“How are we doing on the YFDP front?” The sixty-five year old veteran politician Milton Kapaso wasted no time kick-starting the meeting with his party minions on the evening of Wednesday. He noisely pulled back the seat at the head of the table and carelessly slumped his four hundred pound weight into the huge black leather chair specifically tailored for him.
No apologies whatsoever were rendered to the group of five gentlemen and three women who had been waiting for him for over two hours while he was in his room upstairs romancing his young bride who was old…or rather, young enough to be his daughter. From the surreptitious looks Milton’s people exchanged amongst themselves, it appeared they unanimously agreed that their leader owed them some form of apology, but that they had no intentions whatsoever of making their feelings known. They knew better than to ruffle the feathers of a man with the most volatile temper in the whole of the Southern African region.
For the ten years Milton had been president of the NDFP, it was no secret amongst its top leadership that their head had the most undiplomatic-like temper. It was also no secret that all of them would jump at any opportunity to oust him out of the party and the head position he seemed to want to hoard forever, including his most loyal minion.
These upcoming elections were Milton’s last chance at entering Plot One. He would be damned if he let a new Comer like William, let alone his secret enemies within his own camp stand in the way of that. He had fought two gruesome elections already and on both occasions had abysmally lost to the ruling party. It was indeed time for change.
Now that the YFDP had chosen to put a young one on their presidential ticket, Milton was more than confident this year would finally be his. Apart from his ambition and seemingly favorable reputation, the young William Mwanza had absolutely nothing solid on the veteran. Milton believed himself to have charisma, experience, and class over the ill-bred son of a family who had manipulated and squandered national resources to benefit themselves and their few elite friends. There was just no way he would let someone like that beat him at his own game.
“My source at the Minister’s residence informs me that Mwanza is definitely cooking up something,” the party général secretary Franklin Moyo said.
“You’ve been saying that for the past one month Frank,” a visibly irritated Milton spat. “Either bring me something solid, or get the hell out of my sight this instant.” The group turned to each other to murmur protests which they yet again had no courage to voice directly to the object of their anger.
“With all due respect sir,” it was Eunice Mbulo, the forty-four chairlady of the National Women’s League who spoke up. “I don’t think you have any right to talk to any of us in such a manner. We are all adults here, not your children.”
The room went quiet while Milton shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Like most bullies, Milton was in his element when no one dared to challenge him head-on. His reputation, social standing, and body size gave him leverage over most people he encountered. Everything about him said he was a man to be feared and respected. He was a man who had worked a hundred times harder than his peers to be where he was, and he never passed a moment to remind anyone within hearing range of that.
The veteran politician thrived on the knowledge that no matter how much he pushed, the chances of someone challenging him straight in the face were almost non-existent. The number would be a sure one, if not for the existence of the chairlady of the party’s Women’s League, Eunice Mbulo.
“Why am I not surprised to hear this voice?” Milton remarked in a sarcastic tone. “Ever since a few disloyal members called you aside to whisper some useless things in your ears, you’ve started to think that I actually give a damn what you say, don’t you? Sudeldenly, you’ve grown wings. Power is such a beautiful thing isn’t it? Now that you’ve gotten yourself so close to it, you’ve started thinking you actually wield it, huh” He was smiling, the kind of smile that didn’t reach his sober angry eyes.
Determined not to be intimidated by the clawless bully, Eunice unflinchingly glared back at him while everyone else in the room watched the scene with bated breath. “I don’t know what you’re talking about it,” Eunice stated matter-of-factly.
It was true that a group of party leaders from the central committee had approached the brazen woman to assure her of their support if she chose to take Milton’s position at the helm. The group believed à female candidate was what they needed to win favour with the public and undo the damage Milton had caused the party over the years. All it would take was courage on the part of Eunice to declare herself worthy and then rally the rest of their supporters to her side.
Eunice had both desire and ambition for such a development. Her only fear was that she was nothing compared to Milton. The man had the money and connections to pull off numerous campaigns while she had very little to her name. She was also new in the political world. Milton’s financial influence was one of the reasons the party could not out-rightly let go of him. He had the means and the connections to keep the money flowing in. The moment he was out, the money would be out too.
Unfortunately, most of the members were only active due to the financial incentives that came with being members of the central committee of the strongest opposition party. If their loyalty could be bought that easily, Eunice stood no chance. Milton’s financiers would never come on board à party led by a woman. If she wanted to stage a revolution, she needed to build her financial muscle first. Right now was just not the right time to make a move. And it wasn’t like Milton was going to win this time. They all knew it. They were all just there to enjoy the spoils. William Mwanza might be a novice in the presidential arena, but he truly was a worthy contender. They all knew it. They just didn’t dare say it out loud.
Milton laughed sarcastically. “You might think me a fool if you think I don’t know what goes on within my own party,” he said.
“This is not just your party sir, it belongs to all of us!” Eunice said. “In case you’ve forgotten, we are the people that put you at the top where you are. We can just as easily remove you.”
