Late President Sata – Memories!

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.


Just Hats!

When I was general manager of The Ridgeway Hotel in Lusaka (now Southern Sun Ridgeway Hotel) in Lusaka, Zambia, the Head Chef, Samson Chindakwa, came to my office to complain that he did not have enough kitchen staff. 
My reaction was that last time I’d been through the kitchen there seemed to be plenty of cooks, so after making this point to him and hearing his denial, I said “very well, let’s go to the kitchen and see how many cooks there are there now”, he agreed and together we went to the kitchen.

When we reached the place there seemed to be at least fifteen cooks, all in pristine white uniforms with their tall chef’s hats.

 “Look Samson” I said  “there are so many cooks in here already why do you want more?”.

“You see boss” he replied “some of them are just hats!”


1983 And All That…..

I’m grateful to Edem Djokotoe for his memories of the Ridgeway (now Southern Sun Ridgeway Hotel) in Lusaka, of which I was General Manager from March 1979 to May 1992. I have edited parts of the piece – if you’d like to read the whole story go to Soul To Soul on Facebook. The photo? Taken around that time ‘at home’ in Tiverton, Devon with my late mum and second born Jan-Martyn – washing up and not singing!!

“I first saw the man who’d be President in a hotel bar in 1983. The hotel: Ridgeway. The bar: the Copper Horse. He sat alone at a table in a corner, nursing a solitary Mosi in a noisy, smoky bar bustling with animated punters. He stuck out like a sore thumb. Like a man in a place against his will. To be honest, I didn’t notice his discomfiture until Oscar, the fellow who’d invited me to The Copper Horse for a few pints, asked me if I knew who the man was.

I shrugged because I really didn’t. “Should I know him?”
“You should. I’m sure you must have heard of him or read about him. His name is Frederick Chiluba. He’s a trade unionist and a big thorn in Kenneth Kaunda’s side as well as his harshest critic.” I looked at Lonely Man again with a mixture of surprise and disappointment because in all fairness, he seemed too pint sized a David to take on KK’s intimidating Goliath.

“So if he’s such a hotshot, how come he’s sitting by himself?” I asked.

Oscar looked at me like I’d said something really stupid. When he spoke, his tone was hushed: “Edem, that’s because nobody wants to be seen talking to him, even though they know him. You see, Copper Horse is a popular hangout for government spies watching to see who is talking to who. When you are here, you better watch what you say because someone could be listening…”

My friend, Oscar, an Economics student at UNZA, was one for conspiracy theories. He believed that half the students at university were government spies who vanished once their cover was blown, only to surface at another tertiary institution in another town. I knew the regime had a generous sprinkling of agents everywhere, but I found many of Oscar’s theories absurd and far-fetched. However, something about the lonely man drinking a beer in a crowded hotel bar convinced me that this was one yarn that contained a nugget of truth.

But the Ridgeway was more than the hotbed of intrigue and eavesdropping government agents he made it out to be. It was by far the most accessible and most happening hotels in the city. Anything that was anything in Lusaka happened there.

For instance, when boxing was alive and well in Zambia and Lusaka hosted many international bouts, courtesy of the Nigerian promoter Gibson Nwosu, Ridgeway was the closest thing to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Of course, the fights didn’t take place there, but practically all the boxers who came through stayed there. The weigh-ins, the stare downs and all the pre-fight hype took place there—in the Natwange Room.

These are only some of the memories that the old Ridgeway Hotel evokes whenever I drive past or walk into its newer reincarnation. Lusaka diminished in many ways when the old Ridgeway died.

The old Ridgeway owed much of its reputation as the most happening hotel in town to its General Manager: Richard Chanter. Well, that’s what his job description must have been on paper, but I remember on many a New Year’s Eve, he’d be performing with the house band, The Cool Nights, in the Musuku Restaurant. Before the night was over, you could bet he’d be singing Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon and his favourite, the theme from The Greatest American Hero, “Believe It Or Not”.

Many a musical career was launched on the Musuku Restaurant stage and on a vehicle Chanter created called Folk Night. Not exactly Show Time At the Apollo, but it played a big role in helping hopefuls hone their skills performing with a live band in front of a live, discerning audience. It was where Maureen Lilanda, now a doyenne of the local scene, then a high school student at St. Mary’s cut her teeth and learned how to evolve into a cabaret artiste. Back in the day, her older brother, Douglas, one of my closest friends, would mobilize his friends to go sit in front of the stage to cheer her on. Name them, they all graced that stage, backed by the Cool Nights. Percy Phiri…Dozy Musakanya…Lazarus Tembo…Ackim Simukonda…Muriel Mwamba…Simwinji Zeko…

On New Year’s Eve 1983, Richard Chanter unveiled a band that was virtually unknown in Zambia—the Lubumbashi Stars. The guys took the stage just before midnight and brought the house down with its brand of soukous and tightly choreographed dancing. By the time the night was over, they had succeeded in upstaging the versatile house band in a big way.

The Lubumbashi Stars became an instant hit and were a major attraction to the Ridgeway until the band relocated to Botswana where the grass was greener a few years later. They were not the only herd of humans to head south in search of rich grass. By 1990, more university lecturers, college tutors and high school teachers were leaving Zambia to seek their fortunes in Botswana than ever before. Apparently, word had filtered across the Zambezi River that even high school teachers in Botswana could afford to buy Toyota Cressidas from their salaries and booze every day of the week without getting broke.”


