On arriving in Ndola: My first night at The Savoy passed in oblivion, I was done good and proper after more welcoming beers at the Ritson’s and needed a good sleep. True to his word, Mike Delaney collected me at 7.30 am the next day and drove me to his office. “Trust you slept well, Derrick” was his opening and rather formal greeting, and whilst that was certainly the case, I failed to point out that my boiled egg at breakfast contained a chicken foetus. The replacement I ordered to be scrambled. By the time we got to the office a few minutes away, the sun was high in the heavens and I felt good.
Overnight with Denis Sakala in Chipata: In our cups that night the two of us compared lives from contrasting backgrounds. Denis, it transpired, was one of twelve children to his father who had worked his way from a farmhand to being boss man on a ranch owned by people called Malan. It was Mr Malan, a South African who had settled in the north who had eventually paid for Denis to go to boarding school in Bulawayo, where he had shown greater prowess at football and acting on stage than in passing exams. It was his choice to join the armed forces under the colonial Government.
He had lost contact with his surviving three brothers and one sister after the death of both his parents but had been thrilled to find that two of them, both older than he, were alive with their families living outside Lusaka. Having said that, he confessed that now he was out of the Forces and in a relatively well rewarded job, he had to figure out how to avoid the financial demands of an extended family, as was the tradition. So far so good, but you never knew, he opined. I asked him about his duties along the border with Rhodesia, he replied that the Zambian Army was a defence force, not an aggressor and he saw no likelihood of open warfare with the Smith regime, rather a proxy conflict carried out by freedom groups. There would likely be a border closure at some time, he thought, so the country needed to get its economic act together; he was glad to be working now in that direction rather than carrying arms.
Innocents in Mombasa: That evening we experienced the rigours of an east coast shebeen, perhaps it was the Sunshine Day and Night Club. I could not swear that was the time when we visited a night spot of that name in Africa, but it is of little account what the name of the place was, only that it had another purpose and we Westerners, with plenty of East African Shilling notes in our pockets, were fair game. Thank goodness Ken pulled us out before amorous hostilities commenced, suggesting a safer spot to drink might be the hotel bar.
On a trip overland to Lubumbashi: I just had to reflect on la difference between anglophone and francophone Africa, in the former the food was mundane, and the local women waddled along the roadside, but the utilities worked, and the roads were maintained. In the latter the food was part of the culture, the women floated elegantly by, but the plumbing was a percussion section, the electricity intermittent and the roads required you to drive twice the distance to navigate the obstructions and waterfilled potholes, cycle racing routes being the exception.
The darker side of our observations showed evidence of the recent civil war all over the pitted walls of the buildings near the hotel and beyond. Perhaps the folk in the francophone lands set themselves different priorities, rather as if the bush between the Copperbelt of Zambia and the conurbation of Lubumbashi represented crossing the English Channel. Cobblestones, yellow jerseys, and café fine! We got back safely despite taking almost three hours to cover the journey to the border post at Kasumbalesa, discovering to our relief that the guards had abandoned their roadside quarters for some more pressing engagement, thereby avoiding any further involuntary baksheesh.
On thinking of Rhodesia whilst on a trip to Salisbury: . By now Rhodesia was in a state of civil war, so in a way it was understandable that the oafish young men in the night club or the assertive officials such as my favourite border officer, ignorant of life beyond their boundaries, led them to take the view that the governance of African countries by whites as being good, and by the native blacks as bad, allowing for no shades of grey (working together), despite Ian Smith’s declaration that Rhodesia was a meritocracy.
The war had driven people to be incapable of providing the space for an adult negotiation or exchanges of views. Our trip south had been less enjoyable than it was informative. The Rhodesian Front (RF) missed a trick when not taking the warnings of Nkomo in particular, and others, including the South African leadership under John Vorster. They found conflict when another way would have been possible, after the break-up of the Federation. Had they done so the RF would probably not have come to power.
Trouble for Zambia when Nixon ended the war in Vietnam: The copper price dipped on the London Metal Exchange, I guessed because every bullet and bomb fired or dropped in Vietnam contained that metal which was no longer needed for armament production on such a grand scale. It did not take long for the price to drop below the cost of extracting and refining the ore. Zambia, a major copper producer, was in trouble, as was Zaire, now under the thumb of General Mobuto Sese Seko; Salvadore Allende’s Chile in another continent, also a major producer of copper, suffered the same plight.
An incident at Mfubu: Standing guard with John in the dark of the early evening I waited two long hours, periodically dripping the seed blood from the bucket into the river. I kept a grip on a double barrelled twelve bore shot gun which was loaded and cocked ready for any action. As luck would have it, the croc suddenly appeared not more than ten yards before us, its eyes clearly visible in the beam of the mobile spotlight John had rigged up. We pumped four barrels of shot into the open snout of the brazen beast, but it quickly disappeared into the depths.
Different priorities in the Caribbean?: At midday we set off on a walking tour of the various parts of the business, meeting my many new local colleagues in the process. We started by crossing Bridge Street at the front of the department store to see the “Canteen” known locally as a snacket, which served low cost meals and beverages to the public. It was closed. It opened in the morning and in the afternoon but in keeping with Herman Wouk’s dictum, it closed in the middle of the day so that the staff could go to lunch.
On a colleague's wedding feast in Castries: We joined the wedding party at a private house off La Pensee Road not far out of town. The place was a traditional timber frame construction, the wooden walls, which were whitewashed inside, reflected the fairy lights which the owner, a middle-aged aunt and surviving sister of Winnie’s late mother, had lovingly installed for the big day in her niece’s young life. Grandma settled down happily with a group of ladies of similar age, which included Mistress Montoute from the store, all being entertained by Joseph Antoine who no doubt regaled the ladies with one of his lessons on the history of rum. Judging by the rolling eyes of Mistress Antoine, I believed the story had been told before. It was a joy to see her laughing with all those happy West Indians, infected by Winifred’s smiles as she did the rounds in her bridal glory.