Milton chortled louldy, raising his short fat hand to mockingly point at his committee while his other hand pressed on his belly to keep it from bursting open from laughter. “Remove me?” He asked. “You and which army? These filthy lazy bastards who don’t even have the nerve to discipline me when I keep them waiting for me for over two hours while I enjoy the company of my beautiful younger wife?” He laughed again.
“You think I don’t know that all of you here hate my guts!?” Milton asked the bunch. “You forget that I’m the reason you got your feet into those government offices you hold. The moment I turn my back, like the cowards you are, you whisper about how that young thing lying in my bed right now will one day break my back and cause me to die the most humiliating death known to man. Then you laugh amongst yourself, pretending as if my death has already happened. You’re even more stupid if you think I would let a woman sup power from right under my nose.”
Dorothy Siame, the national chairperson shot up to her feet, her chair noisely falling back. “What’s wrong with a woman taking over the reigns for once?” She asked.
A young man sitting next to her by the name of Joshua Mvula carefully picked up the chair and tagged at the bottom of her blouse to try and shush her before she steered the already burning pot into spillage. “No, let me talk Joshua!” Dorothy addressed the man for a second before turning her attention back on the ogre sitting in front of them. “As a woman, I’ve had enough of this man insulting us and putting us down every chance he gets, and yet, when he goes out there, he acts like he’s the biggest ally of our movement. He is just using us to get numbers for you.”
“Don’t be naive Dorothy,” Timothy Sichivula said. He was in charge of all matters relating to education within the NDFP. “Face reality,” he said. “No one wants to trust a woman with running the affairs of a country, not even your fellow women.”
As Timothy was talking, Eunice pulled her friend by the hand to force her to sit back down. Dorothy sat down without protest this time around.
“You can talk about women empowerment and feminism all you want but reality is very different from those dreams of yours,” Timothy said “The sooner you realize that, the better for everyone. You’re even lucky that Mr Milton here has not expelled a group of you traitors who keep plotting his downfall just so you can take over running the party.”
Timothy, also known as Timmie by the local tabloids and general populous was also famously known as Milton’s lapdog. Not a single day went by that Timothy did not utter sentiments that seemed to paint his boss as one only equal to perfection with Christ. In his head, Milton could do no wrong. Anyone who thought otherwise was either blind or of bad faith. Suffice to say, Timmie was Milton’s longest serving minion, way before the man rose to the highest rank in the party.
The two had met when Milton rescued Timmie from a hostile employer who had not paid his employees for over a year. Milton had been interested in buying the piece of land where the employer’s butchery was situated. On the day he went to make his final bid of purchase, he found Timmie in the man’s office, on his knees, crying and begging for his dues so he could take his pregnant wife to the hospital. Milton secretly promised to pay Timmie’s bills if he agreed to help convince the stubborn man to sell within a week.
The following day, Timothy organized his fellow disgruntled employees and together they staged a protest that attracted the attention of the media. That same night, Milton received a call from the employer and somehow managed to buy the place at a much cheaper price than he had initially offered.
“Just look at us,” Robby Mwanangombe, the head of national security said. “We are here fighting amongst ourselves while our opponents are putting all their weight behind one man. If we lose these elections, it won’t be because Mwanza is better than our candidate. It will be because of this!”
“Don’t raise your voice in my house Mwanangombe. Watch yourself,” Milton warned in a controlled tone. Mwanangombe was the one person in the party Milton both respected and feared. The man had more experience in politics than him, and if he was to be really honest with himself, he would admit his counterpart was more qualified to lead the party than him.
The only reason Milton had gotten to the helm after the demise of the part founder was because he had played dirty during the internal elections while Mwanangombe had done everything by the book. It was a wonder the man had survived that long in their line of business. He had no business playing politics against the likes of Milton and many others who never played by the rules. That’s just how politics work. Milton might have won the party elections, but the people knew who their favorite contender was. Any wrong move on Milton’s part and Mwanangombe would be in his spot.
If ever Mwanangombe felt unwelcomed or threatened by Milton’s leadership style, with the right influence and incentive, there was no doubt he would either defect or form his own political party. That would mean the end of the NDFP as most of its supporters were on Mwanangombe’s side. To maintain control of the party, Milton had to tread carefully around his running mate.
“However,” Milton added, “I agree with what you’ve said. We’ve run out of time. We can’t have this group of party members spearheading their own propaganda all over the media and another one doing its own thing. We look like a bunch of amateurs.”
“Perhaps we would stand a better chance if you were not distracted by that woman sir,” Kasabo Lwando the head of press said. At only twenty-five years of age, Kasabo was the youngest member of the NDFP. “It would also help if we didn’t spend all our energies looking into what the other camp is doing. William is running his campaign as if we don’t even exist. Why can’t we do the same?”
Milton scratched his forehead dramatically, shifting from side to side I’m a show of deep introspection. Then he sat up, elbows down on the table and renewed focus shifting between the three women in the room. “It looks like the women are on fire tonight, aren’t they?” Milton remarked. “If not for the fact that I can’t get rid of all of you at this point in the elections due to the obvious reasons, I would have all three of you kicked out of the party this very night,” he said.
