Livingstone 200

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13

Northern 2011 09 10 DSC_5138With the recent passing on of Britain’s Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, and the furore about her funeral coupled with the fact that the month of May sees the 140th anniversary of the death of David Livingstone at Chief Chitambo’s village in 1873, we thought it interesting to see what sort of funeral was accorded David Livingstone.


But first, what was the date of Livingstone’s death?  His journal indicates that it would have been 1 May, but according to his faithful servants, Chuma and Susi, the date was 4 May. This was the date which they carved on a tree and which they reported as the date of death.  It is also the date on his gravestone at Chitambo’s Village. Yet other memorials to this explorer record the date as 1 May.


It is well known that following Livingstone’s death, his two servants removed his heart which was buried under a tree at Chitambo’s village. They then carried his body to Bagamoyo, on the Tanzanian coast, where it was handed over to the British authorities and transported to London for burial.


When the steamer carrying Livingstone’s body arrived at Southampton, an artillery salute, the initiative of some local volunteers, was given. From Southampton, a special train was laid on to transport his body to the offices of the Royal Geographical Society in Savile Row, where the body lay in state for two days. From there, it was moved to Westminster Abbey where he was laid to rest.


According to historians, David Livingstone had all but a state funeral.  For a full state funeral, parliamentary approval needs to be given and his body would have laid in state at Westminster Hall. There would possibly also have been greater involvement by the military and the monarchy. But the ceremonies were still pretty much the same as if it had been a state funeral – Queen Victoria’s empty carriage followed Livingstone’s hearse down Pall Mall and Whitehall, and the Prince of Wales and Disraeli, the then prime minister, attended the sacraments in person.


Of course by the time Livingstone was buried, his body was almost a year old. Having had the heart removed, the body was laid in the sun for two weeks to dry following which it was wrapped in layers of calico, bark and sailcloth and then sealed with tar to keep it from putrefying on its long journey to the coast. The trip took nine months through the heat of tropical Africa and ten men died along the way.  The fifty or so carriers that survived the trip persisted in the belief that David Livingstone was important to his country and also out of respect for him.


The final journey of Livingstone’s body was the last of a series of stories about him which had inspired Victorian Britain.


David Livingstone was buried at Westminster Abbey on 18 April 1874, just a day after Margaret Thatcher’s funeral on 17 April, one hundred and thirty nine years later.

Dam Spam

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13
Northern 2011 09 10 DSC_5138“Y’ello! Now subscribe to Love Quotes …”
“Y’ello! Only MTN Mobile radio gives you latest hits of chartbusters …”
“Important Announcement, Send WIN to 7777 and win …”


These are only a few examples of the spam that I receive on my mobile phone and as can be seen, it is from none other then my service provider, MTN!


But that is not all. A few weeks ago, at the office during prime working hours and my head down in some complex technical stuff, my phone rang. Being accessible to my clients on an almost 24/7 basis is one of the services that I offer. I was thus obligated to answer the phone, only to find that it was MTN with a recording telling me that I could now listen to the radio through my mobile phone!


In September 2011, ZICTA directed that phone companies had to allow subscribers the option to ‘unsubscribe’ from any promotion they may offer.


Looking back at the messages I have received over the last few months, only one SMS gave me an option to unsubscribe.


But it is not only the phone companies (I am reliably informed that Airtel and Zamtel also send out volumes of unsolicited SMS’s.) Recently I received a series of unsolicited SMS’s from the UN office in Zambia and last week from KampalaUniversity. What is this all about?


The continual receipt of this unsolicited marketing material is a violation of my right to choose what marketing, advertising or other information I wish to receive, as well as impinging on my time. This is especially so when the marketing message is received via a phone call with a recorded message.


Phone companies should only be permitted to send out advertising material if a subscriber has signed up to receive such material, rather than sending spam to an entire gamut of numbers, thereby annoying all subscribers. Of course I don’t mind receiving useful bits of information; perhaps notification of an outage for maintenance but I am way past subscribing to ‘Love Quotes’. In fact I grew out of those when I was a teenager. And what, may I ask, are ‘hits of chart busters’. I grew out of these when I was a teenager, as well.

In The Garden

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13

logo In The Garden 2Aloes are a very undervalued plant.  They come in many sizes but they all need little attention and less water.  The flowers are attractive and long-lasting and best of all they attract sunbirds.  Birds add something special to a garden.  A flock of tiny blue waxbills, the bold masked weaver, the melodious bulbul, the bright metallic colours of the male sunbird are all a common sight in the garden.  If you are lucky a pied wagtail will stroll across your lawn, wagging its tail. The tiny brown prinia is easily identified by its small size and its short tail sticking up at a jaunty angle.  Palm swifts can fill the air with their flight as they catch insects in the early evening.  Recently a little sparrowhawk has been spotted in gardens along our road, usually at the top of a tall tree.  Part of the pleasure provided by a garden is the abundance of wildlife it attracts by offering food and shelter to birds, bees, butterflies and many other small creatures.


Another great advantage is to be able to cut flowers for the house.  You don’t need to be an expert to make a simple arrangement of flowers.  Shasta daisies are easy to grow and their long-lasting white flowers will brighten any corner of the house in a simple glass container.  Strelitzia or “bird of paradise” has exotic and unusual flowers that are eye-catching in a vase.  In fact, any flower at all with a little creativity can become a source of beauty in your home.


Watering is now a priority.  Make it effective by watering in the morning or late afternoon when the ground is less hot.  Don’t leave a hosepipe lying in the sun, as it will make the water so hot that it will scorch leaves.  When not in use it should be in the shade.  Mend any leaks in the pipe.  Buy connectors and organise several lengths of hosepipe so that all corners of the garden can be reached by connecting them together.  You may need to install a short rod of steel at the corner of a flowerbed so that the hosepipe being pulled over the ground is kept away from the flowers.  Taps don’t last for ever: replace washers or the tap itself as required.  Be systematic and have a timetable so that each part of the garden is watered regularly.  Large trees and some shrubs will find water underground as their roots go deep.  The smaller the plant and the shallower its roots, the more often it will need to be watered.  In general, water deeply and less often.  Automatic sprinkler systems seem to offer an easy solution but in practice the calcium deposits from our hard water soon clog the holes and the system is no longer effective.  Keep an eye open for the drooping leaves that mean a plant has insufficient water.  Cover the soil with a thick layer of compost or any mulch to reduce evaporation from the soil surface.



Birds, Bugs and Bushes

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13

Birds, Bugs and Bushes 1The Brown House Snake (Lamprophis capensis)


Brown house snakes are a light brown to reddish brown in colour. Older specimens are dark olive to almost black. There are two light stripes on either side of the head from the tip of the snout across the upper half of the eye. These stripes sometimes run along the anterior third of the body. The other stripe runs from the lower half of the angle of the mouth. The underbelly is yellow to white. The average length is between 60 cm and 90 cm. though some can reach up to a metre or more.


These snakes are oviparous; the female after mating lays a clutch of between 8 and 18 eggs. On hatching the young measure between 19 cm and 26 cm. Like all snakes there is no parental care of the young. Once hatched the young are able to fend for themselves. They begin by feeding on insects then graduating to larger prey as they grow.


They are found in southern and eastern Africa.


This is a common snake around houses. Hence its name ‘house snake’. It will, if need be, enter houses in search of prey. What is comforting though is that these snakes are totally harmless to humans. They will bite when they are handled roughly or feel threatened, but they are harmless as they do not have any venom or fangs with which to inject venom. They are solid toothed snakes, having no fangs. Sometimes, if they do not bite, they will instead sham death.


Found almost every where, these are largely ground dwelling snakes. They live in burrows, holes and under fallen trees and rocks, though they are more common around human houses and buildings. They are drawn to human dwellings by the presence of rodent’s upon which they feed. They also eat lizards, frogs, birds and bats. They secure their prey using their sharp teeth. Fastening the sharp points into the body of the prey, they wrap their coils around the victim, constricting it. They have similar shaped heads to pythons and tackle prey in a similar fashion. They are powerful constrictors, willfully attacking, killing and swallowing any prey they can overpower.


They are common nocturnal snakes, either foraging for prey or males seeking out females during the mating season. Though often around houses, they are overlooked due to their nocturnal habits. Most encounters are usually accidental and sadly they almost always end up with the killing of these harmless snakes. They are an important natural controller of rodents. As fierce hunters of rodents, they even enter the burrows and hideouts of the rodents to seek them out. They are able to consume, in one night, an entire rodent family. Unfortunately the traditional fear of snakes does not spare even, helpful and harmless species like the brown house snake.



Let’s Go Camping

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13

logo Staying OutIt is a sad fact of Zambian life that much of the country’s tourism centres on the Zambezi and Livingstone.  Ask anyone what there is to see in Zambia and it is not just foreigners who will cite Victoria Falls as virtually the only place to visit.  Of course its importance cannot be overlooked, but there is far, far more to see and do in our country.  A trip up the Great North Road, for instance, is full of places to stop and see: waterfalls, game parks and monuments.  Free of the frantic traffic that clogs the Lusaka-Ndola road, it offers an easy drive with many places to stop for refreshment and/or accommodation.


Forest Inn, Mkushi

A welcome first stop on the Great North Road, Forest Inn offers basic chalet accommodation and camping facilities.  Situated in a beautifully shaded area, this is a wonderfully relaxing place and perfect if you have been driving for a long time.  The restaurant offers breakfast, light lunches and dinner at very reasonable rates.  Some of the items on the rather extensive the menu is likely to be unavailable however.

Chalet at Forest Inn

Chalet at Forest Inn


KasankaNational Park

Just from the Serenje turn-off, Kasanka is one of Zambia’s little-known secrets, although plans are afoot to attract a wider clientele.  Rescued by big game hunter turned conservationist, David Lloyd, about twenty years ago, Kasanka is a public-private partnership which relies heavily on donations and outside funding to survive.  One of the major reasons to visit this park is to view the migrant bat population which arrives there in September/ October every year.  However, there is also plenty of game to view, especially in the dry season.


Kasanka has two lodges in which to stay in chalet accommodation.  Wasa Lodge is closest to the main gate and overlooks a small dam.  Although quite pretty, it is Luwombwa Lodge that has a nicer setting on the curve of the river.  Here, the chalets overlook the water and provide a very peaceful setting in which to relax.  Facilities are much more basic than they are at Wasa and it is not as popular a choice, perhaps because it is on the far side of the park.  It is possible to hire canoes here though and it is closer to the airstrip, should you decide to drop in by air!


Kasanka also has two campsites: Pontoon and Kabwe.  Both are quite small and so it is best to book during the high season.  Pontoon is rather closed in for my liking, surrounded by trees and the tall reeds made it difficult to see the river.  This may be different during the dry season, of course.


Kabwe is further away but more open, the view looking out onto a marshy area, makes it popular with bird watchers.  The camping facilities are good and the staff that man them are more than keen to make sure your stay is a comfortable one.  Best of all is the shower with its open top!  Firewood is included in the camping price.


The most disappointing aspect of Kasanka was the food at Wasa.  Campers are welcome to have a meal there, providing they give due warning, but it was very basic and over-priced and the presentation lacked any sort of finesse.

View from Wasa Camp

View from Wasa Camp


Straw-coloured Fruit Bat, Kasanka National Park

Straw-coloured Fruit Bat, Kasanka National Park


Chalet at Wasa Camp

Chalet at Wasa Camp

Mutinondo Wilderness

Mutinondo wins the prize for the best campsite … ever, I should think!  It is large, but you don’t feel overwhelmed by people, although it is quite a popular destination.  The toilets offer a view out down the hillside and the showers are open to the stars.


Mutinondo also offers chalet accommodation of different types and the prices for these include all meals and activities, such as horse riding and canoeing.  Campers are welcome to eat at the lodge as well, as long as they give notice. An honesty bar operates for all clients and there is certainly nothing better than gathering round the fire at night and exchanging stories with other guests.


