Swans on Parade

Swans at Windsor

“I need a new gas boiler like I need a hole in the head.  Oh, I already have one of those.”  I leaned forward to show the startled Gas sales man on my doorstep the horrific open wound in the centre of my bald head.  I know it was unfair of me to cut short his sales pitch in this way, but what the hell.  I had been living with this deformity for a year and was now sick of it and wanted it gone.  Filled in.  Like with Polyfilla or plasticine.

I was sick of waking up each morning with an itchy head, and despite attempts to cover the hole with plasters, would always end up touching it and picking at the scabby fringe.  This would cause it to bleed and so the process of healing overnight only to be picked again in the morning continued, like the punishment of Prometheus – condemned by the Gods to have his liver torn out each morning by an eagle, only for it to heal each night as he writhed in eternal torment.

But my torment would soon be at an end.  My day of reckoning was now at hand.  Tomorrow morning I would present myself at my local hospital for an operation.  The Plastic Surgeon had tried to reassure me, but his words were full of ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘possibles’.  His previous attempt at a skin graft had not worked, leaving me with a hole and a deferred judgement until my strength had sufficiently recovered.  He had performed similar procedures before, and there was a fairly good chance of success.

“There are risks”, he had said, “Are you sure you want to go ahead?”

“Yes, I can’t live with this hole in my head any longer,” I had replied.

I pulled on my coat and headed for the door.  A walk in the winter sunshine was what I needed to calm me and steady my nerves.  The novelty of being able to put my finger into the hole and touch my skull had worn thin.  A bit like the surface of my skull – worn thin, where the radiotherapy had degraded the surface of the bone.  A Halloween act once a year, maybe, but the rest of the time an annoyance.

Just over a year ago a lump had grown on my head.  I continued to work in my sales job, wearing a baseball cap to hide the offending lump from customers and give myself a better chance of making a sale.  Look normal, smile, keep calm and carry on.  The British way.

My GP was suitably excited, the way doctor’s get when presented with something unusual to break the monotony of coughs, colds and other mundane complaints.  My lump had grown to the size of an egg.  And so my journey into the world of the NHS began.  He sent me to a specialist who sent me for a biopsy at the hospital which revealed that the lump was a cancerous melanoma.  Oh My God…the ‘C’ word!  I had cancer.

I worked up until the day before the procedure, feeling fine.  The offending lump was duly removed, and I think I caught MRS or some other bug whilst in the hospital, as I fell ill and lost weight through loss of appetite.  The medication and radiotherapy didn’t help, making me feel tired.  Unfit for work, I moped around the house for several months.  In my twenty five year working life I had rarely taken time off for sickness and had never suffered an injury.  This was all new territory for me.

I walked in rueful reflection for ten minutes to the River Thames.  A family of swans drifted gracefully into view; father, mother and three juveniles with feathers a mix of white and grey.  Was this the same family I saw in the spring with six chicks?  The three strongest have survived.  Natural selection, the weak must die so the strong can live, but what about me?  We humans are the exceptions.  We are above Nature because we have found ways to cure disease, mend broken bones and prolong life.  I am about to subvert the natural order of things.  Twenty years ago I would most likely have died.

The sun came out from behind a cloud, lighting up a row of moored boats.  I drew myself up to my full height.  Shoulders back, I turn to my left and inspected the fleet.  Marching in line with the swans, I start swinging my arms and bowing regally to imagined fleet captains.  “The World has gone mad and we are beset on all sides by those who wish to harm us.  Prepare for battle, for we must fight to preserve our way of life!”  A startled family hurried by, thinking a madman must have escaped from the asylum.

Swinging my arms I marched away, and with a salute to the swans, crossed the road and headed home.  I felt bullish and determined.  Bring it on.  If I cannot have a reasonable quality of life, then I want no life at all.  I have prepared for this day, following a strict diet and exercising my body and mind.  I was strong enough for the trial ahead and wanted a resolution.  Hope springs eternal in the human heart.  I was ready.