“My darling Kasapo,” Milton continued. “I know you wish it were you I married instead,” he went on. “Unfortunately for you, being a good spot in bed does not make you good candidate for marriage. I needed a first Lady, not a first prostitute. Focus on your job and stay the hell out of my personal business. Very soon that woman you keep calling names will become your first Lady.”
Kasapo rose to her feet in anger and turned teary eyes towards the thirty-one year old Youth advocate Joshua Mvula. “How can you let him talk to me like that!?” Kasapo cried before storming out of the room. Joshua was right behind her.
“I guess that’s what they mean when they say youths are the leaders of tomorrow,” Milton remarked sarcastically, earning himself a laugh from Timmie while everyone else looked at the two with repulsed expressions on their faces.
“I believe Franklin had something to tell us about William,” Eunice reminded the group.
“Oh yeah,” the fifty-two year old Franklin said. “My source tells me that a woman has entered William’s life.”
“Unless I’m mistaken, but isn’t the man divorced? Is he not allowed to find new love?” Dorothy asked.
“Go ahead Frank,” Milton motioned towards him in a bid to dismiss Dorothy’s interjection.
“My source informed me that Mwanza appeared to be both nervous and agitated the hours leading up to the woman’s visit. Apparently, he has never been seen out of his element like that. The two of them stayed in his office for close to three hours, and when the woman left, Mwanza appeared to be in better spirits.”
“So the man is in-love. Why is this any of our business?” Dorothy asked.
“Tsk-tsk-Tsk,” Timothy said, shaking his head from side to side. “This is why women have no business playing politics,” he said. “For a man of William’s standing, any woman he chooses to bring closer is a huge reflection on him. He’s always sold himself as this genuine, selfless, law abusing citizen. He’s the good guy! The perfect gentleman. But what if he isn’t? Or what if his woman isn’t? What if there’s a Scandal there? That would change everything for him! “
“If we are going to label all women as foolish based on the sentiments of a few, should we also call all men dogs based on your behaviour Timmie?” Eunice asked.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s not get sidetracked. I beg of you,” Mwanangombe pleaded.
“Anyway,” A visibly irritated Franklin continued. “My man happened to take a picture of the woman as she entered the Minister’s mansion and I sent the photo to a friend of mine at IOZ. This morning, he called me to inform me that the woman in question is actually a Zambian-American. Her name is Miranda Kamanga. There are rumors around that the two have a past, but he’s still looking into it. The level of security around the woman’s life seems to suggest she and William might have been involved in some type of illicit affair. That could perhaps be the root of his divorce.”
Without warning, Milton thumped his hand against the table in excitement. “This is what I like to hear!” He exclaimed. “This right here is exactly what I’ve been waiting for. Great work Frank. Tell your people to hurry up with the information. We are running out of time here!”
On the other side of the door behind Milton, his wife Yvette had her ear glued to the door, listening to everything being said. She was a tall and slender woman, and at twenty-five years of age, she looked decades younger than her peers in her pulled back thick mane of naturally curly hair with professionally styled baby hairs. When it appeared the people on the other side were almost done with the meeting, she tip-toed her way back to the bedroom, picked up her cell phone from the dresser and rushed into the back garden to make a call.
“Baby girl,” à musculine voice greeted on the other end of the line.
“How many times have I told you not to call me that Bernard?” Yvette barked.
“I’m sorry, but can’t à man miss his own woman?” The man named Bernard asked.
Yvette rolled her eyes at the sound of that. “I take it your sugar mummy finally decided to cut all ties with you huh?” She said.
“Let’s not talk about that bitch okay? Anyway, what’s so important that you called me first? Old man finally had his naked stroke?” Bernard laughed.
“Don’t talk like that about my husband Ben. Have some respect.”
“Aiyt babe, I hear ya.”
Yvette took a deep exasperated breath. “I need you to do me a favour,” she said.
“I’m listening,” Bernard said.
“Find out for me who Miranda Kamanga is. I want her whole history and I want current pictures of her. I want to know all her darkest secrets, who she’s sleeping with, who her enemies are, her friends, what she wears to bed, I want to know everything.”
“Ô-Kay,” Bernard said. “What did the poor woman do to you, steal the love of your life?”
“Something like that,” Yvette said before cutting the line.
Yvette opened her gallery and flipped through a thousand selfies of herself before finding the one she was looking for. A picture of William Mwanza speaking at what appeared to be a women’s conference. It was a full front profile taken while he was smiling at someone or something in the audience. Yvette traced her perfectly manicured fingers around the outline of his face before drawing the phone to her lips and kissing it.
“Be patient with me my darling,” she said to the image of William now back in her hands. “I’m here fighting in the battle front for you. This is all for you. I won’t let anyone else take my place while I’m here making all the sacrifices. Ever. You hear me?” She gave the screen one last kiss before turning to go back inside.
Milton was standing at the door, a blank look on his face.
“Honey, how long have you been standing there?” A flastered Yvette asked.
“Long enough,” the sixty-five year old said. “Hand your phone over to me,” he commanded.