Mutinondo Wilderness

Mutinondo Wilderness


Chalet at Mutinondo Wilderness

Chalet at Mutinondo Wilderness

Kapisha Hot Springs

The campsite at Kapisha is also quite large and has a pleasant location next to a river.  The camping facilities are far more basic than they are at Mutinondo or even Kasanka: they are adequate, but not special, although they do have proper toilets as opposed to ‘glorified long drops’!


There are some great walks to do around Kapisha, and of course the hot springs on their own are a major draw.  Much time can be spent wallowing in their warmth!  Self catering and full board accommodation is available, although the former is not as easy as it sounds as you have to share the main kitchen.  The restaurant offers a wide variety of food and it is quite delicious – well worth a trek from the campsite!


Zambia does have a host of things to see and do and they needn’t cost you an arm and a leg.  Camping is the cheapest route to take, but may not be everyone’s cup of tea.  It is sad that most people you do meet at these places are foreign and probably get to experience more of Zambia than the average local, who often looks to holiday outside of the country!  Take a trip on the wild side and see what Zambia has to offer!


Kapisha Hot Springs

Kapisha Hot Springs


Relaxing on the river banks at Kapisha Hot Springs

Relaxing on the river banks at Kapisha Hot Springs





Fool on the Hill

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13

FOTHTo kill a horse all you need is a little love, enough not to feel like a complete swine. And a handgun of a medium calibre, say a 9mm, if you don’t want too much thrashing about afterwards, which tends to upset the owner. The love, this helps both the horse and you. Although I guess the horse wouldn’t care if you approached the task with complete indifference. But approach it with a heart full of sorrow, or bloodlust or regret and the horse will know and that last walk to the fresh mound of soil and pit at the end of the paddock will be one of reluctance and fear. You do it with love; love of the beast and his potential realised, or as yet not. Love of his form and function and the marriage of these, which until this point has made him so worthy to walk the earth in the perfection of a horse. Love of THE horse though perhaps not THIS horse, which you may only just have met and whose state most likely is sorry, to have brought you to his side to play God. If you don’t have this love in you then you’re already lost and there are probably large chunks of you missing and you are a hair’s breadth away from being the crazy in the church bell-tower, holding off the SWAT team while the congregation lies bleeding in the pews from your hellish handiwork. If there’s love in your heart you can lift his muzzle and drawing two imaginary lines from eye to ear, place the barrel at their intersect and squeeze the trigger, stepping back as he lurches to his knees to dodge the first gout of crimson he will exhale as his eyes cloud from glassy to grey slate and his heart keeps pumping long enough to run the quarter mile that has always sufficed to carry him from danger.
She’s so full of morphine now that sometimes she doesn’t remember my name. After a lifetime of dieting she has finally reached her target weight and if looks could kill, hers will. The sofa in the sitting room was replaced by a hospital bed a week ago and then, she made me put plastic discs under the legs so they wouldn’t mark the carpet, now she couldn’t give a shit. In fact she hasn’t for a week and never will again as the closest she comes to eating is a couple of trickles of water a day and some damp cotton buds swabbed on her gums to moisten her mouth. They’ve left the opiates for me to administer, and tell me to use them as I see fit. What I see is a woman who has cared for me all my life and who has lived in fear all of hers. Who, faithless in matters of the spirit, believed wholeheartedly that medical science would, in her lifetime, banish death with a battery of pills and machines with comforting dials and flashing lights and optimistic pings. That belief deserted her too, less than six months ago when the doctors told her that her bones were full of cancer. Lung cancer for a devout non-smoker with three broken vertebrae, five fractured ribs, a snapped clavicle and six places where the cancer had forced its way between the plates of her skull and was pushing her eyeball out of its socket. Her X-rays catalogued a car wreck that had never happened. The diagnosis killed her and from that moment fear, and her surrender to it, gave the cancer permission to do its worst. She never for a moment put up a fight, though for our sakes she went through the motions of moving from stick to wig, to walking frame and wheelchair. From oncology consultations to post-chemo vomiting and breaking her arm just getting out of her chair, to this bed and the indignity of being bathed by her son and filling a bag through a catheter.

How I see fit to administer the opiates is all at once, crushed in a teaspoon of honey dripped onto her tongue at night between her feeble bouts of coughing and breathing like a creature already laid in some dusty crypt. The state of Idaho doesn’t criminalize aiding, abetting, assisting or counselling suicide, but she’s long past abetting now and I’m too afraid of prison and already too far from my wife and little boys.

I was on the verge a week before, of doing the right thing, of “seeing fit”. But luckily I ran out of pluck ,as two days later Darleen, the hospice lady, told me that she had watched enough deaths to know that that my mother’s was still weeks away. It would have seemed suspicious if at that point she’d woken up dead, and I suppose that they might have measured the amount of morphine in her blood post-mortem. And that would be me, playing doctors and nurses with a bunch of Aryan Brotherhood good ol’ boys as a guest of the Idaho Department of Corrections, since you’re no more allowed to overdose your dying mother than to shoot a prisoner on Death Row. So I lie awake in the spare room each night with the door open and listen to the thin, bitter bile accumulate in the back of her throat and her breathing deepen and rattle like a chain spooling round a capstan until she hacks or vomits. Then rise to lift her head and offer the kidney bowl and help her clear her mouth as her rheumy eyes roll back like a frightened horse and she tries to place my face in the crepuscular light and fathom whether it belongs to a friend or foe.

“It’s a funny thing” said Darleen at the kitchen table as she filled in the notes for her visit “But I’ve always found with my patients that when their earlobes get stuck to the side of their neck, they’re ready to go and mostly don’t make it through the night”. I question her again on this and she assures me it’s a fact she’s discovered in her career of easing people gently from their skins with as much dignity as possible. I pressed my own earlobe against my neck for a few seconds and when I let it go, it sprung back into place. Later that night, bored and lonely I drank six large Chivas Regals, being the only whisky that I could find in the house, and I pushed my mother’s earlobe to her neck for a whole Sopranos episode. Know this. An earlobe sticking to your neck may be a sure sign that you are going to die, but holding somebody’s earlobe against their neck … that doesn’t kill them. I know because after the last whisky I clumsily super-glued hers in place, and she was still alive in the morning.

A month before when she could still sit up in her chair for a few lucid hours a day, we watched one of many movies together. I tried to change the channel when it became clear that this was a family cancer saga, but she shushed me and said “Leave it. I always thought your sister looked like Sally Field”. She seemed unmoved by the melodrama and even chuckled half heartedly a couple of times; until the scene where the dying mother is making a video memoir with her son and starts to recount an anecdote about her own father. “You remember your grandpa?” she reminds her son. “I really don’t Mom. I was only 5 when he died”. And I turn to catch my mother take these words like a bullet and slump in her chair with the realisation that all the hours, and laughter and loving she has lavished on my boys will find no purchase in their memories and that she will only be kept alive for them in photographs and second-hand stories.

She’s run her quarter mile and it isn’t far enough. Her funeral is paid for and the obit is in the out-tray just waiting on the date. All she can do now is house the pain, though I have more than enough love to take it away from her. More than you need for a horse. But I can’t. It would be frowned upon. That humanity is denied me. So I board a plane and fly away, a coward, and leave her to die slowly in fear.

Happy Mother’s Day and cheer up for goodness sake, it’s probably just a short story.

On Tour

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13

logo MITHSo the boy’s father said to me, if I send him out to you can you introduce him to a horse? I didn’t know that he fancied horses; thank goodness, it turned out that he seemed to prefer the young ladies riding upon them!


So here comes an impressionable lad, he has only got a couple of weeks of the Easter holidays before returning to school, we must make the best use of his time. “Now, face the horse, its head to your left, it’s fundament to the right and put your left foot in the stirrup in front of you. No!  Left, as in Army Left!” One youth upon horse, an idiot grin upon his face, mutters something about being way out of his comfort zone. After two or three days he has located his discomfort zone, his backside! Relent a little and let a grandchild teach him how to drive a quad bike. This is more to his liking but we cannot waste his time on trifles. The garden factotum is a far better tutor than I prove to be so he becomes the co-pilot of the vanette which is used to teach the boy to drive along the sundry bush tracks about the place. Emphasis is placed on checking basics such as water and oil levels in the light of his Mother’s proven inabilities in that field. (Well, I ask you, how many times do you have to cook a Pajero before you learn the basics?)


Then it is time to show the lad a bit of the country. We head north for the Copperbelt, stopping off for a good breakfast at the Fig Tree Café just south of Kabwe, then on up to where the smog of Kitwe awaited. The Smelter might be closed but there, with so much dust and charcoal fumes and smoke coming out of local brewery chimneys, it is proven that pollution is alive and well in Chitwe Shitty. Traffic remains bad, parking worse, exacerbated by Kitwe City Council allowing buildings to go up on the last bits of parking space in President Square. A quick visit to Chisekoni market, the explanation of Salaula, all broadens the lad’s economic horizon as does the quantity of second hand Toyota Specio motor cars around, all employed as illegal taxis. A trip to Parklands is made to introduce the lad to George who continues to preside over the production of Pizzas; possibly the best in Africa. Now to a mate who has organized a flying lesson for the lad. He goes off for an hour in a 180 with Brian, sees the Open Pit in Nchanga from the air, lands at Kasompe, takes off again and returns to Stravendale, wide eyed and enthusiastic about flying. All the while my mate and I chew the fat over some beers supped in the shade of an old Russian Biplane that made it this far from the Steppes, bound for the Congo. Its infirmities were such that it came close to collapse at Ndola but managed to wheeze over to Stravendale where the parking fees are negligible, never to fly again (unless someone wants to spend ridiculous amounts of money). The plane is in good company. Two others are there, one that forgot to put its wheels down on landing (I am told that there are two types of pilot, those who have done this and those who are about to do so); the other got blown over and has bent wings, looks forlorn and unloved. A splendid curry dinner, a night’s rest and then on to Chingola via the haunts of his Mother’s youth in Kalulushi. Another mate entertained us, showed us the new Lubambe Mine on the border (used to be Konkola No 2 shaft that worked for a few months back in the 50’s) and then back to have a look at the new No 4 Shaft at Konkola, a huge edifice designed to raise huge quantities of ore to the new huge concentrator designed to process huge quantities of ore into concentrates. As I know what is down below there I have my doubts, but, for sure, KCM has to get rid of an awful lot of water before they can hope to fulfill their ambitions. Now, the lad likes puppies and loves rugby, so sits and watches a match on the box, puppy happily asleep on him, whilst my mate and I examine the contents of a bottle of Green Label. We are given another night of kind hospitality before we move on in the morning to pass through Mufulira and up to Mokambo to go through the Pedicle, “Au Congo”.  So his father has said “He does French at school and is fairly proficient in it, it will be good practice for him.” HA, flipping HA!