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The Windsor Long Walk

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They were so loved up, bubble wrapped in their perfect world.  Arm in arm they gazed into each other’s eyes, abdicating all responsibility for possible collisions with a carousel of walkers, joggers, skaters, bending parents and careering toddlers, all enjoying a bright, crisp Valentine’s Day on the Windsor Long Walk.  They followed the straight, long, tarred pathway in the direction of the George Monument, leaving the imposing walls of Windsor Castle behind them.

Ben looked up.  The volume of noise around them had suddenly increased.  There was a group of loud American tourists hogging the middle of the path ahead, a scissor-legged roller skater swerved around them to his right.  The way to his left was blocked by a squawking couple, arms wind-milling in a public display of anger.  He held Annie firmly by the waist and manoeuvred her away from the mayhem.  “Do you thing the Queen watches all this from a castle window?” Ben quipped, drawing a giggle from her.

“Let’s find somewhere to sit,” she said; “my legs are a bit achy.”  They found a vacant bench and plonked themselves down.

“I don’t think I can make it all the way up to the Monument,” she sighed, whilst squeezing Ben’s arm tightly as if to make sure he didn’t run off.

“That’s OK, it’s like a ski slalom course out there.  I’m tired of dodging people.  Let’s watch them for a bit and then stroll back.”  The tourists shuffled off in the direction of the Castle, robotically following a tour guide with a raised umbrella.

Another loved-up couple sauntered by.  Ben said: “Look…they’re in love, just like us.”  He squeezed her shoulder and looked into her eyes, hopeful of a favourable response.

“Yes, isn’t it nice,” she replied, smiling sweetly, with an angelic but somehow detached air.  Her phone buzzed and she quickly checked the screen to see who had texted her.  She angled the phone away from Ben and hurriedly pushed it into her handbag.  He fidgeted and looked straight ahead.  A herd of red deer grazed in the distance.  Don’t make an issue of it.

The wind picked up and a mini tornado of crisp packets, chocolate wrappers and paper cups spun crazily towards them.  Annie shrieked and Ben turned to see a hooded youth run off with her handbag.  In his haste, he slammed into a dog walker and went tumbling to the ground, ankle caught up in the yelping dog’s lead.  “Help!  That man’s got my bag!” Annie pointed at the struggling figure on the ground.  A large Dad flopped on top of him, winding the much smaller youth, and soon a crowd had gathered around.

Annie and Ben pushed their way to the front, and the large Dad, now on his feet, was holding the wriggling youth with one hand and her handbag with the other.  “Is this yours?”  “Oh yes!  Thanks very much, you’re so brave!”  A small round of applause rippled through the crowd.  As if to magically solve the next problem, two Royal Parks Police officers arrived on the scene, mounted on large chestnut horses.  One of them dismounted and seemed satisfied with the various eye witness accounts, handcuffing the forlorn youth and leading him away.

Annie thanked the big man, who blushed and picked up his adoring daughter.  Daddy the hero.  Annie checked the contents of her handbag, and satisfied, took Ben by the arm and led him away.  “That was some speech, Ben,” she said happily.  “Just to let you know, the text messages are from my sister – our mum has a health problem.  There’s no one else for me – only you.  Of course I love you.”  The faced each other on the busy path, embraced and kissed.  A moment in time, two specs on the earth, as it moved slowly through space.  The pale winter sun inched fractionally across the wide blue sky as the carnival spun gaily around them.  They were just starting out on the Long Walk.

On Being Patronised By Hypocrites…

It’s been a long time since UK politics got me agitated.  But now, in the run-up to the May General Election, I can see that this election is the British people’s last chance to save themselves from a miserable life of economic slavery.  We are being patronised by a bunch of hypocrites who expect us to believe that cuts to our Welfare State are justified and that ‘We are all in it together’.

