That we wallowed in some stern and muddy economic tunnel the just gone week is a painful reality Zikomo Matope and I have humbly agreed to accept. Times have been hard. Very hard. In fact, since Zikomo’s release from prison, we have been surviving on a small loan which I got from one of the many lending institutions in the dusty city of this our beloved land.
So, last Friday, wanting not to stoop low in the company of ‘companions-in-drink’, we turned down a couple of phone call invitations for a green or two of Carlsberg at Mugasa, Culture at Lower Biwi and Safari – also well-known as the ‘Northerners’ Bar.’ Our reason for turning down the offer was simple, and immensely believable: we wanted to follow Goodall’s proposed budget presentation to parliament for the 2017/18 fiscal year.
Still, we thought following the presentation of some fifty or so paged document would be hell without some alcohol doing some marathons in our coveted veins. In fact, Zikomo joked that we would begin dozing like some of the MPs who, it is as if, have not yet realised that they are supposed to contribute actively and constructively to bills and matters of national interest in the house.
And, thanks to the ten kwacha coins and twenty kwacha bank notes that I throw into some carton at one of the corners of my room each time I am back from a drinking spree, there was – in that carton – enough to get us eight one litre packets of Chibuku beer.
“Bwana, when did you start partaking of this stuff?”
“Medical reasons,” I told the young man at the Kawale 2 Chibuku Tavern. Zikomo wanted to say something, but, I think, decided not to say it on second thought.
I must admit that the brew was quite strong.
“This must be a week or so old,” Zikomo said in between a swallow from one of the corners of the packet.
I said nothing, my mind transfixed on the television as Good’ol Gondwe read his prepared budget statement word by word.
“Mr Speaker, Sir,” he said, “the income threshold that triggers taxation for salaried employees was last adjusted in 2013/2014 fiscal year. I’m pleased to announce that the tax free income bracket has been increased from K20 000 per month to K30 000 per month…”
“It should have been K50 000!”
“Can we please follow please? We have a discussion later.”
“No. This is unfair. What is K30 000 in this day and age my friend. To me, raising the tax free income bracket from K20 000 to K30 000 is a mockery of the highest order. Just K10 000 after five years?”
“But those that get millions in salaries have also been hammered with 35 per cents. Do you think that is fair?”
But Zikomo Matope was resolute: “We’re not millionaires Diehard. K10 000 is a million to us. Let us talk about us. Do you think this will make any difference to you?”
I said nothing.
“Can we drink what we have please? And, maybe you should have told the young man at the Tavern that your switch to Chibuku is because of the exemption of value added tax of milk. Milk and Chibuku are cousins. Don’t you think people will find it cheaper and healthier to drink it?”
We laughed heartily.
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