Now, we all know that all who live in Zambia are allowed free and unfettered passage along the Pedicle road. Zambia has now built a bridge across the LuapulaRiver and is paying to have the 60 odd kilometres tarred to facilitate that easy passage. The Zambian Customs and Immigration personnel on either side of the Pedicle are a delight to deal with; you arrive, are given a piece of paper which is stamped and away you go. Pas de problem, comme les hommes dites au Congo! Into the dirty little building on the other side you go. You submit your piece of paper. It is ignored at first but then you understand. A few Kwacha is submitted and then your papers for your car are examined. “Passport!!!” ”Mais non, Monsewer, Je suis Resident.” Display my resident’s card. It is rejected out of hand. ”PASSPORT!!!” Luckily I have brought mine and the lads. They are taken away. You are ushered into the back office. “Vous etes etranger” “Come, my lad, time for you to explain yourself!” A stuttering mumble emits from my linguist fellow traveler which no one can understand. The upshot was that I had to pay a visa fee KR 270 (Sir, if you do not like it, go back to Ndola and apply for one) Naturally it was not a visa, just a scruffy piece of paper that said that I can travel across. Surprisingly, they did not charge for the lad, clearly impressed by his inability to speak anything. The next hurdle was the Health Check, yet another excuse to wheedle money. Now, for some reason the lad did not have a Yellow Fever certificate but I had taken both mine and the Madam’s certificate. I submitted mine which was scrutinized minutely; nothing wrong there; now the other one was demanded; I handed it over, again a minute scrutinisation, then he looked searchingly at the lad, uttered the Madams name and handed them back. A few more Kwacha changes hands and we are allowed to tip the gate man to let us go on! The lad varies between hysterical laughter and outrage at the open corruption that he has just witnessed. I neglect to tell him that we may be in but have yet to get out again of the Congo. The journey is uneventful, the road under repair is much like the curates egg; good in parts! Now a newer customs post is found on the other side and through the whole rigmarole we go again. This time they want to charge the boy but, with a bit of slight of hand, my scruffy piece of paper gets transferred to his passport. A few more Kwacha distributed here and there, and then they stamp our passports and demand another KR 250 “Pour Facilitation”. The health check man and the gate man loom next; the health check man does not bother too much, he just wants money for a drink as does the gate man. From the smell emanating from the pair of them I think that they had been at it already! Out into Zambia we go, a wave of relief sweeps over me until we get to Zambian Immigration. There the young man tries to imitate a Congolese. “The lad has got a single entry visa, he has been in the Congo, look, his passport has been stamped, and he must pay another visa fee.” I then had to be stern, firm but resisted the urge to pull the young man’s head off. In the end his cousin needed a lift to Mansa so all was well and away we went. MY ADVICE TO ALL:  GO ROUND; NOT THROUGH!!


The Mansa Hotel has seen better days but is still habitable. Two rooms cost me KR 300, there was a comfortable bed and air con in my room but, as per usual, no plug in the basin or bath. I had forgotten the trick; always take some plugs with you. The afternoon was spent resting from the rigors of the journey but then the lad had more education to go through. A packet of Chibuku was to be served at dinner, along with a beef stew and Nshima. Alas, there was no Chibuku to be had in Mansa, so Lusaka Beer (Whiter, Smoother etc so the advert goes) was substituted. It looked like runny Yoghurt, tastes rather sour, smells worse, and is, without a shadow of doubt, an acquired taste, a pleasure that I will continue to forgo. On the other hand the beef stew and Nshima was an epicurean feast! An early night for the morrow was to be a bit of a journey, North, first to the Musonda Falls, then the Mambalima Falls, the long series of rapids and Falls on the Luapula, then on again to Nchelenge, where, at the Lake Mweru Transport Lodge, I could sit and share a Simba with the lad before he had a paddle in the lake. An abandoned, half sunk, Police boat was being used as a diving board by lads. Onto the road again, back down to turn off, past the Mabel Shaw Church and Mission Hospital towards Kawamba and the Ntumbachushi Falls. The lad was enrapt by its beauty. South again, the road having one long bad stretch which is under repair and back to Mansa. I refuel the vehicle and get a couple of meat pies for the ever hungry lad and head for Samfya, narrowly avoid turning a wandering pig into pork chops and arrive there at dusk. I am beguiled by the sign to the Samfya Beach Resort, “First Class Accommodation and Food” Again KR 300 buys us two rooms. Enquiries are made about food.  Chicken and chips were available. Was Fish available? Alas, there was no fish. The lake lapped on the shore and laughed with me. In the end there was no chicken but eggs were available, so egg sandwiches were ordered. Two things then happened. The lad managed to lock himself in his bathroom and there was a power cut. I was not popular when I sang that old refrain “Oh dear, what can the matter be, two old ladies locked in the Lavatory”. “It is not funny” he said as I sat on the sand outside in the dark with a beer whilst the staff busied themselves extracting him.


The dawn saw us on the road again, this time to see the Livingstone Memorial Site. A 22 km little dirt road wanders off into the bush to get there and it remains as I first saw it, a rather plain, grim memorial in a rather plain, grim site. Whatever his last words were reported to have been, I am sure they were actually “Is that it?” Back to Lusaka we went to regroup before heading out to Mukambi for a spot of game viewing. The lad was lucky, lionesses, leopard, civet, genet, elephant, hippo, vultures, even a rabbit, all made a guest appearance. I had to tell him that he was very lucky, many a time one can go to the Kafue National Park and see nothing but puku for a week. One incredible sight that we did see, however, was a brand new Chinese lorry in a dry river bed. Apparently it had tried to cross the bridge on Christmas Day and had been swept off the bridge. The driver managed to escape though his mate was swept away and drowned. Now the lorry sits, a mute testament to the power of water, abandoned by its owner.


The lad is put back on an aircraft to the UK with a letter to his French tutor; TRY HARDER!

Down In The Drink! (Part 2)

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13

logo The Cat O' Nine TalesI taxied the Cessna to the East African Aero Club, tied it down, and checked into their visitor accommodation. During my last stay in Kenya with the Cessna ‘push-pull’ Skymaster, I had a personality clash with a prominent member of the club’s committee. In my opinion he had misused his privileged position to have me banned, but I had recently contacted the club’s committee, who had assured me that if I met all the usual requirements I would be reinstated, and pending this, I could use the facilities as a temporary member.


I entered the club and was soon amongst many old buddies, including Johnny Adamson, Jim Stewart and Ben Pont. They were all members of the committee, and urged me to start collecting the sixteen committee member’s signatures, necessary to support my application, and I proceeded to do this over the next few days, whilst I was getting a new radio, and organising cash expenses from London.


I had a pleasant stay in Nairobi, visiting old friends, and making new ones, and I was happy to learn that Jim Stewart would be following me to London in his company’s aircraft, ”If I go down in the drink, you can throw me a life raft” I joked.


Soon I was on my knees in the pilots room with the big ONC charts on the floor, planning my flight to the Mediterranean. When flying in Africa I always prefer this method, rather than relying on instrument high-altitude charts, as reliable radio beacons are few and far-between, and in those days the GPS navigator was scarcely available.


We had a final party in the club, and after submitting my re-application with the sixteen committee signatures, and a year’s subscription, I enjoyed a good night’s sleep before my early morning start for the day-long flight to Khartoum.


Once again I was over my old stamping ground the Kenya N.F.D. and it was not long before Lodwar, my refuelling point came into view in the desert below.


As I descended to land at this tiny strip, I resolved to make a three-pointer, as the wind appeared to be straight down the runway, but I was wary, as the hot desert winds often eddied around the mountainous slab of rock which towered above the Catholic mission beside the strip. It was fortunate I had my wits about me, because just as the 185 floated a few feet above the runway, a sudden gust made my starboard wingtip almost graze the ground. As the wing went down, I had full deflection on my rudder, corrected for the centreline with aileron and the ‘plane settled into a three-point landing, I sighed with relief, and taxied to the Mission pump, I should have made the landing a ‘wheeler’.


It was not long before I was airborne again abeam Lake Turkana (Rudolf), scene of my earlier adventure with the Ethiopian Marxist Government, climbing high to avoid the turbulence of the hot desert of southern Sudan. I climbed even higher as I neared the enclave of Ethiopia where the GambelaRiver enters the Sudan, as I knew there were warring factions of Sudanese rebels and Ethiopian soldiers below, I had no wish to make an involuntary entrance to their war games. This of course was one of the areas where I had flown ‘Mac’ McElroy a VIP hunting client, some sixteen years before.


Soon the forward visibility decreased to nil, and the ground below disappeared, a sandstorm was blowing, not a full haboob, but enough to put me on instruments. I called Khartoum and they informed me that the ILS was U/S but they cleared me down to 4,000 feet, and it was at this height I swept over the threshold of runway 36 before seeing it.


Fortunately the 185 has large flaps, and by some judicious forward slipping, I was able to land the aircraft and take the first turn-off to the terminal. I spent the night in Khartoum’s Meridian Hotel. Another early start, and crossing and re-crossing the Nile, as it meandered below, I was soon approaching Southern Egypt, though unfortunately their air traffic control made me steer clear of Lake Nasser.


I planned to spend a night in Luxor, to clear customs and all official business, so that I could get an early start from Cairo, and cross the Mediterranean by daylight. I landed at Luxor, then a very busy city, as a much-advertised performance of Verdi’s grand opera ‘Aida’ was to be staged that night, At Luxor airport I watched a demonstration by the Italian Airforce Aerobatics Team ‘Gruppa Tricolore’ marking the operatic occasion, and as a fellow pilot met them at ‘briefing’ after their flight. This team was to be decimated in the ‘nineties’ when a collision in West Germany killed their best pilots.


I arrived in Cairo by nine in the morning, but my hopes of an early departure from Egypt were doomed. I am convinced that there is no other country in the world, which goes to so much trouble to make things difficult for travellers. I witnessed a European woman in tears, who was trying to negotiate with a totally unsympathetic immigration officer. I know they certainly think of all the best dodges to make a pilot utterly miserable. It took me no less than four hours to pay for my aviation fuel, because the company would not accept British Sterling Pounds cash, which I had obtained in Kenya, just for this very eventuality. They insisted on U.S. Dollars traveller’s cheques being cashed into Egyptian Pounds.


No sooner had this transaction been finished when the whole rigmarole had to begin again to pay airport taxes! It was after five in the evening before I was ready to start my take-off, and their final indignity was to route me first to Fayoum, a hundred miles on a south-west bearing, back into the desert, before I could turn on track for Crete. As I eventually passed over the coast, it grew dark, and I knew I was committed to make a night sea-crossing in a single-engine ‘plane, I began to hate all Egyptian officials!


However it was a wonderful clear night, and I could often see large cruise liners plowing along underneath, at least I appeared to be much faster than they were!


Suddenly, the engine coughed, my heart missed a beat, frantically I checked the instruments. All in order – temperature, pressure, RPM and boost, all normal. The engine was fuel-injected, so carburettor icing was almost impossible, and induction icing unlikely. I was again at eleven thousand feet, so I leaned the mixture, the engine started to sound rough, so I returned the mixture to the former position.


For some time things were normal, then the engine ran rough again. I pushed in the leaning knob, and the richer mixture smoothed out the engine. I was terrified, it was dark and I could visualize trying to pull off a night landing on water. I looked out and saw far below me a large liner, for an instant I considered circling to keep it in sight, but I calculated that Crete could not be more than half an hour away. With the engine alternatively running rough and smooth, that half hour seemed like a lifetime, and then suddenly, I was aware of a white mass out of my port side window. It materialised into a great snow-covered mountain, glinting, five thousand feet high, in the light of the moon. I passed over the SITIA beacon above the eastern shore of Crete, and joyfully, turned west, starting to descend. Soon I was on the ground at Iraklion, checked into a nearby hotel and slept like a log for seven hours. At least I was out of dammed Egypt, and their corrupt and unhelpful officialdom.

See Part 1

To be continued

Beauty … Naturally

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13

Northern 2011 09 10 DSC_5138True beauty comes from within and not from a bottle (regardless of what the label might say). Being kind to your own body, the environment, fellow citizens of planet Earth, plants and animals is an act of beauty in itself. However, as our skin is a vital part of our whole body, attention to its needs is also important.


It is recognised that our skin (the largest organ of our body) absorbs more than 60% of what we put on to it. But unfortunately the world of cosmetics is not regulated as strictly as the food manufacturing industry. This means that it is very likely that most of the cosmetic products we see on the shelves are actually, in one word, harmful. Most countries don’t have the same “safe cosmetics” standards for their citizens as the European Union has for European citizens. Think about this. There are some manufacturers that create two versions of the same product: A safe one for European citizens and another for the rest of the world. Sucks if you’re part of the rest of the world, doesn’t it?


With this in mind, why would I choose very carefully what I put in my mouth and not what I put on my skin?