We are not – we live in a divided society where our work prospects and standard of living are being eroded, along with our democratic freedom – witness the Metropolitan Police announcing that from now on all public demonstrations will have to pay for policing.  If you can’t afford the average £4,000 fee then you can’t demonstrate.  Shut up, stay at home and pay your taxes.

The current Coalition Government has systematically lied to us about the justification for their Austerity programme.  ‘We are all in this together’ they say, when clearly we are not, as the wealthy elite are encouraged to avoid tax and to exploit the population.

The latest scandal to hit the news is that major bank HSBC has been exposed for advising its wealthiest customers on how to avoid paying tax.  It is not a crime to have a Swiss bank account, but it is a crime to avoid paying tax.  The rich are mocking us, as they are the untouchables, guiding the hands of our political leaders and effectively dictating policy. “1,100 Super Rich Cheats, 1 Conviction”, is a headline in one of the dailies.  We are definitely not in it together, as the gap between the wealthy elite and the rest continues to widen.

Whilst the majority of citizens are heavily taxed in the UK, the super rich manage to keep their cash and accumulate vast personal wealth, much of which is externalised in overseas bank accounts and foreign property.  Meanwhile, at home, ordinary citizens are trapped in a shrinking comfort zone and are subject to punitive fines for any form of avoidance – late payment of income tax, TV Licence avoidance, and benefit sanctions for late attendance – all of which collects a fraction of what is lost in tax evasion by the wealthy – estimated to be £80 billion a year.

We are being herded like cattle, and if we don’t resist this deadly trend, we will find ourselves sleep walking into a return to Victorian poverty and loss of all the rights our forefathers fought for.  The wealth elite are happy for immigrants to come into the country as it creates competition in the labour market, leading to lower wages and greater profits.  They are happy to see our urban areas turned into slum townships, and for British people to be sucked into a world of squalor and degradation.  To the rich we are all just units in a labour market that serves them.

Resist!  Whilst you still have a vote.  Make it count and throw out those who are the puppets of the depraved super rich.  They will not all want to live in Luxembourg or Panama City when there are much better shows on in London’s West End!  Call their bluff and chase them for tax avoidance.  Some may leave – and good riddance – but the majority will grumble and pay up.  After all, how much money can you spend in one life time?  This is not about envy – it is about fairness and social justice.

It’s time for Britain to wake up and smell the coffee – we must say a resounding ‘NO’ to David Cameron and George Osborne.  They are cynical class warriors, intent on grinding our noses in the dirt and rewarding their rich friends.  This is not our vision of a free and fair society, where all are equal and can live peaceful and fulfilling lives.  Reject the patronising hypocrites who have evil plans for us, and free yourself!

Social Responsibility and the Super Rich

The Super Rich are attracted to the UK because of the Government’s covert policy of turning a blind eye to tax dodging in the mistaken belief that having lots of rich people in the country will drive the economy and create a ‘trickle down’ effect to the rest of us.  We will all somehow benefit from the scraps that fall from the tables of the wealthy elite.

For me, this is at odds with the notion of a developed society that highly values its citizens and hard won democracy and personal freedoms.  We can do what we like, say what we like, believe what we like and think what we like, provided we adhere to the Law of the Land, and understand basic citizenship mores and values.  In the eyes of the Law we are all equal, a reason why many choose to move to the UK from more restrictive or oppressive countries.

However, Britain is increasingly becoming a divided society. Life in Britain is polarizing at an alarming rate between the rich elite and the rest – a 1-99% split, in fact, with the 1% sitting on greater personal wealth that the remaining 99%, who under our capitalist system are seen as serving their needs.  We cannot be truly equal in such a society, where those who have the most pay proportionally the least towards the country’s running costs and have the ability to accumulate huge wealth from which the majority are excluded by low wages and high cost of living, exacerbated by high property prices.

