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Pole to Pole

Day 113: Kasanka to Lusaka

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleOur first experience of Zambian Railways, on the train from Kabwe to Lusaka, is not auspicious The train is late and, once arrived, so reluctant to move that a plaintive announcement has to he made over the PA: 'Would Express Two move from the platform to allow Express One to come in'.

This does the trick, but progress is still painfully slow. The interior of the Japanese-built coaches is in terrible shape. All the fans are broken and the upholstery torn and shabby. The track is badly maintained, so progress is not only uncomfortable but slow and uncomfortable. Not that any of the passengers seem worried. They sit reading newspapers and religious texts as the carriages lurch and swing. A kind gentleman, sensing my agitation, lends me his copy of the Zambia Daily Mail. It is full of sycophantic adverts taken out by public companies congratulating Mr Chiluba on his victory. 'The United Bus Company of Zambia says Bravo MMD. The Hour Is Now.' A leading article by one Leo J. Daka, headed 'Zambia, Which Way Now', is less amenable:

'Zambia,' writes Mr Daka, 'is a hospital with the citizens as patients. When we were under colonialists we had no worry of major concern, now, with independence promoted by fellow blacks, I wonder. The point is something has gone mentally wrong with our leaders.'

The fact that such a piece is printed at all is one of the better things about Zambia. It is ironic that one of the achievements of Kaunda - the establishment of a two-party state and a free press - should be the instrument of his downfall.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 113
  • Country/sea: Zambia
  • Place: Lusaka
  • Book page no: 255

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