By making your own fabulous 100% natural beauty potions you are caring for yourself and our wonderful planet at the same time, not to mention that whisking up a beauty potion is also an enjoyable craft and lots of messy fun!


Remember that even so-called natural cosmetics aren’t always as natural as they sound: they may still contain high percentages of chemicals and, even when active botanicals are listed on the label, very often they are highly processed and their ‘natural’ power is completely diluted by the time they end up in the same jar on the shelves. The word ‘natural’ has no legal definition within cosmetic law.

Thus, anyone can use it. And they do.


One of my main rules is: if you don’t understand what is written on the list of ingredients (and who can? Most of the words are unpronounceable!) then those are most probably chemicals that should not be on your skin.


Truth is, you can make your own beauty and skincare products simply by using what’s in your garden or by selecting what’s in your fridge and cupboard. I am not saying that there is no space for shop-bought cosmetics, especially when we have a busy life and when there ARE some truly natural products out there. But there are some amazing alternatives to what you buy over the counter that are easy and fun to make and heaven to use.


If you

  • are horrified at the synthetics, petro-pharmaceuticals toxic chemicals, fragrances etc. that end up in commercial skincare products (even in those labelled ‘natural’)
  • want to know exactly what’s on your skin
  • have sensitive skin
  • care for our amazing planet, its people and animals
  • love herbs, flowers, spices and plants
  • are able to make a salad dressing, boil an egg, brew a cup of tea and melt chocolate in a double boiler
  • chose organic and local but don’t wish to pay a fortune

then you will enjoy this little column and the little advices in the forthcoming issues of this magazine.

This column is written by Paola from Essential Skincare 

You Gotta Be Crazy

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13

Northern 2011 09 10 DSC_5138Why, I ask, would anyone want to walk one hundred kilometres in less than thirty hours through the day and through the night, up and down hills and through unpredictable but probably inclement British weather? This is exactly what Lusaka’s Ruth Puffett is going to be doing on 25 May where she is taking part in the London to Brighton Challenge. And she has a good reason for doing it too. She is raising funds for Zambian charity, FlySpec (see The Lowdown, September 2012).


FlySpec is a flying medical service which takes free orthopaedic and reconstructive surgery and more recently prosthetic and orthotic services by air, to disabled people in rural communities all over Zambia; places where such specialist surgery is not otherwise available. FlySpec was set up by Ruth’s father, John Jellis OBE, who is an Orthopaedic Surgeon and his partner, Goran Jovic, a Reconstructive Plastic Surgeon. FlySpec is funded entirely by charitable donations.


The London to Brighton Challenge is an annual fundraising challenge where walkers and joggers register to raise funds for their selected charity.  They then obtain sponsorship and donations from friends and other well-wishers. This year, there are over 300 charities involved and participants have to pledge a minimum of £400 for their chosen charity.  Last year, 1,400 people participated and this year, they expect more than 2,000 participants.


Ruth has been ‘training’ for her long walk since the start of the year, first with just a few kilometres but slowly increasing them as she became fitter and built up her endurance and stamina. This, together with sheer determination is what has got her this far and is what will see her reach the finish line on 26 May.


If you would like to support Ruth in her fundraising attempt, please contact her by email at


Good Luck, Ruth!



Did We Misunderstand?

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13

Northern 2011 09 10 DSC_5138Whilst researching the article Our Gorgeous Gorge I came across this article from, published in December 2012. 


Investor to inject $10 billion Zambezi water project

The centuries old dream to make the Zambezi navigable from its delta on the Indian Ocean as far as the Victoria Falls is still alive, with an undisclosed investor willing to put in US$10 billion to further the project.

Last Wednesday, Public Works Deputy Minister Senator Aguy Georgias met the ambassadors for Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique in Harare to give an overview of the new plan for the Zambezi seaway. “I urge you to approach your principals in your different countries and sell the idea to them so that we sign a memorandum of understanding and begin work on the Zambezi banks immediately.

“There is an investor with US$10bn waiting to inject the capital once the memorandum of understanding is signed and the four countries form a company to run the project.

“I cannot reveal the identity of the investor at this stage,” Sen Georgias said.

The seaway would cut freight costs that have rendered trade unviable among the countries and other global players.

Sen Georgias said the project would involve (dredging) opening up or deepening the banks or riverbed of the Zambezi River to allow ships to sail from the Indian Ocean to as far afield as Victoria Falls and back.

Right from the beginning of Portuguese exploration of the east coast, the dream of opening a route into the interior along the Zambezi has been mooted.

Several major difficulties have always stood in the way.

First, the Zambezi enters the Indian Ocean through a delta with constantly shifting channels.

Secondly, there are a number of rapids along the river. But the Cabora Bassa and Kariba Dams have flooded two of these major rapids, and the Batoka Gorge Dam will flood a third.

It was with the opening creation of the Cabora Bassa Lake that the old idea was revived, since with lock gates at the dam and dredging of the main delta channel a route would be opened right up to the Mutapa Gorge downstream of Mana Pools.

Malawi would connect to the seaway via the basically navigable Shire River.

“This is a mammoth project. It has a big economic significance to Zimbabwe and her allies. It will help cut transaction costs. At the moment export and import charges account for 80 percent of the cost of doing business,” commented Sen Georgias.

Says Sen Georgias, ‘‘To be certain, work on the Zambezi Seaway project will have to run in tandem with the improvement of facilities and capacity at Mozambican ports, specifically Beira. ‘‘There will be demand for greater efficiency in handling the massive cargo that the project envisages would come through the Zambezi Seaway. It will certainly be the most cost efficient. Any negative impact will be on ports further afield, that will naturally become less competitive.’’

On completion the project is expected to make trade smooth among SADC states and beyond with particular emphasis on the slashing of freight charges that the countries would enjoy.

The project is the brainchild of Sen Georgias who has since requested President Mugabe to be its patron.

Sen Georgias said they expected to complete the project within 18 months once it gets underway.


Perhaps we have misunderstood and there are no dams to be built on the Zambezi!!


Security Onion

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13

Northern 2011 09 10 DSC_5138The recent spate of armed robberies around Lusaka serves as a timely reminder to take a long hard look at the security of your home. The most important thing is to ensure your personal safety.


Usually, it is impractical to fully protect an already-built home from a determined intruder, however, a lot can be done to make it more difficult for intruders to get into your home and, more importantly, to make it harder for them to take you by surprise.


To do this you need several layers of security – to misquote a popular cartoon character; “ Good security is like an Ogre Onion.”




The objectives of good home security are:

  1. To deter intruders, by presenting such challenging security barriers that the prospective intruder is discouraged from attempting or continuing to attempt entry.
  2. To warn the house occupants of an attempted intrusion so that the house occupants can take steps to protect themselves and their property and, if a security monitoring service is used, to activate the  appropriate security response/counter measure.
  3. To delay or impede intruders to give the house occupants time to get themselves into a safe place and for security counter measures to take effect.
  4. To record and/or leave an evidence trail of the intrusion attempt so that intruders can be identified and/or insurance can be claimed.


Ideally, for personal safety, you need to be warned BEFORE intruders are in your home, and have time to reach a place of safety in your home that is strong enough to keep out a determined intruder for as long as it takes for someone to come to your aid. In practice, in Lusaka, this means that your home, when locked, should give you at least 5 minutes protection from a determined intruder and that your Safe Haven, within you home, should be able to give you at least 15 minutes of protection.


Good security has layers, like an onion. Lets consider some of these layers.


Most houses in Lusaka  are surrounded by a boundary wall or fence. This is the first physical security layer. Anyone who climbs over a wall or over or through a fence to enter a property can be charged with criminal trespass. A high, solid wall is good as it makes it hard for intruders to see into the property. If you have good neighbours you might prefer a boundary that allows you to see through and watch out for problems on each others’ properties. Any decorative features, trees or structures that make it easy for someone to climb over the boundary should be removed. An electric fence on the boundary that sets off an alarm if it is cut or tampered with is a good early warning system. Properly installed razor wire, anti-intruder spikes and thorny plants on or around the boundary are good deterrents. If you have dogs, a boundary fence or a wall defines their territory for them and they will usually protect that defined territory.


Security lighting is important. If you have  a night guard, he or she needs to be able to patrol the property without a torch. If you do not have a night guard, it is better to have security lights that are only activated when needed. Place security lights so that they would effectively “blind” someone looking into the property towards the house and try to eliminate areas of deep shadow where intruders can hide. Security lights can be proximity activated, so that they light up the area where there is suspicious activity and also activate an alarm.


There are many types of outdoor electronic intruder detectors. These can be a useful way of warning you that there is an intruder in your yard. It is difficult to completely eliminate false alarms from such devices, especially if you have dogs and cats. My preference is for Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) with motion sensing, which can monitor critical areas, warn you when it senses movement in these areas and also show you the area and intruder when it happens.


Moving onto your house; all windows whether they open or not, should have burglar bars. Ideally the burglar bars should be on the inside so that intruders have first to break the glass and then tussle with bars before they gain entry.


All external doors should have security gates and again, ideally these should be fitted inside the house. A good reason for putting burglar bars and security gates on the inside of windows and doors is that you can then install an alarm system that will activate the alarm when a window is broken or a door is opened BEFORE the intruder is in your home and WHILE the intruder is still faced with a security layer that should prevent entry for at least five minutes, giving you time to get into your Safe Haven and for security counter measures to take effect.


Most people make the accommodation wing of the house into their Safe Haven, but this depends on the layout of the house and is your personal choice. The important thing about the Safe Haven is that all the doors and windows to it MUST be extra secure and give you at least 15 minutes of forced entry delay. Ideally, this will also be where you sleep at night. You need to consider how you will secure the entrance to the Safe Haven during an emergency. My preference is for latch locks that will lock the gate as soon as it is closed. Padlocks can be used after you are safely in the Safe Haven.


Ensuring that your burglar bars and security gates are strong enough is important. Gaps between bars should be small enough to prevent a small child from getting through. A gap of 10 cm prevents even a baby’s head getting through the bars, which is important as toddlers have been injured by getting their heads stuck in burglar bars. The bars should be thick enough to prevent them from being easily bent or cut. Burglar bars should be strongly anchored into the wall and welded to steel window frames in as many places as possible. Intruders will use extreme force to get in, burglar bars and security gates need to be strong.


External doors that open outwards will have their hinge pins on the outside. Intruders can knock out the hinge pin and lever the door open, bypassing the lock. To prevent this, tack-weld one end of each hinge pin to the hinge and fit at least three 10 mm steel pins into the hinge end of the door that engage with holes drilled into the door frame when the door is closed.


The physical security of your home is YOUR responsibility. Take time to check it and look at every single door and window. Make sure windows close properly and can not be opened from the outside. Check that all your external doors and Safe Haven doors and security gates are fitted with good quality security locks and replace any locks if you think keys may have been lost, illegally copied or in any way compromised.


Quite often keys used in robberies are obtained from domestic staff, who usually live in less secure houses and locations. One way to deal with this is to have two sets of locks on external doors and security gates that domestic staff need access to – and for the domestic staff to only have keys to one of each lock, allowing you to ensure their safety and yours by locking both sets of locks when you are home.


Consider installing an intruder alarm system or at the very least a siren that can be used to distract and disturb intruders as well as alerting neighbours that there is a problem.


Employing a security guard is an option, but if the physical security of your house is good, the guard becomes, essentially, a gate opener and a human being in harm’s way if armed intruders get into your yard. If the physical security of your house is not good, the guard may become part of the problem.


Some parts of Lusaka have neighbourhood watch schemes that offer varying degrees of security assistance. Check and join if you feel that the service offered meets your needs.


There are many security companies in Lusaka that offer Alarm Monitoring and Response services.  I strongly recommend having a good Alarm Response service. Choose a company that has a mobile unit based close to your home and check that the services and level of service they provide meet your requirements. A good company will provide you with clear and understandable security advice regarding the weak points of your home and will respond quickly to any alarm activation.


