Don’t kubeba

Opposition fashion statement

Zambian opposition politicians have proved themselves more clever by half (and perhaps then some) over our native Canadian stock.

Here in Zambia were are heading into a general election this coming Tuesday. Great. Good. Looking forward to it.

In campaigning, the incumbent government has been doling out plenty of largesse: new geysers (hot water heaters), free electricity, mealie meal (corn flour), cooking oil, t-shirts, and more. The opposition party, Patriotic Front (PF), without access to taxpayer funds (from which the largesse is undoubtedly funded), needs a counter against this outpouring of gifts. It counters:

a) The PF adopts the slogan “Don’t Kubeba”. It means (more or less) “don’t tell them”.

b) The adjoining message is sent out to voters across the nation–“We know you’re struggling, we know you want a piece of the government campaign booty. That’s alright, that’s okay. Take it with open arms. Just ‘don’t kubeba.’ Don’t tell them you’re actually voting for us.”

c) To compliment this, the finger-in-front-of-moouth “shhh!” symbol is minted and now displayed on full-page ads taken out in newspapers and printed on posters plastered on compound walls and shopfronts.

The effect? Well, at the main intercity bus station in Lusaka this past Friday I was (as all travellers are) accosted by a call boy calling for me to board this or that bus. He wore a pro-government t-shirt. Trying to disentangle myself from his sales pitch I turned to him, took an obvious long look at his shirt, and said, “Don’t kubeba!”

He paused, looked at me with a big smile, and retorted, “Shhh!”

So in the election run up corruption and bribery are rife, but the opposition seems to have found the yin to the government’s yang.

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About Graham Lettner

My wife and I recently moved from Zambia back home to Alberta. I'm lucky to have been asked to be a guest blogger for the Localize Project. I love writing stories, and when the subject is food -- something that connects us to the planet and to each other -- the stories are endless.
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