Mfuwe", which Clarke wrote in the "The Spectator", his weekly political column in the independent Post newspaper--the country's most widely read independent daily edited by Fred Mmembe, himself no stranger to confrontation with Zambian authorities who have taken him to court on countless times for defamation.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Pretending to be writing from Mfuwe--Zambia's magnificent game and safari park situated in the Eastern province--Clarke used animal characters--elephant. monkeys, giraffes and baboons--in a satirical commentary akin to the country's current economic, social and political circumstances. Poking fun at the "Great Elephant" (widely identified as President Levy Mwanawasa), Clarke wrote: "He lumbered out of the state lodge (the presidential lodge at Mfuwe) and staggered towards the massive wooden chair (clad in a) dishevelled safari suit (which) was unbuttoned (leaving the Elephant's) huge belly to hang over his trousers."

Accompanying the animalised president (also referred to by the demeaning Zambian word "Muwelewele" which means a simpleton) were all kinds of animals like "monkeys dancing around in circles and wagging their bottoms each painted with a picture of the Great Elephant." Baboons even ran up to the Great Elephant showing him their big red bottoms (while) shouting "wehwehweh!" It is a Zambian tradition for ruling Party cadres particularly women, to dance around the president wherever he visits in the country, while wearing traditional wrappers (Chitenge) printed with a picture of the president on the backside.

In Clarke's piece, also present were the Great Elephant's appointees like the "knock-kneed giraffe in charge of agriculture, the hungry crocodile in charge of child welfare, and the red-lipped snake in charge of legal reform. Apparently, some of these descriptions correspond to the physical appearances of the real ministers holding the named ministries.

Then came a speech from the "Great Elephant" which reiterated an earlier promise that development would only come to constituencies that voted for him. "It was you my friends from the Game Park who went out there and brought 29% of the vote (Mwanawasa's 2001 electoral result which sent him to State House). …

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No Place for 'Animal Farm': Roy Clarke, a British-Born Satirist, Who Tried to Ride on the Back of George Orwell's Animal Farm, Has Been Brought to Earth in Zambia Where the Government He Compared to Animals, Wants Him out of the Country He Has Called Home for over Four Decades. Samu Zulu Reports
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