Even the best physical security measures will not help if you don’t use them. Do lock your outer security gates and doors when you are at home. Do take care to prevent your keys from being copied. Use your alarm. Check it regularly. Make sure you have a working phone, radio or mobile phone in your Safe Haven. Walk your perimeter as often as you can, and check that all your security layers are in place and in good working order.


Avoid allowing casual access to your home. Don’t leave cash and valuables lying around in plain sight.


Spending a little time each day to lock up and secure your home might save you from having to deal with the dreadful consequences of an armed robbery.

Happy and Healthy Feet

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13

Northern 2011 09 10 DSC_5138Many people suffer from problems with their feet which can often cause further problems with  ankles, knees and backs. Feet problems usually go away with time, rest, ice, anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) and shoe gear changes. But sometimes these problems won’t go away, and that’s when you need a podiatrist’s help and expertise.


Podiatry is the specialised medical field which deals with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of problems and conditions associated with the foot.  The treatment extends to ailments and dysfunctions associated with the ankle, knee and lower back. Treatment includes but is not limited to rectifying conditions associated with diabetes, ingrown toenails, wound care, specialized pedicure, ortheses for toe correction, prostheses (artificial toes), tailor-made insoles, shoe adjustments and general footcare and advice.


Diabetes and circulatory problems are often present together. The danger is that due to the reduced circulation the healing process is affected. Any injury such as a cut, sore or blister can lead to a bad infection. Because the healing process is now slowed, any infection can be potentially dangerous. Often these infections lead to hospitalisation and sometimes amputation.
People with diabetes and circulatory conditions need to pay close attention to their feet and seek the care of a podiatrist immediately if any problems arise. Secondly, many diabetics will also suffer from a condition known as neuropathy. Often the feet will experience numbness that can affect just the toes or, in more severe cases, the entire foot. Since these patients have reduced feeling in their feet, any cut, bruise, sore or blister can lead to ulceration and ultimately to infection. They are also more likely to have these problems since there is little feeling in their feet. Therefore vigilance is of the utmost importance. A minor cut that is not noticed for a week coupled with reduced healing capabilities can lead to dire consequences. Diabetics should check their shoes for any objects before putting their feet into them. They should check the bottoms of their feet daily to insure there are no cuts. Lastly, they should visit their podiatrist regularly for footcare and check ups.


The good news is that Lusaka now has a podiatrist. For more information or a check up please call or email Podiatrist Ms. S. Roesink, Tel: 0974 901-066, Email: or call Corpmed for an appointment.

Readers Have Their Say

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13
Northern 2011 09 10 DSC_5138The Speed Hump Plague Is Spreading Faster Than Army Worms

I am a Kitwe resident, but I recently drove through Chilanga : about 15 mins to travel the few kilometres from Lafarge to ZAWA HQ. And this on the main Cape to Cairo road !!??!

Then the trip back to Kitwe! Lusaka-Kabwe now takes over 2 hours, whereas 20 years ago, when the road was potholed it took 30 minutes less. Yes, much more traffic – but it’s the DOZENS of humps slowing trucks to 10 kph that does the damage.

Now the latest lunacy : 22nd Avenue in Kitwe. New speed limit signs : 65 kph. But on the stretch from Central to Kantanta Streets, the three humps slow vehicles to 10 kph and you can hardly reach 40 kph in between. I have timed, several times, the 300m stretch that contains these humps – it takes about 45 seconds. This works out at 32 kph in a 65 kph zone.

It’s not that I’m totally against humps (though I wish we could stop ‘the boy racers’ some other way) but surely in 2013 we can design and build humps of such a shape and size that they can be crossed at near the speed limit.

I hope you feel you want to use this – I think it might just start something that will lead to an improvement in this situation.


What do readers think?  Or more importantly what do the Councils and Road authorities think? Ed


Beware Flying Stones

I write to thank you for such a beautiful and truthful article. It is a well researched item. Having lived in Lusaka for some time now, it makes me wonder why this is being allowed. Surely,what sort of government is this that allows everythig to go? Is it that someone is a beneficiary? I dont think that a Planner or an Engineer  can permit such?

Thank you again,

Agnes, Lusaka Resident



Written By: The Lowdown - Apr• 30•13

Cover - 2013-04

Beware Flying Stones

Written By: The Lowdown - Apr• 30•13

2013 04 small coverWe have lamented many times previously on the seeming willy nilly erection of billboards around Lusaka (and Ndola and Kitwe and Chingola and Solwezi and …). But this time the Lusaka City Council seem to have outdone themselves.  We refer, of course, to the new billboards which have been erected in the centre island of Addis Ababa Drive.


At first glance, one thinks that the street has been tidied up and that with the plants in place, it is a vast improvement on what was there before. But then one looks again and sees that they were wrong in their initial impression.


DSC_3360The first problem is the stone that has been spread liberally across the centre island.  Already the stones, and they are not small, are falling into the road where they will become windscreen wrecking weapons as they hurtle out from under the tyres of passing cars and hit into the cars behind and to the side. Not only do we fear broken windscreens but also accidents as our many inexperienced drivers have their windscreens shattered rendering them unable to see where they are going. In the ensuing panic they will undoubtedly drift into the path or back of another vehicle.


The second problem is the trees that have been planted in the centre island.  Whilst they are small, this is fine.  But as they grow, their roots will spread under the tarmac and start pushing up the tarmac, causing bumps and eventually necessitating premature repair of the road surface, as they have in Chikwa Road. Or, as will be the more likely scenario given the Council’s poor track record on road maintenance and repairs, motorists bumping into potholes for a number of years.


The third problem is the height above ground and positioning of some of the billboards. A number of the billboards pose a threat to motorists trying to join Addis Ababa from a side road as they totally block sight of oncoming traffic.  In order to see properly, motorists have to edge forward putting the front of their cars into the path of oncoming traffic.


I am told, although I have not been able to confirm this myself, that legislation does exist on the minimum height of billboards above the ground and these billboards clearly do not comply with this legislation.


We fully understand that the Council derives considerable revenue from billboards. We also fully understand that the Council are unable, although I don’t know why, to maintain Lusaka’s gardens, pavements, traffic circles, parts etc in a clean, tidy and attractive manner. Clearly a business in Lusaka has undertaken to beautify the centre island of this road and the Council have jumped at the opportunity. In doing so, they have failed to ensure that legislation and regulations are adhered to.  And one assumes that the Council are actually being paid the normal daily rate for these billboards.


The other issue which has not escaped me is that many of the billboards require lighting at night.  The first question is who pays for the electricity? But the bigger question is why have we got advertising billboards consuming electricity when large swathes of the country are being loadshed every second night, and in some instances, every night?







No Choice At All

Written By: The Lowdown - Apr• 30•13

It’s never a good idea to go shopping on Christmas Eve, but when a friend asked for help with getting a PVR decoder for her father for Christmas, it didn’t even enter my mind to refuse.


After battling the Lusaka traffic, I got there later than planned, just before 3.30 pm. Finding a parking space, I made my way to the end of the line which was about three metres outside the door.


I hung about for 5 minutes and noticed that there didn’t seem to be much going on inside. My fellow queue-ers confirmed that the line had not moved much since they had joined the queue. I undertook to find out what, or should I say if anything was going on.


Making my way to the counters, everyone seemed to be busy except for the two counters where there were no assistants! A busy day like this and some of the counters not manned? Sounds like poor management to me.


I spent the next two hours observing what was going on. But before that I knocked on the supervisor’s door. I expected that the supervisor would be out at the counter supervising. But no, she was in her office with the two missing assistants and a customer/cousin/VIP. The customer/cousin/VIP was picking up a new system and he needed preferential treatment which included taking away two members of staff who should be attending to the public.


I explained to the supervisor that there was a mess outside and that something needed to be done. I am not sure whether she had to draw up a battle plan or call for re-enforcements, but it was a full twenty minutes before the supervisor stepped out of the office. Eventually someone came down the queue collecting decoders for repair. These people were dealt with to the side so they got out of there quickly.


From my continued observations that afternoon, it looks to me as though the system has not been set up to be efficient or customer friendly. For example, it is one of the counter assistants who has to get new decoders from the storeroom. Or that is what one assumes when one sees the counter assistant leave his station and return some minutes later with a box of new decoders. This may be well and good when they are not busy but surely on Christmas Eve and the other known busy days of the year, why not change the system and let the supervisor or someone in the back office do it. This will get the customers moving through quickly which will keep the customer happy. Or perhaps Mulitichoice haven’t figured this out yet, that it is necessary to keep the customer happy.


And look out if you need a replacement smart card. The number of replacement cards that can be issued on any one day is limited. One of the gentlemen standing near me in the queue needed a replacement card and the replacement cards were finished. Yet they were still issuing new cards for new clients. I couldn’t stop myself interfering and started making noise, so they quickly agreed to give him a new card but otherwise he would have gone away empty handed or been forced to buy a new card as they suggested. I subsequently found out that is to do with stock control but surely, a few more cards can be issued and a record kept of them. But perhaps this is just too customer friendly for Multichoice.

Clean and Green

Written By: The Lowdown - Apr• 30•13

2013 04 small coverWith Green Expo Zambia being held from 5 to 7 April at the Lusaka National Museum, we thought we would look at some clean and green alternatives to the many chemical-laden manufactured household cleaners.  We scoured the web and not only are these made from natural products, but they will also help to keep the household budget in shape.


Using Leftover Vegetable and Fruit Scraps

A Greasy Mess – Sprinkle the affected area with salt or bicarbonate of soda and rub with juiced lemon halves. (Not to be used on sensitive surfaces such as marble.)

Shine your glass coffee pot – Add ice, salt and lemon rinds to an empty coffee pot; swirl around for a minute or two, dump and rinse well.

Clean your tea pot – fill the pot with water and a handful of lemon peels and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit for an hour, drain and rinse well.

Make zest – If you’ve juiced lemons, oranges or grapefruit, grate the outer layer and freeze, store in an air tight container and freeze.

Make potato crisps – Mix potato peels with enough lemon juice and olive oil to evenly coat. Spread the potato peels in a layer on a baking sheet and cook at 180º, stirring once, until golden brown (about 10 minutes). Season to taste.

Keep brown sugar soft – Add some lemon peel (with traces of pulp and pith removed) to keep brown sugar moist and pliable.

Make a banana sugar scrub – Sprinkle sugar on the flesh side of banana peels and use as a soft, exfoliating loofa. Rub gently all over your body and then rinse in the shower.

Moisturise – Rub the fleshy part of an avocado peel on your face for a rich moisturiser.

Relieve your tired eyes – Potato peels can reduce puffiness around eyes; press the moist side of the fresh peels to the skin for 15 minutes.


Go Au Naturel

Vinegar – Dilute one part water to one part vinegar and use to clean almost anything in your house. Keep vinegar away from marble, and be sure to dilute properly or it could eat away at tile grout. Use straight up in empty toilet bowls to tackle that annoying water ring. Add mint leaves or fragrant natural essences to the bottle to freshen up the smell.

Lemon juice – Use undiluted to get rid of hard water deposits and soap scum and polish brass and copper. Mix half a cup of lemon juice with a cup of olive oil to create a hardwood polish.

Lemon juice also deodorizes, cleans glass, and helps to remove stains.

Bicarbonate of Soda – Does a great job at deodorizing the fridge, your sneakers, the hamper and your wardrobe. Less well known is that it can be made into a paste by mixing with water and then used to remove stains on countertops, stainless steel, fridges and cutting boards by letting it sit awhile and then wiping ot away. A thicker paste will work well as an oven cleaner. Let it sit overnight and then wipe away and follow with a damp cloth.

Borax is traditionally used as a laundry booster; it softens the water and helps make clothing cleaner and brighter. But it can also be used to deodorise, repel bugs, disinfect and clean. In an empty spray bottle, mix a teaspoon of borax with two tablespoons of vinegar and some hot water. Add a few drops of dish detergent, essential oil of your choice, fill up the rest of the bottle with water and use as a multi-purpose spray.

