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Eric Bloch Column

The frustrations of a man named Noah

-FAMILY: Verdana; mso-fareast-language: JA”>AT the outset, I record my thanks to the anonymous author of a recently rewritten version of “Noah’s Ark” which has provided me with the basis for this week’s column, albeit substantially modified.

The Lord came to Noah, who was residing in Zimbabwe in 2003. The Lord did so for he perceived that yet again the Earth was wicked and overpopulated. The Lord instructed Noah to disregard the promise of the rainbow of millennia past, and to construct another Ark. He told Noah that he was to save two of every living thing, and also a few good humans. “Here’s the blueprint,” said the Lord. “I have improved upon the design of the original Ark. This one will be state-of-the-art suited to this 21st century and to the major task before you.”

“Hurry,” said the Lord. “In six months I start an unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights. Yea, though I never intended to wreak yet another flood upon the Earth, the wickedness is so great and of such extent that I have no choice. Earth must be purged of its abuse of human rights, its corruption, its disregard for all that I have set before its peoples as the fundamentals of good faith. Therefore, in six months I shall start an unending rain to cleanse the Earth.”

Six months later, the rains started and the Lord looked down on Earth. He saw Noah weeping in his flooded yard, but he saw no Ark. “Noah,” he roared, “Where is the Ark?” “Forgive me, Lord,” begged Noah. “I tried. Oh, how I tried. But things have changed. I needed a building permit. I have been subjected to endless argument with the building inspectorate that insists that as the Ark will be built of wood it will be a fire hazard. The inspectorate insisted that a comprehensive sprinkler system be installed in the Ark. I argued vigorously that this would be unnecessary, for the forthcoming rains would be a sprinkler system provided by nature (I could not say that it would be provided by you, for that would not have been understood, for the bureaucracy is godless). But they were adamant, so I placed an order for a sprinkler system, but the suppliers could not deliver, for they had no foreign currency enabling them to import it.

“My neighbours claim that I have violated the neighbourhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard, and the height limitation being exceeded. We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision. They referred it to the Chief Justice. He said he was too occupied with treason and electoral validity trials to deal with the appeal timeously. I’m still awaiting a decision, but the secretary to the cabinet has said that in the unlikely event that my appeal is upheld, Presidential Emergency Powers will be exercised to overturn the decision.

“Then the Ministry of Transport wanted a bond posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear passage for the Ark’s move to Lake Kariba, where the ministry thought I intended to launch it in anticipation of your flood, although I argued that that would not be so, for the flood would bring the lake to me, and to the Ark. But they had made up their minds and would hear none of this.

“Getting the wood was another problem. There’s a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls. No go! So I then arranged to cut wood on a farm fairly near the city, but as I moved a team of lumberjacks onto the farm, they were obstructed by a mob of ruffians and hooligans who described themselves as ‘war veterans’. They said that none were entitled to cut wood on the farms other than themselves. Eventually another farmer agreed to my cutting wood on his farm but, as we started to do so, someone called Joseph Made served something called a ‘Section Eight’ upon the farmer, depriving him of ownership of the farm and forbidding the removal of anything from the farm.

“I then decided to start gathering the animals, but the Animal Rights Group sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. Also, they argued that the accommodation was too restrictive and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in so confined a space. I argued that it was unavoidably necessary if they were to be saved, but they would not heed me.

“The Ministry of the Environment decided that I could not build the Ark without filing an environmental impact assessment on your intended flood. In addition, I am still trying to resolve a complaint with the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions on how many indigenous Zimbabweans I should hire for my building crew. They want me to hire only union members with Ark building experience, and they take very great exception to my using the plans which you provided, for they contend that I should have retained the services of an indigenous Zimbabwean architect.

“To make matters worse, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority seized all my assets, claiming I am trying to leave the country illegally, without the consent of the Reserve Bank, and intending to export endangered species without any guarantee of an inward remittance of a fair export value, to be 50% surrendered to the Reserve Bank at a spurious exchange rate.

“I tried to gather together an adequate supply of food to care for the animals during their 40 days’ and nights’ confinement. However, although the Minister of Agriculture has repeatedly given assurances of a surfeit of food, I could find none. So I decided to organise a parade of animals through the city centre, appealing to the populace to come forward with the critically needed food. As soon as the parade started, I and all the animals were arrested and charged with breaching the Public Order and Security Act, for the police contended that the parade was unauthorised and, therefore, an unlawful demonstration. I and the animals are presently on remand, but are bound not to travel further than 40km from the city centre. If we set sail in the Ark, we will surely breach this restriction.

“Still being most anxious to obtain food, I decided to publish an appeal in the national press for wellwishers to be forthcoming. In doing so, I had to disclose the reasons you had given for bringing yet another flood to all the Earth. Although I was careful to quote you wholly correctly, I was nevertheless charged under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) for undertaking a journalistic assignment without being registered with the Media and Information Commission. When I pointed out to the commission’s chairman Tafataona Mahoso that I was not a journalist and that the provisions of Aippa did not apply to me, he disagreed. I drew to his attention that the Minister of Information and Publicity frequently writes articles which are published in newspapers controlled by him, and that he is not registered with the commission. I was told that that was irrelevant as ministers are above the law.

“As if all this was not enough, the Registrar-General abruptly informed me that my citizenship had been forfeited and that, therefore, my passport was invalid and could no longer be used. This distressed me greatly, for I had realised that sailing in the Ark I was likely to cross borders. In fact, as a precaution, I had already obtained a visa for entry into the United Kingdom, at a cost of $700 000, and had deposited a guarantee of R1 000 with the South African High Commission to enable it to issue me a South African visa.

“Finally, the Minister of Local Government stated that as I would be in charge of all of the Ark, I was effectively constituting myself as a local authority. He disagreed with my objectives to achieve a maximum of wellbeing within the Ark, including effective refuse removal and disposal, clean and potable water being available, adequate lighting throughout the Ark’s many passages, and all necessary for good and sound community management. So, Lord, he pronounced my immediate suspension from office.

“Therefore, forgive me Lord, but it will take at least 10 years to finish the Ark.”

Suddenly the skies cleared and the sun began to shine. A rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder. “You mean you’re not going to destroy the world?” he asked. “No,” replied the Lord. “Your government has beaten me to it.”

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