“But I’ve earned it and I want to keep it!” shriek the super rich.  Of course you do.  But you should not shirk your responsibility to the society in which you live.  You freely enjoy the infrastructure of a developed country – airports, roads, transport system, street lighting, rubbish collection, luxury accommodation, shops, arts, leisure and relative good security – all the support services desired by the wealthy are in London and the South East (sorry the rest of the UK!).

They also seek to maximise profits by reducing wages, a process that involves the replacement of expensive, high maintenance British workers with cheap and easy to bully migrant workers, many coming from poorer countries – our celebrated multi-cultural society is putting pressure on health, education and housing, and is increasingly a cause of irritation with British workers. In the run-up to the UK General Election in May, austerity and real poverty in Britain has become a hot election topic.

In the news this week the billionaire boss of Boots the Chemist, one of Britain’s leading, and oldest, high street pharmaceutical stores, has claimed it would be a “catastrophe” if Labour were to win the election.  A catastrophe for him, perhaps, as Italian Stefano Pessina is a non-dom tax dodger living in Monaco, with an estimated personal wealth of £7.5 billion.  He would probably argue that he has earned his money, whereas I would counter-argue that he has amassed a huge fortune in part through over payment, bonuses, shares and tax avoidance. I’m sure he loves coming to London for board meetings and enjoys the privileged lifestyle, whilst making sure he doesn’t exceed his allowed quota of days to qualify for non-dom status.  Isn’t it time this tax loophole was closed and those who earn their wealth in the UK are made to pay taxes here?  They are selling goods and services to us because we are a wealthy country with an active consumer society.  Or maybe we’re just mugs – sheep to be shorn.

The other tax dodge which is reducing Government income is the avoidance of corporation tax by big international companies, who operate in a low tax framework in countries where they don’t have their head office.  The Sunday Mirror (01/02/15) reported that, “Six of the world’s biggest companies paid just 0.3% of their UK earnings in corporation tax last year.” The report says the accounts of Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, ebay and Starbucks were examined, and found that they reported a combined revenue total for the UK market of £2.7 billion.  Many more billions worth of sales are recorded every year by sister companies often located in tax havens like Luxembourg and Switzerland.  However, they pay a pittance in corporation tax and move their profits off-shore, leaving us with the uncomfortable feeling that we are being exploited.

This comes against a back drop of a ‘miss’ by £9.4 billion on the target set by Government for corporation tax collections, due to a reduction in the rate by Chancellor George Osborne.  Government policy remains to indulge the super rich and encourage tax dodging by individuals and international companies.  This whole policy exposes the Government’s austerity programme as being little more than cynical ideological warfare against the poorest in our society – the rich get richer and everyone else pays for it.  Worse than that, real employment opportunities and quality of life are deteriorating in Britain, as people suffer from reduced income and declining services.  As the Government cuts funding to the welfare state, there is growing anger in the country as it becomes apparent that this is unnecessary if only the wealthy elite paid their dues.

My personal journey has taken me from the private sector to the non-profit sector, so I have seen life on both sides of the fence.  As such, I am not one to cry, “Tax the rich to pay for the poor!”  I believe those who work hard should enjoy the benefits of their labour.  However, what I can’t abide is the culture of insatiable greed by those who are already rich, and the cynical and cruel treatment of the most vulnerable in society.  We will all get old one day, so why make pensioners suffer?

This meanness is the nasty side of our capitalist system, and we now find that those who work hard are no longer rewarded as the fat cats get it all. It is a Tory lie that hard work brings reward – bankers are back earning their bonuses whilst the rest are told they must tighten their belts. We need to reverse this worrying trend for the sake of future generations and in the interests of decency and social accountability.  We will not be bullied by greedy capitalists with the ‘if you tax us we’ll leave’ argument.  They like the benefits of living and running businesses in the UK too much to leave for the sake of a few thousand pounds from their bulging off-shore accounts.  They like money but they don’t need it.  Call their bluff, and remind them of their social responsibilities.  Maybe, just maybe, some of them will be shamed.