Windows and mirrors – Use a mix of lemon juice and water to clean glass areas. You can use vinegar or club soda instead of lemon juice.

All-purpose cleaner – Use vinegar and water for disinfecting and deodorizing.

Ink stains in carpet – Mix cornstarch with milk to form a paste that will soak up ink stains.

Grease on counters – Use cornstarch to sop up grease on the kitchen    counter.

Drain Cleaner – Pour 1 cup of Bicarbonate of Soda then 1 cup vinegar down drain. Let sit for 10 minutes and flush with boiling water followed by warm tap water until drain clears.

Air Freshener – Mix 2 cups hot water and 2 tablespoons Bicarbonate of Soda with a few drops of essential oil in a spray bottle.

Carpet Cleaner/Deodoriser – Sprinkle carpet with Bicarbonate of Soda. Let it sit for half an hour and vacuum.

Fabric Softener – Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle


Luscious Lemon

Use a half lemon and salt to clean even the most heavily discoloured brass or copper. Always test a small spot before scrubbing away.

Shine up your chrome taps or the chrome on older model cars with lemon and salt.

Diluted lemon juice not only cleans stains from cutting boards, but helps kill germs as well. Rub the juice full strength onto the stain and let sit until the stain fades. Can be left overnight, then rinsed well and dried.

Use lemon juice and an old toothbrush to scrub grout.

Clean your microwave and remove odours. Place a cup 3/4 full of water with a couple tablespoons of lemon juice in the microwave. Heat to boiling. Don’t open the door for another 10 minutes. Then just wipe away food particles with a clean cloth and dry.

Put a dilute solution of lemon juice in a spray bottle to clean laminate counter tops. Rinse with water and dry afterward.

Scrub grills and grates with lemon juice and salt.

Soak plastic food storage containers in dilute lemon juice to remove stains and odours. Add Bicarbonate of Soda and scrub, rinse and dry.

Remove rust stains from cotton and polyesters. Make a paste with lemon juice and cream of tartar and rub the mixture into the stain. Let the item sit for about a half hour, and then wash as normal (test before use).

Brighten your clothing by soaking clothes in a hot water and lemon juice mix (about a half cup per five litres of water) and then wash as normal. Works best if laundry is then dried in the sun. Lemon juice should not be used on silks or other delicate fabrics.

Remove odours from your refrigerator with a half lemon on a saucer. Change once a week.

Clean food preparation smells from your hands with a dilute solution of water and lemon juice. 

Remove grease stains from clothing. Rub lemon juice into the spot and let sit overnight and then wash as normal.

Clean windows and mirrors. Put a few tablespoons of lemon juice and water into a spray bottle. Works as well as a vinegar solution and smells better.

Keep your toilet bowl fresh. Place a half cup of lemon juice in the bowl and swish with a toilet bowl brush.

Sanitize earrings by placing them in a saucer of lemon juice.

Clean hard water stains on glass shower doors with half a lemon.


Salt of the Earth

To clean enamel cookware, a paste of equal parts salt and vinegar will do an excellent job.

For those burnt bits on the bottom of pans, apply a sprinkling of salt as soon as you’re finished cooking. This will lift them

Extra-greasy pans, add a bit of salt and then use a piece of paper to buff. Follow with a normal wash.

Clean oven spills with a mixture of mostly salt and a dash of cinnamon. Keep this mixture on hand so that you can cover spills (both inside and stove top) as soon as they happen. The salt will absorb the liquid and both salt and cinnamon will fight any odours. Wait to cool completely before wiping away with water.

To clean your automatic coffee maker’s coffee pot, add a few tablespoons of salt to the water and bring the whole thing to a boil.

To remove stubborn coffee stains from cups, use a sponge to rub them with a paste made from salt and vinegar. Rinse with water.

To shine most metals (steel, silver, gold, pewter), make a paste from equal parts salt, flour and vinegar. Use a cloth to rub it on, let it sit for an hour, then rinse with water and wipe dry.

To remove rust from metal, make a paste from salt, cream of tartar and water. Apply the paste and then let the item sit in the sun to dry. Buff clean.

Keep your sponges fresher, longer, by soaking them in a saltwater solution after cleaning with them.

Clean out your refrigerator with a simple mixture of salt and soda water. It works, and there’s no strange smells to infiltrate your food.

Buff and brighten your cutting boards once in a while after using them. Just rub with a damp washcloth dipped in salt.

To deal with water cup rings or other marks on the surface of your wooden furniture, make a paste of vegetable oil and salt. Use a rag to rub it in, then use a clean rag to wipe it off.

To treat mildew stains on cloth, make a paste of equal parts salt and lemon juice. Apply this to the stain and hang in the sun to dry. Follow with normal laundering.

Freshen and whiten your faded or yellowed linens by boiling them in a salt and baking soda solution. In a washing tub or large pot, add 5 tablespoons of salt and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Boil for 15 to 30 minutes, then remove and rinse in cold water.

Remove soap scum from bathroom tile by scrubbing with a solution of 1 part salt in 4 parts vinegar. Wipe clean with a damp cloth.


In The Garden

Written By: The Lowdown - Apr• 30•13

logo In The Garden 2Enjoy April. The lush greenery we have seen in the rains will soon fade and we will rely on our hosepipes and boreholes again, our booster pumps and storage tanks. Winter has its own charm and of course it is the season for bedding plants, for peas and beans, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce and tomatoes. It is worth growing your own organic vegetables because of the taste – nothing like it.


Take a look around your garden and check what has become overgrown in the rains. Large shrubs may be hiding smaller plants under the new growth. You can either prune branches out of the shrub or move the small plants. Other plants will need to be lifted and divided before re-planting in rich new compost. Dig compost into every bed in the vegetable garden and add dry manure and/or comfrey leaves. Rake the earth well removing any stones or old roots, then sow those carrots, beetroot, leeks and radish. Other seeds can go into a seedbed and be transplanted when there are several new leaves, in order to space them properly. Carrot seeds are very fine and when they germinate you will need to thin them out. Don’t hesitate to remove perfectly good tiny seedlings in order to give the others room to grow. They should be at least 5 cm apart. Don’t forget crop rotation, a basic principle of good gardening: do not plant the same crop as last year in the same place. It’s really important to safeguard against nematodes and diseases and to make use of the nitrogen-fixing properties of peas and beans by following them with broccoli or cauliflower or cabbage.


Try a new crop. Strawberries are easy to grow. Buy new plants and plant in well dug compost-enriched soil. Cover the soil with mulch and encircle each plant with a ring of straw – long dried grass that will hold the berries off the soil. The main problem is slugs that emerge at night and feast on your berries before you get a chance to enjoy them. Lots of crunched eggshells round each plant help to deter them.


Try new flowers as well. If you like petunias, change to a different colour. But think of snapdragons (antirrhinums), delphiniums (that gorgeous blue!), pansies, lots of lobelia, delicate scabious and nasturtiums. Plant gladioli if you find the corms. They are a wonderful sight. I wish the seed suppliers would give us more variety but you can buy seeds on the internet. Try Thompson and Morgan in UK for lots of information even if you don’t order seeds. There is even a video on How To Plant Strawberries.


This is a good time to check all your tools and equipment. Look at the blades on the lawnmower in case they need to be sharpened or replaced. Change the filters on a petrol mower. Secateurs do not last for ever so replace them if they are blunt or worn out. Hosepipes, sprinklers and connectors need to be in good order for the dry season.


Your challenge for the dry season: make a fabulous hanging basket planted with colourful flowers.

Fool on the Hill

Written By: The Lowdown - Apr• 30•13

FOTHIn an attempt to be glib, when asked if I went to boarding school as a child I would always reply “No, my parents loved me”. Inverted snobbery played a part in this answer but mostly it was a defence mechanism because although I started my school life, in Hong Kong as the son of a father wealthy enough to send me to a good private day school and a mother who did not believe in boarding schools, by the time I was 11, we were broke and separated. We traded in the apartment in Pokfulam and the “his” and “hers” sports cars for a rented flat above a travel agents in Croydon and a free, comprehensive school that was all we could afford; and we got the education we paid for. Luckily we moved before I lost all grip on academics and I was fortunate enough to end up at a state grammar school that was morphing into a Sixth Form college and had high academic and sporting standards, old fashioned discipline and masters who still wore gowns and worked hard to send the kids onwards with good educations.


Some years later and I am blessed to live in Zambia and be raising three small boys, and have hopefully learned enough from the mistakes of my parents to want more for our kids than they could manage for my sister and me. I have a wife who won’t let me buy us sports cars, which is a good start. Much as we would love to keep our boys close by until they are ready to take on the world we recognise our shortcomings as disciplinarians, sporting mentors and role models, and the limitations for teenagers who are not focused on riding, motocross, soccer or swimming which seem to be the only wholesome pursuits with enough organised activities to distract them from behaving like young adults when they hit adolescence in Lusaka. There are plenty of good schools here and the results at graduation from the school they are at reflect the high standards that can be achieved. But all kids are different and whereas two of our three would probably do fine at our chosen school here, all three will certainly do better with more structure and encouragement (read compulsory attendance) in team sports, drama and music, and outreach programmes.


This is a terrible confession of failure I suppose, to say that a bunch of paid strangers can give my kids a better childhood than I can. However to fill their lives with as many levels of skilled tuition in as many wonderfully diverse opportunities as you can buy at a good boarding school I would have to become something of a super-hero and be accomplished enough at half a dozen sports to coach them and committed enough to involve myself and to drive my kids to achieve in junior cricket, rugby, soccer, tennis and swimming leagues … just for starters. Then I would have to teach myself to read music and master piano, strings, percussion and woodwind instruments and tutor them in these as well as voice and drama. Obviously I would need to up my game considerably in the academic stakes to provide back-up in ten or more subjects so that I could plug any gaps in the knowledge they’ll be provided at school. Finally I would also fill what is left of their weekends after sports fixtures, with camping trips, mountain biking excursions, surfing, archery, debating, scuba diving and community support projects. All this in addition to the better than average, but less than a bargain, education they are already receiving. I know, unlike most of you, I am not up to the job and so we are considering seriously boarding school for the senior years.


Financially this is an horrific commitment that, for the next 18 years, will maintain a steady haemorrhage on our finances. But what better inheritance can you bestow on your children than the finest education that money and circumstances allow? A fat bank account, a property portfolio and a couple of sports cars ……… my kids would argue.

We are, by virtue of where we live, destined to pay for private education and the fact is that South Africa offers some of the highest standards in schools with academic records and facilities equal to or better than, and as steeped in tradition as, any of the flagship British or American schools that have long been the benchmark of educational excellence. And they are less than half the price and a mere two hour plane ride away. Even if you add in the boarding fees and all the travel costs, the most prestigious and expensive of these is only some 60% more than what we would be paying in Lusaka for secondary education as a day scholar. Offset the local transport, drive time, homework time, and the endless train of Shoprite trolleys required to keep the buggers fed and watered (which will become largely the responsibility of the school) and you’ll spend only about 25% more than you would if they were at day school in Lusaka.


As you might have guessed there is a fair amount of self-indoctrination going on here as the bottom line is, I would rather keep my kids beside me. But they are gagging to go; somehow and why-for I know not, believing that boarding school is one big, extended slumber party. Having just returned from a five day, whirlwind tour of South African preparatory and high schools I have to say that I am delighted that they are keen, though it will be me putting on a brave face every time they head off to school. But, it will be worth it to have returned to us at each term’s end, young men who look adults in the eye, shake their hands firmly and call them “Sir” or “Ma’am”. Who play team sports to win as gentlemen regardless, whether they are in the A or the D side, and have learned the important life lessons of competitive teamsmanship. Boys who may not be natural academics but who will have been pushed to learn through the most appropriate (visual, auditory or kinaesthetic) teaching to be the best that they can be, rather than encouraged to rejoice in the easy and more comfortable territory of adequacy. Boys who will hopefully appreciate their good fortune in returning home to a wonderful country and a charmed life each holiday, endowed with the privilege of a fine, structured and well-rounded education and all the opportunities this will afford them. Even if this means that they don’t get to slob around on the sofa watching Disney DX channel every day and they are collected from the airport in a 1998 pick-up truck and not a Porsche 911.


