On board the Challenger jet sat the A-Team in all their impressive glory. In the centre of the aircraft, on his gold-plated throne, sat the Leader of the A-Team, His Excellency Cycle Mata. On his right, on a little wooden stool, sat his Minister for Nonsense and Disasters, Wobbly Dotty Scotty. On his left, sitting on the toilet, was the Smelly Hatchet Man, the frightening Splinter Kapimbe.
‘Well,’ said Cycle Mata, ‘Why are we going to Mansa, what’s the problem there?’
‘By-election,’ said Hatchet Man. ‘The forces of darkness and evil are plotting to take over the entire constituency by capturing votes which rightly belong to the Punching Fist. The opposition has been using Mansa Community Radio to claim that the PF is really the Bufi Party.’
‘So what’s our plan?’ said Cycle Mata.
‘We could offer to supply electricity to all the local primary schools,’ suggested Dotty Scotty.
‘Don’t be silly,’ snapped Cycle Mata. ‘We promised that in the previous election. That’s why they’re calling us the Bufi Party.’
‘The answer is simple,’ snarled Hatchet Man. ‘We just declare a state of emergency, lock up the opposition and cancel all by-elections.’
‘Too grand a plan,’ cackled Cycle Mata, ‘I’m saving that one for later. This is just a preliminary operation. We shall just move in quickly, cancel the radio station license and arrest the station manager on suspicion of drug trafficking. Dotty, go and ask the pilot for our expected time of arrival so I can make some preliminary arrangements.’
Two minutes later Dotty Scotty came wobbling back from the pilot’s cabin, his face even more pale than usual. ‘There’s nobody there!’
‘What are you talking about, you old fool!’ shouted Cycle Mata.
‘The cabin is empty. His parachute is missing.’
‘He’s Bemba,’ said Hatchet Man darkly. ‘He’s joined the B-Team.’
‘But look at those clouds all around us,’ said Cycle Mata, as he looked out of the window. ‘We’re still up in the air!’
Dotty Scotty peered out of the window. ‘Those clouds are not moving!’ But even as he spoke, the clouds cleared and they could see that the plane was sitting on dry land.
‘Thank God for the autopilot,’ laughed Cycle Mata rather nervously. ‘We’ve arrived safely at Mansa Airport!’
And so they stepped down from the Challenger, only to find no welcoming party, no salutes, no bootlickers, no dancing girls and no party thugs. Over in the distance they could see a queue of people going through a large gate. A gateman seemed to be in charge.
‘Iwe malonda, bwela!’ shouted Cycle Mata rudely at the gateman, as the old man in a long white beard came slowly over. ‘Iwe, mudala, where is the DC, where is the Paramount Chief Mwata Kazembe, where is our convoy of Mercedes?’
‘No, no, no,’ said the old man. ‘It looks like your plane must have crashed. I am St Peter, and you have arrived at the Pearly Gates of Heaven!’
Now Cycle turned to whisper to his two chola boys. ‘This is the Master Plan we need. If we can just get in to see God he can work a few miracles for us. Put money in Mansa pockets. Give them jobs overnight. Put nurses and medicines in the clinics. All the things we promised in ninety days, nice Old God can do it for us in a flash of lightening. This could be the solution to all our problems! We can win the by-election after all!’
So now Cycle Mata turned to the gateman, ‘Well malonda, or whatever you call yourself, just let us in through your Pearly Gate so we can go and talk to your Paramount Chief. People of our stature can’t waste time talking to the malonda at the gate!’
‘I’m in charge of issuing visas,’ said St Peter calmly. ‘You have to apply beforehand. Some people wait years to get in here. Even Archbishop Milungu has been waiting more than ten years.’
‘Piffle and nonsense my man,’ sneered Dotty Scotty. ‘Look at that crowd of people just walking in straight through the gate. I don’t see any sign of visas!’
‘They are poor people from Zambia,’ explained St Peter. ‘We have a special Memorandum of Understanding with their Ministry of Health to let them straight in. They are innocent souls who have suffered enough, and automatically qualify for Heaven. For them all visa requirements have been waived.’
‘Ha ha,’ scoffed Hatchet Man, ‘We’re also from Zambia. And we’re not just Zeds like those bedraggled ruffians and street kids, we are the A-Team!’
‘A-Team?’ wondered St Peter. ‘What does this ‘A’ stand for?’
‘We are at the top!’ explained Dotty Scotty. ‘Those Zeds are at the bottom! We are the ruling class! We have diplomatic passports, we don’t even need visas! We have all the privileges! We have the money and the power!’
‘It is easier,’ said St Peter, ‘for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.’
Dotty Scotty whispered under this breath ‘These damn villagers talk in riddles.’ But turning to St Peter he said ‘Look, old chap, let’s do a deal. You give us the visas and we’ll give you the contract for the new road from Chama to Mongu. Half the contract price up front! How’s that?’
‘Oh?’ said St Peter. ‘Why didn’t you say that was the sort of deal you’re looking for? Then you’ve come to the wrong place. Let me explain to you where to go. You see those stone steps over there at the edge of the cliff. Walk over to those steps and keep going down until you reach the place where such arrangements are organized.’
[Partly based on a storyline suggestion from facebooker Nelson Langford Ndhlovu]