Fiscal Water Boarding in a Colony of Debt

Not my words, but the words of Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, back in January 2015.  Now, in July, they are facing the very real prospect of defaulting on their debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  The Greeks have been squeaking under the austerity measures put in place by bail out lenders the EU and the IMF, and elected a Government whose main policy aim was to resist the harsh repayment conditions levied on them, putting them in a similar situation to some of the World’s poorest developing countries.Greek crisis1

The problems in Greece are not dissimilar to those of most Western countries – the wealthiest have been allowed to get away with tax avoidance.  Politicians protect the super rich and instead talk about cutting public spending.  Education, health care and transportation all suffer as a result, and the quality of life of citizens deteriorates.

This is why the rest of Europe is keenly following events in Greece.  The EU is at a crossroads – do they show leniency to Greece when other member states are in similar financial dire straits and struggling with their own austerity programmes?  Somehow, I think not.  The Greek referendum set for Sunday 5th July will either precipitate a Greek Exit (Grexit on social media) or push the reluctant government to accept the repayment ‘deal’ offered by their creditors.

Also in January, charity OXFAM released a report stating that the top 1% of British society will own more than the entire wealth of the remaining 99% by next year – surely the time has come for a re-think on our divisive culture of greed and pandering to the wealthy.  Recent television documentaries have exposed the ‘trickle down effect’ as a lie, as the majority are not benefitting from the economic activities of the super rich.  They are self-serving elitists who control our political systems and manipulate all situations for their benefit.

The challenge for the EU moving forward is to search for ways to have a fairer society where wealth is shared and people feel valued.  This is not communism, we have moved way beyond that failed ideology.  Perhaps look at Switzerland’s policy of capping top earners wages.  By defining an earnings ceiling they are saying ‘This is enough’ – an idea that must strike terror in the hearts of the UK’s top 1%.  I would love to start a debate on capping earnings and defining what is enough.

Britain is lagging way behind in this regard, and we should strive for more social honesty and accountability from the wealthy.  Let’s stop the decadent practice of salting money away in offshore accounts and ‘investing’ in domestic and overseas properties, which has the negative effect of inflating property prices and making home ownership unaffordable for many.

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I say Good Luck to Greece – there is more than enough wealth generated in the World for all citizens to have an acceptable quality of life.  The challenge here is to think outside the box of our current capitalist and financial speculation model.  In many countries, the UK included, the quality of life and rights of citizens are being swept aside in the mad rush to make money.  The Greek crisis gives us a fixing point for a re-appraisal of our values.

Trickle Down to Revolution?

The thought-provoking and slightly hysterical BBC documentary series, The Super Rich and Us reached its climax on Thursday 15th January with a chilling warning of possible REVOLUTION if the divided society continues to widen.  With 85 individuals owning more than half of the personal wealth of the World, things have simply gone too far, and the super rich are now starting to fear a backlash from the disenfranchised majority.

The overriding theme of the new millennium has been a widening divide between the super rich 1% of the UK and USA populations and the rest, with Britain becoming a haven for the World’s richest people in higher concentrations than any other country due to successive Government’s covert policy of allowing tax avoidance.  This is done in the belief that the richest people generate wealth for everyone, with a trickle-down effect putting money in the pockets of the rest of us – a kind of return to feudal patronage in a society based on greedy exploitation and misinformation.

The stark warning of the programme makers is that we are heading for a crash, with 1% of the population having most of the wealth and charged with the task of growing the economy through capitalist and consumerist activity.  It is unsustainable and the cracks are showing.  The mouthpiece of the super rich in the UK is Chancellor George Osborne, who is ruthlessly driving through an austerity programme aimed at taxing the poor to subsidise the rich.  The middle classes are suffering as never before, with declining income and a growing cost of living.  Those interviewed on the programme give the impression they now realise that they are being excluded from the orgy of excess being enjoyed only by the super rich elite.