The Bowels of the Earth

Written By: The Lowdown - Apr• 30•13

logo MITHEmerging from time to time from the murk of the pollution and the fumes from the Smelter could be seen the headframes of the two shafts that have served the old Nkana orebody for almost 90 years. Central Shaft and B Shaft are old and show it. The cages in Central Shaft are small, triple deckers, each, not much bigger than a telephone box, that, combined, can take a total of 60 men, crammed in like sardines to go down below. The upper levels of the mine have long been worked out but now a revival of sorts is being experimented with, to leach the remaining bits and pieces of pillars etc and pump the resultant copper rich liquor up to the surface for treatment. But no, the bulk of the work is much further down and that is where the cage takes us, clanging and clattering down the shaft steel guides to the 2120 level. Emerging from the cage you are faced by a long dusty tunnel, the floor concreted, tracks embedded in them for the little train that transports materials to the sub vertical shaft a kilometre away that will take us further down underground. Air pushes past us on its way to ventilate and attempt to cool the workings further down. A whiff of smelter fumes is evidence that the wind on the surface is coming straight from there. Flourescent tubes provide the lighting of this large tunnel but because of the dust and the infrequent lights all is a trifle gloomy. The noise of a train, unseen, grows into a loud racket, it is a train carrying ore from the sub vertical shaft head bin to the main shaft tips, roaring along in a parallel tunnel. One of my tasks is to inspect those tracks and instigate repairs there but not today.


I am destined for deeper things. Other smells intrude. The smell of the dust, of the broken rock and of the explosives that broke them is all there. The mens’ overalls emit a damp laundry, cum change house smell. The unmistakable odour emanating from the mobile Gester (the latrine, a large wheeled tank, a ladder up the side, four holes, screened off from one another, fed by compressed air and water, all designed to reduce the fecal waste into neutral matter that can then be discharged into the drain. When the tank eventually fills up, much like a domestic septic tank on surface, it can be towed away, hoisted to surface and cleaned out, ready for further service) mixes with the definitive odour of the men (I am told that Muzungus smell like pigs), often quite overpowering if they have had Chibuku or Nshima for breakfast. Men coming the other way after night shift, one or two clean, bright eyed and cheerful like the sick bay attendant who has not had his sleep disturbed at all, thank goodness; the rest, tired, dirty, and often soaked from their own sweat, but chattering away for they are bound for the sunshine.


The sub vertical shaft takes us down again to the working levels. Most of us are disgorged on the 3360 level. From there is a haulage which stretches away to the south off which spurs turn to the west to reach the orebody. The haulage eventually arrives at the South Orebody Shaft 4 kilometres away. The tracks must be repaired all the way there as well as in the spurs extending west. The orebody here is complicated; in cross section it writhes like a tortured snake that has come up against a barrier. It all plunges down to the north so that the crosscuts to the west pass underneath some of the folds, go through others and serve as top entrances elsewhere. Further down is my destination, the 3760 level. To get there one must use the ramp. This starts close to the shaft station and goes down at an angle of over 10 degrees. It winds its way down, giving entrance to the 3560 level before plunging further down, in all a walk of close to a mile. If one does not do it on a regular basis the walk down alone is enough to make all sorts of muscles twinge. The thought of doing a day’s work with the climb back up again after is enough to dishearten the keenest soul. Worse to come are the conditions on the level. It is very hot, very humid and wet. The footwall of the haulage is covered in sludge, the tracks are buried in places, the sleepers supporting them are rotten and all needs to be turned into a clean dry haulage with good track. Dream on!  For a start to do this the drains along the side must be rid of the mud within them, the ground being lashed into cars that can then be tipped into the pass that feeds the conveyor belt that will take the ground up to the sub vertical shaft loading box. A fight ensues with the shift boss who wants the cars to produce ore from the boxes fed from blasted ground in the stopes above. It is not until the train derails that he relents, needing our help to put the train back on the tracks and effect a temporary repair there. A search is made for the source of the water; possibly it can be piped from there, leaving the haulage drier so that dried mud can be cleaned out rather than sloppy sludge. It emanates from a crosscut, going into it one is hit by the intense increase of temperature, it is over 50 degrees centigrade, there is no ventilation and the humidity is awful. At the end is a borehole with hot water coming out of it. A low barricade is made at the entrance, pipes are found and the water diverted into them so that work may be improved.


By now, after four hours down on this level, you are soaked to the skin and feeling quite lethargic. The contractor who you are supervising is told to get on with it and you address yourself to the climb back up the ramp. The particulars of the climb are etched into my memory. The water rushing down one side is captured imperfectly just above the 3760 level and diverted to a sump from which submersible pumps send the water up in a series of little pump stations to the main pump station on the 3400. This in turn pumps the water up to another one on the 2200 level. If anything has a hiccup the first place to get flooded is the 3760, not an unusual event. The trudge up commences, an uneven incline so that your footsteps cannot be regular. Your soaking overalls chafe the inside of your thighs, your breath is labored, your feet hurt, then the first bend comes into sight but then, round it comes a snorting monster of a front end loader, an ancient, battered Wagner ST2 B, being used as a glorified wheelbarrow. You curse as you have to retreat those few hard earned steps back to a cubby in the sidewall to let the loader pass you. As it does so a wave of noise and heat assails you. The air is consumed by the loader and replaced by a wave of exhaust fumes that leaves you giddy for a bit. You wish that you could turn the loader round, climb into the bucket and get taken up the ramp, but that is a firing offence! So you then recommence your climb, first round to the right and then back round to the left until you reach the small flat piece at the entrance to the 3560. You stop to allow your heart to stop pounding and your breath to normalize. You then continue up a long endless incline, all the muscles in your legs complaining, you, cursing yourself for having such a God awful way of earning a living, knowing that you will have to visit this particular work place again this week, and, once again glancing up the ramp, seeing no end to it, looking down again at your poor aching feet as they slowly plod their way on up. Worse is to follow. The incline of the ramp sharply increases for a further 300 metres. It is gut wrenching, heart breaking, leg muscle screaming pain and this is just travelling to and from your place of work. The top of the ramp arrives; you stagger on to the station. A water tap is there and you drink the tepid stuff as if it were an elixir from heaven. You slump down onto an empty oil drum (on its way to surface where it will be nicked, opened up and flattened to repair the roof of someone’s house) and slowly recover your composure. Round the corner, at the tips, a whistle goes and shortly thereafter a blast shakes the whole area. Secondary blasting of big rocks is being carried out on the grizzly bars set there to prevent oversize rock jamming up the loading box. This blasting should have been carried out on grizzly bars set above the stope boxes in the section but the chaps have found that by removing the bars they can get the rocks into the cars quicker, thereby achieving their tally but just passing the problem on. The answer to the problem actually lies in the correct charging of the fans of holes that break the in situ ground in the stopes in the first place but the level of supervision at this rather lowly but essential task is poor to nonexistent. You cannot really blame the supervisor, the working conditions are such that no one would want to spend any more than the minimum amount of time in the sections.


After an hour on the station the little auxiliary cage, known as a Mary Ann, comes down to pick me up. The main cage is on hoist examination whereby the winding engine and its controls are checked every week. Six men can get into the little Mary Ann, twelve try; most of whom have no right to be leaving the working area early. The return to surface is slow and labored, the Mary Ann creeps up slowly to the 2120 level; the walk to the main shaft is slow and labored; the main shaft is also on examination so B shaft is used. The queue to get on the cage is long but after another 30 minutes you are given a place and up to surface, glorious surface, you go. A shower and then you must attend a progress meeting on the rehabilitation works on the 3760. In it some silly, jumped up, official has the temerity to say that, despite all the assistance rendered by the mine, the contractor is not attaining the targets set. You suggest that the multifarious problems that beset the contractor had best be examined on site rather than in an air conditioned office on surface. The suggestion is met with disapproval and you are requested to intensify your efforts to achieve target. The thought of actually facing reality would be far too much for these poor chaps! Such is modern day mining. The meeting drags on until 5 pm. All you want to do is go home, get a beer and go to bed, for in the morning yet another visit to yet another awful place, in the bowels of the earth, is scheduled.

Mufulira Mystique

Written By: The Lowdown - Apr• 30•13

2013 04 small coverThe mention of Mufulira Dam usually meets with an empty gaze. ‘Oh, that’s that place out . . . near, um . . . Mufulira?’ is the general comment usually accompanied by an indecisive wave of a hand suggestive of it being ‘over there somewhere’. A popular weekend recreational choice back in the 70’s and 80’s for those who lived on the Copperbelt, in the last few years however, it has met with decline and no longer visited.


Now under the watchful gaze of Mopani Mine’s John Munro, the dam is slowly springing to life again. It was so uncared for that the grass had been allowed to grow past shoulder height and it was barely possible to see the jetty when he first took it over. No one but local fishermen made use of it at all and the dam itself was a favourite place for border jumpers from Congo to try and cross.


We spent the Independence holiday there last year, even going as far as to spend two nights camped out in the grounds of the Boat Club. Admittedly, we were the only ones there, but there are active plans underway to resurrect the camping grounds and ablution block. For someone who has known far, far worse than what this club house has to offer in terms of toilets and showers, I was actually very impressed. The toilets were clean and supplied with toilet paper and the showers had both hot and cold water. What else do you need?


Interest in the dam has already begun in the Mufulira community. A number of companies and private individuals keep launches on the dam and some people just come with their boats for the day. We took a sail board and were surprised at how strong the wind was out on the dam. It was great fun going out, although one did have a slight feeling of trepidation that getting back may not be so easy! Many people say that there are no rivers or dams in Africa without crocodiles, so perhaps wind surfing wasn’t quite the right water sport to indulge in. However, I also think it’s a good idea to ask the locals, and none of them had seen a croc there in years.


The dam was once a popular power boat racing spot and a lookout tower on a thin peninsula near the jetty confirms this. Unfortunately the rooms in the tower are in a state of disrepair, but part of the resurrection plan is to have them painted and the glass replaced in the windows. The tower itself is being converted into a small one bedroomed chalet with a view to die for. It is also hoped that all forms of watercraft will be encouraged to return once all renovations have been made and the dam can be publicised more widely.


John has raised sponsorship through a local businessman and work will soon be starting on a large, open-sided lapa set amongst the Acacia trees on a peninsula near the jetties. The lapa with its tranquil setting, will provide an additional facility for private functions should they be so desired. Plans are afoot to lawn spacious areas underneath shady fig trees along the same peninsula for picnic spots. The braai shelters have already been revamped and are available for immediate use.


In the past the dam was also well-known for its motocross trail, one that is now sadly overgrown and dilapidated. Although not currently high on the list of priorities, there is a possibility that this may one day be useable once again. Everything depends on demand and how widely used the course might be.


A few years ago a Mufulira resident began building chalets near the dam in the hope that this might also encourage people to come out for the weekend. Plans have since gone ahead to complete these as well as refurbish two other old cottages so shortly there will be 3 or 4 self contained chalets for rental. John Munro also hopes to introduce wildlife into the area, as long as he can put measures in place to prevent poaching. In February 2013 John arranged the release of 100,000 fingerlings into the dam to help regenerate the fish population which had sadly been depleted through illegal and frequent use of nets. He and his team of workers have already removed and destroyed over 300 metres of illegal fish nets. Illegal fishermen have been sensitised to the situation and prosecutions will follow if their activities continue.


