How corruption can bring down African despots - Daily Nation

How corruption can bring down African despots

Saturday July 28 2018

David Mulwa's play

David Mulwa's play "Inheritance" addresses misuse of power, corruption, exploitation, imperialism and oppression. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA 


David Mulwa's playInheritancetackles the theme of misuse of power effectively, writesLucy Kamau

David Mulwa in his play Inheritance has addressed a number of issues, among them misuse of power, corruption, exploitation, imperialism and oppression. This article will focus on misuse of power, corruption, and imperialism.

When King Lacuna Kasoo gets to power after killing his father, he takes advantage of his position to exploit and oppress his subjects and enrich himself. Those who go against him pay dearly through imprisonment, being sacked or even death. Romanus Bengo, is one of the activists who was imprisoned for being against the Lacuna and he had to stay in prison for many years.

Judah Zen Melo, Bengo’s brother, was loyal to Lacuna and he enjoyed all the good things that the leaders enjoy, and he even dinned and wined with the mighty until he was asked to do Lacuna a big favour; pluck the thorn on his flesh and rub his paining side with the blood of the enemy. The thorn happened to be his own brother and he refused to betray him, and his mother who bore them. That was the end of him for after one month, he was attacked and left for dead by Lacuna’s gang, after which he was sacked from the government, his car taken away and he was evicted from the government house he and the family was living in. He had to move from town to town looking for a job, which was a tall order considering his encounter with Lacuna. He was later killed while operating a machine to increase production by quadruple, one of the conditions by the imperialists if they have to continue funding the country.

Lacuna takes advantage of his position to evict the locals to create room for the foreigners who intend to irrigate the land and produce food that will feed the whole of Africa. This is another condition by the imperialists. Lacuna orders the eviction of the locals in two weeks and drastic action to be taken against all the dissidents. He does all this so that he can continue to access loans from the imperialists.

When Lulu, Juda’s daughter, refuses either to entertain him or get married to him, he uses his power to detain her in the palace for days on end despite her protests. He even threatens to make her his wife with or without her consent but before he could make good his threat, there is a revolt and his government is overthrown.

After the financiers lay down the conditions and insist on the king paying up the debts before advancing another loan, he swears that he will not make himself a pauper by paying up but he will make his subjects pay for him and he will remain in the seat that he bought with his father’s life.



Among the vices that characterise Katula colony is corruption. It is so rampant that both the leaders and the subjects have accepted it and it has become the order of the day. Lacuna takes loans in the name of developing the country and then uses the money to enrich himself at the expense of the subjects. When he is put to task by Goldenstein and Robert, the financiers, to explain how he spent the loans, he admits having bought himself a sleek aircraft so that his subjects can “look up to him” because he cannot be at the same level with them. He had to soar above the petty people and their complaints, gossip and hate. He goes ahead and confesses that he also has bank accounts in foreign countries where he deposits money that is borrowed in the people’s name. He deposits the money in individual accounts with the same banks that lend the money.

He employs his tribesmen regardless of their competence or education and everyone knows that for you to get a job, you must know Kasoo’s tribesmen or dance to his political tunes. If you are against him, you earn yourself a miserable life. When they are given the jobs, they perform with a lot of laxity and that’s why the industries have no returns and are making losses. A part from that, the machines in the industries are rotten due to poor maintenance and he doesn’t replace the broken ones. To make matters worse, the king is not aware of what is happening in the industries.

Every ministry in Lacuna Kasoo’s government gives 30 percent of what they get to him as assign of their loyalty and in turn, their positions in the government is guaranteed. This is another confession he makes when he is explaining why there is no development in his country. He does not allow the ministries to carry out their mandate but instead he pockets the money that is meat for development.

His cronies are equally corrupt. Chipande, one of members of parliament, takes advantage of his position to exploit the poor by buying their land for peanuts and employing them in the same farms and pays the meagre wages that cannot sustain them. Tamima is a victim of this exploitation. After her husband refuses to kill his brother, all their property is taken and they are forced to sell their coffee farm to Chipande, who claims that he cannot compete with peasants. He also ensures that he is the only one who acquires the license to grow coffee so that there is no competition.

King Lacuna gets to power through corruption. He conspires with the imperialists to eliminate his own father so that he can be installed the new king after King Katula XV proved to be hard nut to crack, which threatened the imperialists who wanted to dominate the colony.



During the reign of King Katula XV, the imperialists came in the name of bringing education, Christianity and development to the colony. In the processes, they dominated the colony and started imposing their rules on the people. This did not auger well with the king, who told them that he and his people are tired of being dominated and they can do without them. The imperialists realised that the king was a threat and, after consulting Menninger, their adviser, he came up with a solution which was to eliminate him in the hands of his own son, Kasoo.

The imperialists impose their rule in the colony and put conditions that the king must meet so that they can continue advancing loans to the colony. They actually run the colony and the king has to account for every expenditure he makes. Among the conditions is the privatisation of all public sectors by embracing foreign investments and letting the people manage them. He must also cut down on employment by doing with the basic minimum and reducing the wages by paying only for products and not for posts or offices.

The other condition that has to be met is do away with price control and go easy on foreign exchange. The colony must also quadruple production of the exports such as silver and coffee and introduce new products. This is to be made possible by introducing longer working hours and workers accounting for every ticking second of the day if they have to be paid.

Another condition they give King Kasoo is to nationalise the valley and let the financiers occupy it. Their intention is to pump water from all the fresh water lakes and create an inland lake to irrigate the entire basin and produce enough to feed the whole of Africa. By so doing, the foreigners will displace the locals and take control of production hence benefiting from the valley and using the natives for their own selfish gain.

According to Lulu, the leaders cannot do anything without looking over their shoulders, lest the white man is peering at them through his short sighted glasses because they live at his mercy. This is what makes the likes of Bengo so determined to revolt and bring to an end the oppression by the whites and the neo-colonialists.

Goldenstein, one of the financiers, says that their business is to lend the natives loans, make profit and put a noose around their future so that they can continue begging for finances and they can continue dominating them. He also tells King Kasoo that borrowing is the trend and even America borrows and there can be no development without borrowing.


The writer teaches at Alliance Girls. [email protected]