The programme charted the history leading up to the financial meltdown of 2008, starting with a nostalgic description of the 1970s as the most egalitarian decade ever.  Wealth was more evenly shared with a relatively modest gap between workers and bosses wages.  But wait…wasn’t the 70s the decade of power cuts and strikes?  Yes, it all went horribly wrong for Ian Callaghan’s Labour Government, with an oil crisis leading to recession and striking workers bringing the country to a standstill.

This opened the door for Margaret Thatcher’s capitalist revolution in the 1980s, and the age of greed and borrowing was ushered in.  Britain’s bankers mimicked their American counterparts, who were making millions on Wall Street gambling on stock futures and the securities market – creating massive wealth which eclipsed the value of all manufactured goods worldwide.  Thatcher cheered it on, encouraging the cynical asset stripping of British businesses and the cheap privatisation of national assets.  Fortunes were made and ordinary people were encouraged to get on board the consumer boom by borrowing beyond their means.

It was unsustainable and reached a peak in 2008 when the securities market gave way under the weight of too many defaulted mortgages, causing a domino effect across the banking sector, collapsing the property market and triggering a global recession.  What have we learned from this?  Not much it seems, as the same capitalist greed model remains in place, and the programme presenter solemnly reported that the super rich made profit from the big crash.  Most Government bailout payments ended up in the pockets of the wealthy elite who saw opportunity in disaster, and the gap between the wealthiest and the rest has continued to widen over the past five years.

The last five minutes of the excellent documentary deals with stark warnings from a UK military chief and a US IT billionaire, that our two societies are reaching a tipping point.  Already austerity protests in the West are hinting that the people have had enough.  If you exclude the majority to the extent that they feel they have nothing left to lose then watch out.  President Obama talks about the “Great Divergence” being the “defining moment of our times.”  “A highly unequal society is a recipe for revolution or a police state”, says a wide-eyed billionaire, who is already thinking of ways to increase security on his mansion.

The programme concludes with a piece on exploitation of workers through zero hours contracts, and an increasingly dog-eat-dog society where people must scavenge to survive.  The super rich have made money out of both ends of the market – luxury goods as well as pound shops, gambling and pay day loans.  We live in a modern capitalist culture that encourages people to aspire and better themselves, but is now seen by many as unattainable as the reality of inequality leads to increasing frustration and anger.

The solution lies with a re-balancing of values in our society, before our weak and easily manipulated politicians lead us blindfolded into a police state.  We are losing not only our jobs, quality of life and self respect, but also our hard-won freedoms.  Obama is right – it is a defining moment, and we need to fight for our rights if we want a better life.

Memories of Michael Sata

In the international news this week is the announcement that the President of the Republic of Zambia, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital. The veteran politician, aged 77 when he died, was known as ‘King Cobra’ for his willingness to strike out at opponents.  His determination to succeed finally saw him win an outright election in 2011 and achieve his life’s ambition of becoming President of his country.

I first met Michael Sata in 2004 in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. At that time I had an office in Farmer’s House on Cairo Road (grandly named by the British former colonists to be part of Cecil Rhodes’ Cape to Cairo highway) for my publishing and advertising businesses, Concept Marketing Limited.  The office opposite me across the hall was Michael Sata’s base for his opposition political party The Patriotic Front (PF).  At that time he looked doomed to be in opposition forever, as opposition parties rarely win an election in Africa against a firmly entrenched ruling party.

We were both smokers, and would stand outside the building chatting about this and that over a fag. He was inquisitive and wanted to know about my business.  I did not know it at the time, but I was employing his nephew as a Graphic Designer.  One morning he burst into my office without a knock and asked to use my fax machine.  It was his way.  Not a request that you could decline, more of an order.  I told him what I would charge for a local and international call and he brushed me aside with a wave of the hand, saying he would send his Accountant over later to pay.  The fax was sent and the Accountant duly paid.