Renovations also continue in the main club house, which is rather weathered and dated. It is the type of place you imagine to be full of ghosts, nightly re-enacting their former pursuits and conversations. There are photos in a crumbling frame of parties held at least twenty five years ago and various trophies and shields won in long ago tournaments. Work has started on the kitchen which was in a particular state of disrepair. There are hopes that a rejuvenated kitchen will be able to serve bar food in the future and that this will be one of the main draws to the dam. Braai packs are already on sale from the barman. In Mufulira, one is not exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to places to eat out so it will also provide the vital ‘thing to do’ at the weekends.


The bar area is actually quite cosy; it’s very English pub-like in its decor and is even now able to offer a reasonably wide selection of drinks (I wouldn’t ask for their cocktail menu, however!) The swimming pool is in a sad state of disrepair and sponsors to rebuild it are currently being sought so watch this space. A small playground has been introduced for the children and this too is becoming a draw card feature for Mufulirans and their families.


Various benches and chairs placed between the club house and the water make watching the sun set possible – and an enjoyable experience as it invariably is in Africa. There is little more pleasurable than watching a day slowly draw to its end; people making their way slowly home and hearing the water softly lapping at the jetty. The best thing is that it is still possible to do, so make the most of it and go to Mufulira.


Down In The Drink! (Part 1)

Written By: The Lowdown - Apr• 30•13

2013 04 small coverI was very unhappy about the radios in my Cessna Super Skywagon 185. All efforts to get the local radio engineer to put them in workable order were wanting, he certified them as perfect, but once I got airborne, they always failed, when I had to return to base soon after take-off. Furthermore after my bad experience with the insurance for my 180 taildragger, which another pilot carelessly rammed, and I was paid out only a small percentage of the aircraft value, I decided to insure my Cessna 185 for full hull liability with Lloyd’s of London.


I had to return to Britain, to attend the execution of my late father’s will, and there was also the possibility of a contract to fly an ecological survey for a sub-Saharan Africa state which had been promised me by an ecologist friend. I decided to fly the taildragger back to Britain, attend to business, fix the damn radios and tout around Lloyd’s of London for the best insurance rate. This decided, very little would stop me!


I left Lusaka in April, as I passed over the riverine country of the Bangweulu which I knew so well, I noted the amazing amount of water which inundated the system from the mountains of the north. I landed at Kasama, filling with fuel, and using the few remaining Kwacha in my purse, from now on expenses would have to be negotiated in hard currency!


My course took me over the mountains around the north of Lake Nyasa (Malawi) and I enjoyed the fantastic view from eleven thousand feet as I passed over one of the largest of the Rift Valley lakes. The high LivingstoneMountains beyond, commanded my attention as I wound my way between their imposing peaks. Now the flat country began, and I crossed and re-crossed the Rufijji and RuahaRivers, recollecting their geography from previous safaris on the ground.


Approaching Dar-es-Salaam, I called air traffic control again and again on my reluctant radio, then, as I approached the airport to make a visual circuit, and join the traffic pattern, I was horrified to see a light jet heading towards me, I turned out of the aircraft’s path and overhead Dar-es-Salaam called the airport again. This time I got an answer, and I joined the circuit and soon was clearing customs and immigration. I called an engineering company and arranged for the radios to be examined and overhauled before I progressed any further. This, as I surmised, was a time wasting negative exercise.


Money was a big problem in Tanzania, although one of the best known British banks, had given me a fine credit line, I could hardly raise enough money to pay the fuel bills I required, my hotel account had to be settled out of my emergency dollar billfold stuck in my sock. As I walked from the new airport terminal where I had paid my fees to the old terminal where my 185 was parked, an enterprising teen-age thug attempted to mug me. He had obviously not made allowance for my bad temper at the Tanzanian economy, because I quickly kicked him in his private parts, and as he sat down howling with surprise, I caught him two shrewd blows to the head with my heavy, leather brief case. Then I walked on to the terminal, so mollified by my quick victory, I forgot to report the mugger to the police.


My flight to Nairobi took me to the east of Mount Kilimanjaro, at 19,300 ft. the highest mountain in Africa, where, a few months before, I had played ‘Scotland The Brave’ – my Regimental ‘Quick March’ on my bagpipes, but the weather was overcast, so I never saw the top of the mountain, as I weaved a path between the storm clouds along the way. Arriving at Nairobi, again I experienced radio problems, so I held my correct altitude until near WilsonAirport where I managed to make a tenuous contact.


Just in time I heard Wilson announce that the main runway, zero-seven was closed for maintenance, I joined the pattern for runway one-four, which takes one over the military hospital, with a short final brushing the roofs of the cars and trucks driving on the Langata road. As I passed over the hospital, I felt the drift correction required to hold the centreline, and called the tower:


“Wilson this is Nine Juliet Mike Charlie Kilo, finals, this may be a touch-and-go, as I feel the aircraft is near maximum crosswind capability.”


I noticed that at my approach speed of 90 knots my crab angle varied between 12-16 degrees, which meant that the crosswind component was over twenty knots, very near the maximum for the Cessna 185. The tower confirmed this with the reply:


“Nine Juliet Charlie Kilo, cleared to land, wind zero six zero at twenty knots gusting twenty-five”


I held my sideslip approach with some power on, and flattened my attitude for the wheel landing aligned straight up the centreline of the runway, which would be a safer option than a three-pointer. The main wheels kissed on, and I was soon holding full right rudder. The tail slowly dropped, there was a sudden swerve to the left, which neither differential braking nor the rudder, already flat against the stops, could control, it was time to fly again, and I firewalled the throttle and pushed on the control column to get the tail up and functioning again.


“Wilson, this is Nine Juliet Charlie Kilo, – overshooting – too much crosswind, I’ll try it once more.”


Wilson cleared me for another approach fortunately, with the main runway closed, and strong crosswinds, there was no student traffic, though I could guess the East African Aero Club’s windows were filled with interested spectators.


As I came over the hospital again, the indications were much the same, all I could hope for was a temporary lull in the wind, I touched down briefly before the aircraft started to weathercock into the wind. Now discretion was the better part of valour, and no doubt disappointing the watchers safe on the ground, I powered out of the swing and set course for Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which was unhappy to receive me, they were evidently of the opinion that small six-seat aircraft made their apron look untidy, and they questioned me closely as to why I did not land at Wilson, It would be too difficult to explain to a non-pilot the exigencies of taildragger aircraft, so I just contented myself with explaining that Wilson’s main runway was closed.


The next day, with only fifteen knots crosswind I had no trouble in bringing the Cessna smoothly down on runway one-four, and as I taxied backtracking, I was concerned to note not one, but two Cessna 185’s with recently broken wings and propellers pushed to a corner of the Cessna Dealer’s apron, obviously this time I had made the right decision!


For the taildragger neophyte, I will explain the rule that states for every sixty knots of forward speed, a crab angle of one degree indicates a crosswind component of one knot, simple mathematics will give the component for your own aircraft approach speed.


To be continued …

South Africa – The New Coloniser

Written By: The Lowdown - Apr• 30•13

2013 04 small coverI grew up in post-Independence Zimbabwe, a time when Mugabe was following his quasi-Marxist ideals.  Luxury goods were hard to come by and anything imported was viewed with a mixture of suspicion and awe.  I remember my mother buying tins of fish from Mozambicans who had stolen across the border near Mutare, keen to sell off the food aid from West Germany they had recently received.  Under pain of death, we were sworn to secrecy: no one was to be told where the fish had come from and yet just by having it in the pantry it would have created suspicion.   It was to be another twenty years at least before tinned fish such as tuna could be found for sale in Zimbabwean shops.


South Africa’s apartheid state was an enemy of Zimbabwe and very little could be imported from it.  Those who did venture there usually returned with stashes of niceties: dried fruit, Marmite and decent chocolate.  In turn, the Zimbabwean economy expanded and the country produced its own goods.  With that grew a certain pride in ourselves: we were the bread basket of Southern Africa and all we produced was our own.


Fast forward to 2006.  The Zimbabwean economy is in ruins and the shops are empty.  Unless you want pool cleaner or toilet paper, which for some reason there is always plenty, there is nothing to eat.  Strict price controls mean that companies cannot afford to operate in the current climate of hyper-inflation and, unless they can feed an export market, they are forced to close.  Fast forward once more, this time to the present.  The shelves are full again, mostly due to the use of the US Dollar as the main currency.  This time, however, it’s local goods which are hard to get.  Everyone’s buying South African products, not just chocolate and tuna fish, but basics such as milk and even fruit and vegetables.  Zimbabwean made goods are often more expensive than their imported counterparts as local industry struggles to get back on its feet.  Their packaging is often inferior to that of the South Africans, giving the impression that the product itself is not up to scratch.


Street vendors of fruit and vegetables are really feeling the pinch.  When there was nothing in the shops, they did well out of people who bought their wares.  The threat of cholera and the availability of superior quality produce in supermarkets, mean many of these people have now lost their livelihoods.  Zimbabweans have become snobs as well.  They’d rather delight in being able to buy South African cheese than support their own producers.  This may in part be due to the novelty of choice after doing without for so long.  Unfortunately, they have also lost that old pride in themselves, in what was good about the country, which is now viewed only with suspicion.


However, the prevalence of South African goods in shops is not confined to Zimbabwe.  A little further north, in Zambia, South African shops, not just products, are the order of the day.  Whether it’s clothing, food or spare parts for cars, no one wants it locally made.  Shopping centres are springing up all over Southern Africa, offering all the big name South African stores.  The irony is that it creates a sense of pride in the local to have these shops on offer.  They have somehow made it because a little slice of South Africa is available down the road.  It’s just like Eastgate or Rosebank they’ll tell you, eyes shining with delight.  Cynics like myself can only hope the big superstores never make it to Zimbabwe.  A couple have tried, but failed.  And just as I used to long for Smarties and Mars bars as a child, I now look forward to my next visit and the sweet taste of cheap chocolate.

Dr Livingstone, I presume?

Written By: The Lowdown - Apr• 30•13

2013 04 small cover“Dr Livingstone, I presume?” were the famous words uttered by Henry Morton Stanley when he found David Livingstone at Ujiji, Tanzania on 28 October 1871.

“Dr Livingstone, I presume?”  is also the title of a song, written in 1968 by the English rock band, The Moody Blues.

Dr. Livingstone, I presume,
Stepping out of the jungle gloom,
Into the midday sun.

What did you find there,
Did you stand a while and stare,
Did you meet anyone?

I’ve seen butterflies galore,
I’ve seen people big and small,
I’ve still not found what I’m looking for.


Stanley’s 19th Century search for Livingstone and indeed Livingstone’s own books and the talks that he gave about his travels in Africa gripped the imagination of Victorian Britain and he was met with approbation and adulation wherever he went. Yet here we are, 200 years after his birth on 19 March 1813 and 140 years after his death on 1 May 1873, and people all around the world are still inspired by his story. Some have even called him ‘Africa’s first freedom fighter’ in recognition of his efforts to stop the slave trade. And, of course, let us not forget that he was also Zambia’s first tourist, visting and naming the Victoria Falls in November 1855.


Events taking place in Livingstone (Zambia) during 2013 to celebrate the Bicentenary of his birth are many with a Inter-business Football Competition on 13 April and an Academic conference entitled  Imperial Obsessions David Livingstone, Africa and world history: a life and legacy reconsidered from 19 to 21 April. Speakers at this conference come from Universities and Museums all round the world including Scotland, Malawi and, of course, Zambia, the countries where he spent much of his time and where he was born and died.


1 May, a public holiday (Labour Day) will also be Livingstone Memorial Day and 4 May will see the hosting of the David Livingstone Bicentenary Golf Tournament. For further information on these events, email  For information on events later in the year (and there are many) check future editions of The Lowdown for the final details. These events include motocross, a regatta and a music festival.


We will also be bringing you a little bit more about the man, his travels and his discoveries.

Falls March 2001 004

Finance Bank 002

Northern Western Hotel 005