By Ted Malanda
The rule of thumb is you don’t fix something that is not broken. So it beats me why, in our collective wisdom, we sacked tribal chiefs and started electing leaders.
That way, you always knew what you got — at least most of the time. If his great grandfather was a serious warrior, it was expected that that his lineage would be composed of men who could hurl spears across six ridges.
The whole thing was a study in genetic engineering. Once you established that a man had warrior qualities, you made sure he married the right woman — long neck, a serious behind for perpetuating the clan name, good PR and culinary skills and so forth.
For obvious reasons, such women did not grow on trees so it meant, she had to be the daughter of a serious elder — a man who had murdered scores of enemies in battle and who said everything, including ‘good morning’, in parables. With the deal done, the newly minted chief and his memsaf set forth to propagate generations of chiefs.
It wasn’t easy to manage, though. You would always have stupid boys attempting to ‘tune’ the chief’s daughters and propagate their kumbafu genes in the royal kraal. But that being long before Amnesty International was born, such boys mostly ended up with a spear embedded in their stomachs.
Occasionally, the royal sons would also get smitten with the village harlot, but that was a small matter. The chief could casually banish her entire family from the kingdom, the wild royal oat germinating in her womb notwithstanding.
The real mess, however, was when some poor apology of a palace clerk, a man whose father was not even known to have killed a rat, contrived to plant his sorry seed in the chief’s wife — mostly when the royal lions were deflated for one reason or other.
The result was always a genetic disaster: a heir who couldn’t fight or mediate between two fighting cockerels; a weak ruler who was no dictator — anathema in Africa.
Perhaps to avoid that occurrence, and with the coercion of our colonial masters, we got rid of the good old chief and started electing leaders.
But this being Africa, we still won’t elect you if your father was a ‘nobody’. Just look at the opinion polls. If your father was a blacksmith, forget it.