Since I retired my life has consisted in part of morose contemplation of the past, especially in the summer months, which I detest. In search of documentary fuel I dug out a file dating back to my time in Africa in the seventies. As you know, I fled Rhodesia in 1976 with military conscription papers fanning my backside - you should have seen my skinny legs go – and I didn’t stop until I reached Nigeria. At that time a move from Rhodesia to Nigeria was incomprehensible to anyone in Rhodesia, and the following letter from Ben Gingell, my boss in Salisbury, sent to me in Nigeria catches the blithe spirit of those whose world was about to collapse. A note of explanation: when I arrived at Heathrow from Salisbury (Harare to be) I was thoroughly probed by officials, suspicious of those flying in from a “rebel colony”.
Ah, my smiling boy! It was extremely civil of you to write a full and comprehensive letter to me, just after you had shambled brokenly off from Salisbury airport building to climb into a ‘plane to Blighty and the London bars.
Yes indeed, the group you saw on the veranda laughing and cheering was indeed Sam and I and other of your friends. The concept of your being stripped to the buff to be examined for diamonds and dope is vivid in our minds.
Maral, your successor, has arrived and has become a great success as publisher. She gathers speed daily and busily bosses up Bill Warke and the Educational Development Unit and Ministry teams with considerable assurance. We hope very much that she will stay longer than her prescribed year. The last time I saw her she was looking sunburned and fit from water-skiing on Lake McIlwaine. We have been able to introduce her to a wide variety of friends so that she has never been lonely since she arrived. Once she masters the art of driving her car she will join the Salisbury social jet set and I have no doubt that we shall have some difficulty in getting the fourteen hours work a day out of her that we expect from our top people.
You must drop me a line in due course and tell me about the pressures of the Nigerian metropolitan life and your successes in the pool halls of Lagos.Sam is most concerned for your welfare feeling, like me, that the crazy West African scene may cause you to flourish over luxuriantly so that you get beyond bounds. No doubt you will be visiting Phillip Kazembe in the near future and that should certainly steady you.
We have now moved into our new offices and warehouse and live in circumstances of agreeable intellectual endeavour. We have established a Board Room bar which would no doubt please you though the Rhodesian Publishers’ sherry with which we celebrated our first meeting was so repulsive that we departed screaming. However, we are asking all future visitors to bring pleasant sherry with them so that we can feel duly accommodated with alcohol and gracious living as we pore over our various problems which are, no doubt, still so familiar to you.
Cheers as ever,
Phillip Kazembe was Professor of Education at Salisbury University, and one of the most successful authors published by the company, Longman Rhodesia. Considering he had a serious drink problem he was inexplicably appointed to a chair at the University of Kano in the north of Nigeria, a predominantly Islamic region. His tenure was short-lived as he used his inaugural lecture, to which he arrived late, drunk, unfavorably compare Nigeria with racist Rhodesia. I was present on this remarkable occasion. He was promptly expelled from Nigeria and returned to Rhodesia where he became a friend of Maral. So good a friend that she invited him to her wedding, a posh do in Salisbury. The ceremony was interrupted when armed police stormed into the church and arrested Kazembe for murder.
These things happen, but not often enough in my opinion