Through the 1980’s when I was general manager of the Ridgeway Hotel in Lusaka (now Southern Sun Ridgeway Hotel), late President Michael Sata was for some time District Governor of Lusaka, with offices at the civic centre right opposite the Ridgeway on Independence Avenue. He loved the hotel, particularly as I remember, the Jolly Casino! (My then assistant manager, John Phillips, now a highly successful entrepreneur back in UK, can verify!)…
Although I’m not sure if it was true that Mr Sata, as he claimed, could actually see into my office from his office, there were several occasions when he phoned saying “Do some work Chanter I can see you’re loafing”. On one occasion – “the front of your hotel looks nice but I can see into your back yard from my office, get it cleaned up!” We did!
There was one infamous occasion when our late President barged into my office dragging a security guard literally by the ear. “Tell this man who I am!” He shouted, releasing the poor victim from his hold. “Surely you know Mr Sata, the district governor?” I asked the guard. He nodded quietly, clearly thinking better of saying anything. “And tell him I’ll park my car anywhere in Lusaka that I want!” Added the governor. It transpired that Mr Sata had parked right outside the front door of the hotel – the guards had strict instructions to stop anyone parking in this position to avoid traffic congestion. The guard had followed orders and commanded Mr Sata to move his car!” Brave but foolish! “Go away!” He said to the poor man, closing the door as the guard fled. The district governor then sat himself down and continued “now Richard I need a nice suite for the weekend, and a couple of good bottles of white wine!”
One day, in the early 1990’s, after I’d left the Ridgeway and he was now a minister in the Chiluba government, our paths crossed and Mr Sata yelled at me “Hey! We’re going to let established residents like you vote in council elections in future!” It didn’t happen. He was however kind enough to appoint me to the Lusaka Province Liquor Licensing Board when he was Minister of Local Government, which, as I was unemployed and unloved at that time, gave me a considerable morale boost. I was grateful.
I didn’t see him again until just before the 2011 election when he was campaigning in Livingstone and passed through the airport on his way back to the capital. I was waiting to meet incoming guests. “Where are you now?” He asked, recognizing me, and I told him I had a lodge in Livingstone and that he’d be welcome any time. We wished him luck in the upcoming poll.
Unfortunately he never did come to Chanters Lodge, within a few months he was President of Zambia.
May his soul rest in peace.