A trio of politicians contemplate the potential of a new gold rush.
The President and Prime Minister stood side by side in the hotel suite, looking out over the gray waters of the Zambezi River. This marked the first trip either man had taken to their country’s remote, sparsely populated Tete Province in many years. The peninsular shape of the province nestled it beside the borders of not just one but three of Mozambique’s neighbors: Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Development of this province could prove integral to improving Mozambique’s standing in the region, and that possibility was precisely why the country’s two highest-profile leaders found themselves standing in this hotel suite.
The door to the suite opened, and the First Secretary of the Tete Province entered, flanked by two members of the Presidential security detail.
“Apologies, Gentlemen,” the First Secretary said as she straightened her business suit. “I must compliment your security on their, uh, very thorough screening process.”
“Thank you, that will be all,” the President said to his security men, waving them off. They quietly exited the room, closing the door behind them.
The Prime Minister was looking out the window, his attention drawn to the opposite bank of the Zambezi, where a line of vehicles snaked from the security checkpoint on the main road all the way back to where visibility disappeared around a bend more than a mile back.
“What’s going on over there?” the Prime Minister asked.
“Ah, now you see the reason that I requested we all meet here,” the First Secretary said.
Both men looked back at her.
“That’s the first wave of many,” she explained. “Citizens of Tete who are leaving behind the city life they know and moving to the underdeveloped border towns hundreds of kilometers away. By the end of the month, it’ll be many thousands more. And after that, it’s only a matter of time until word spreads to the other provinces as well.”
“Word of what?” the Prime Minister asked.
“Gold.” The First Secretary’s eyes glittered as she mentioned the precious metal.
“I’m not sure I follow,” the Prime Minister said. “The only thing out there we’re aware of are the coalfields.”
“For the past several weeks, my administrative team has been sowing seeds. We’ve been quietly spreading the word that rich gold deposits have also been found in the outer reaches of the Tete Province, near the borders. The people across the river are lining up to move out there, stake a claim, and hope to strike it rich.”
“But… why?” the President asked.
“Are either of you familiar with the California Gold Rush?” she asked them.
Both men shook their heads. While they were familiar with the broad strokes of United States history to the extent it benefitted foreign relations, a brief historical period in one part of one of the U.S. States would be like the American President being expected to know all about the Portuguese-chartered companies of the late Nineteenth Century instituting forced labor policies that conflicted with Mozambique’s abolition of slavery.
“Oh, it was a fascinating time,” the First Secretary replied. “Once a few fortune early settlers struck gold and made a fortune, hundreds of thousands of others moved west to California in hopes of finding their own fortune. As the population in California expanded, so did the infrastructure required to support them. Roads. Churches. Schools. I want to do the same for the Tete Province.”
“And when they don’t find any gold?”
“Most of the California prospectors went home just as poor as they began,” the First Secretary countered. “All you need are a few success stories to convince others that the wealth is out there. The point isn’t to make individuals rich; it’s to build the infrastructure necessary to develop the Tete Peninsula into a modern, industrialized region that can interact with our neighbors on a global scale. Just think, what if we could make Carinde our Los Angeles, or Tsangano our San Francisco? Imagine what that would do for our economy!”
“If this doesn’t work, the people will feel misled,” the President mused. “They will look for a scapegoat.”
“I don’t have any doubt that if this plan fails, someone will need to be blamed for it. That’s precisely why I didn’t tell you about the plan until it was already in action. If it fails, you can blame it on a First Secretary of a remote province who got a little overly ambitious.”
“You’re prepared to take on that responsibility?”
“I understand the risks, Mr. President. And the rewards.”
The President arched an eyebrow.
“If this plan does succeed, then I look forward to your enthusiastic support for my continued tenure as First Secretary of such a successful province.”
The President and Prime Minister looked at one another.
“Will you give us a moment, please?”
“Of course, gentlemen.”
The First Secretary excused herself and exited the suite while the two political leaders looked again at the stretch of vehicles on the river’s opposite bank. So many people willing to pack everything in their lives up and move to the country’s outskirts on the off chance they could find their fortunes.
“It’s not a completely terrible idea,” the Prime Minister offered. “The downside for the two of us is minimal, and the upside is intriguing.”
The President mulled it over for few moments longer before picking his drink up off the table. The Prime Minister did the same and they raised their glasses to one another. “To the upcoming Mozambique Gold Rush.”
Written for "The Writer's Cramp"
Prompt: Tomorrow (April 16) is the day that Charlie Chaplin was born in 1889. Write a Poem or Short Story with one of these Chaplin movie titles as your title. The genre is yours to decide. These are the titles: 1. City Lights; 2. Modern Times; 3. The Great Dictator; 4. The Kid; 5. A Countess from Hong Kong; 6. The Gold Rush