On another occasion I was queuing in the bank and he swept in, walking straight to the window and demanding he be attended to straight away by the startled young female Teller. There was a murmur of discontent from the long Friday lunchtime queue, and to her credit, the young lady refused to serve him and told him to join the back of the line.  A spontaneous round of applause broke out from the queue and words were spoken in Nyanja.  Sata left in a huff, unused to not getting his own way.

He had a well earned reputation for being someone who Got Things Done, and was respected for it. He had served as a Minister under first President Kenneth Kaunda and second President Frederick Chiluba, before forming his own political party and going into opposition.  His successful election campaign in 2010/11 was based on political opportunism and, ultimately, false promises.  Jobs for the disaffected youth, economic recovery and the expulsion of the hated Chinese.

It was rumoured at the time that his election campaign was funded by the Taiwanese, based on the promise that once elected, they could replace the Chinese as Zambia’s new friend. A shrewd move by Sata was to appoint Guy Scott, born in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) to British parents, as his vice presidential running mate.  He had been a farmer in Zambia and involved in politics since the early days of the MMD, and was acceptable to both Zambians and the international community.  All was set for a high energy, high impact and emotional election campaign.

His election victory on 23rd September 2011 was indeed historic, sweeping past the struggling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), whose twenty year reign was staggering to a halt under unpopular President Rupiah Banda, despite a reasonably good set of economic figures.  Perhaps a warning to the ANC in South Africa?  The MMD was hurriedly set up in 1991, with US and British support, as a vehicle to topple the creaking Kaunda administration, and restore Western economic interests back into the country.

Fast forward twenty years and the Chinese have become the bed fellows of many African States, offering infrastructure development in exchange for minerals. They wanted a slice of Zambia’s copper and cobalt output, and their preferred approach is to side-step Western free market economy rules and head straight for State House for behind closed doors negotiations.  In Zambia’s case, the Mines and Minerals Act was amended in 2005 to force mining license holders to return a proportion of their land to Government.  These reclaimed mining concessions were duly handed over to the Chinese.  African Leaders love the personal attention and the feeling of being important the Chinese bring to negotiations, oh, and their personal wealth tends to increase as a result.  The West are left feeling uncomfortable and rejected, like a jilted bride at the altar.

Sata’s manifesto was therefore greeted with a mixed reception by the business community and internationally. To throw out the Chinese would please the West, but carried with it the possibility of further draconian measures including more expulsions of foreigners or the return of the dreaded Nationalisation.  Poor Zambians were hopeful of a better life, and turned out in large numbers to vote in the PF and Michael Sata on a wave of nationalism.  In my office in 2009, I had caught his nephew designing a PF newspaper advert and admonished him for doing a private job on company time.  Perhaps it was just as well that I wound up my business and left Zambia in 2009 to return to the UK, and watch political events unfold from afar!

There was ultimately a sense of anti-climax after Michael Sata’s ascendancy to the Presidency. He was an aging man in declining health, and had just achieved his life’s ambition.  As with many in his situation, he was forced to accept compromise to keep various interest groups happy.  The Chinese were the first to make their way to State House, and shortly after their presentation to the new President, all was rosy in the garden and their friendship with Zambia was re-affirmed.  Business as usual, and the youths hopeful of employment were left with the harsh reality of taking low paid jobs for Chinese and other foreign investors on the minimum wage of less than two US dollars a day.

Michael Sata’s story is one of endurance and determination. His road was long and hard, perhaps mirroring the post-colonial experience of many Africans.  But he proved that it is possible to succeed, and that under the scrutiny of the international community, it is less easy for ruling parties to fix the election to stay in power…..well, at least in some countries.  Congratulations to Zambia on recently celebrating their 50th year of Independence.  I remember my time in Zambia with warm and deep affection for the country and its people.  I wish them happiness and success as they tread the thorny road between self determination and the pressures from the international community, both East and West.