Ridgeway Hotel – 60 And Still Going Strong!

Southern Sun Ridgeway Hotel turns 60 years old this year – as one of the longest serving general managers in the hotel’s history I was asked to write a short piece for Lusaka Lowdown. Out of many memories this is what I mustered!

“Well it’s happy 60th birthday to the ‘old lady’ of Lusaka hotels, Southern Sun Ridgeway Hotel, formerly Holiday Inn, formerly Ridgeway Hotel – like many rich old ladies she’s had plenty of face lifts over the years! My time as general manager of the hotel stretched from March 1979 to May 1992. The hotel faced intense competition in 1979 with the opening of the Taj Pamodzi Hotel across the road (initially managed by British Caledonian – remember them?) and The Ridgeway had to re-invent itself to survive the inevitable exodus of Guests to the new project next door. I was appointed just in time for last minute preparations for the famous 1979 Commonwealth Conference, the one that heralded independence for Zimbabwe, and just before the opening of the Pamodzi! Tough times!

We managed to achieve our market share in the face of this competition by concentrating on our Zambian market, providing the best entertainment in the city with a succession of great bands, including the Cool Knights and the Lubumbashi Stars. Zambians love to dance and they flocked to the hotel. In the mid 80’s you had to book well in advance for a seat in Musuku Restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights with top Zambian cabaret stars like Akim Simukonda, Muriel Mwamba and Lazarous Tembo wowing their audiences, while Guests tucked into famous Ridgeway buffets – or, of course, ‘chicken-in-the-basket’.

We were known for hosting great functions and many were memorable – the ‘stand out’ was, perhaps, the Show Society Annual Dinner of 1982 for 250 of Lusaka’s great and good, with KK and Prince Phillip in attendance. In the mid 80’s we also had a regular weekly radio show, a highly successful football team on the verge of a place in the Zambian super league and regular TV shows at Christmas and Easter.

We put crocodiles back in the central area of the hotel when we redeveloped the restaurant on the other side of the pond, renaming it ‘Rancho’ and making it famous for great whole Zambezi Bream as well as for the chicken-in-the-basket and wonderful huge T Bone steaks. The beautiful weaver birds inhabiting the pond formed the logo for the hotel in those days, drawn for our letterheads and stationery by Gabriel Ellison.

Initially I managed the hotel for Hallway Hotels but for most of the period of my management I worked directly for Anglo American the owners. John Phillips and Sharon van Reenen formed the rest of the management team and we were proudly responsible for training many Zambians in catering and hotel management with sponsorships and scholarships to both Kenya and UK.


Folk Night And Papa Zei

Here’s a warm story to touch your hearts on Christmas Eve!

For a long time, a long time ago, I was general manager of what is now ‘Southern Sun Ridgeway Hotel’ in Lusaka. In those 80’s days as plain Ridgeway Hotel we had a fine name for, and a great weekly programme of, entertainment including a ‘Folk Night’ every Tuesday. That was the night we encouraged ‘unknowns’ to perform – often unpaid – for the crowd so they could try and make names for themselves. Many did and plenty of Zambia’s present day famous musicians started with us, including Maureen Lilanda. They were great nights! The audience was unforgiving if they felt an act did not reach the required standard, but equally generous with their applause when it was a good performance. Not all the music was ‘folk’ but it was somehow the right name for the night. The event clearly left its mark on some of the participants, as this touching and amusing letter I received recently goes to show! The ‘Dozy’ mentioned in the letter relates to late ‘Dozy Mu’ (real name Dozia Musakanya) – a stalwart entertainer at the hotel.

“Hello Uncle Richard,

I don’t know if you might remember me from the Ridgeway days considering there were so many of us who passed through your care. There was only one of you so it is easier for us to remember you. The most significant occasion on which we met was when I sang at folk night to make some money for my school fees in 1995 when boarding fees were introduced. Dozy made an announcement and I got donations, including an envelope from you in your office – where you told me that I sang well but talked too much on stage – your words ‘I pay someone else to talk, and you to sing, so do your music and leave it at that.’ (Papa Zei did mention that I might have said ‘cut the crap’ during this conversation but clearly this would not have been part of my vocabulary!!) –

He continued
It was a useful lesson I have kept with me, saving me from offending my “employer” by overstepping the bounds for which I am actually contracted. I was naive as an entertainer then, but I frequented the establishment and got to learn professional standards getting exposure to better musicians from whom I could learn, plus gaining experience in stagemanship.

I finished school and continued with music. I now live in Finland, where I studied media production. I am now in school again studying culture management but I still perform and record. I hope to send you some of my new material soon and visit when I come to Zambia. The purpose of this communication is to acknowledge that contact with you and the work you did for us, in a way that a student would like to show his achievements, and to express gratitude to you for the exposure that set the foundation on which we could build to get to where we are.

Though we did not have much personal contact you represented the form of a guardian figure. You’ll always be loved, and we’ll always be grateful. Hopefully one day I will come and entertain at the lodge, and not talk any crap. Merry Christmas, uncle Richard, and a prosperous new year. May your blessings multiply.”

The writer was Papa Zai (pictured above) and following my reply thanking him for his message he gave me a little more of his history saying “I got into the reggae circuit after a few years at Ridgeway and some hotels in Kabwe and on the Copperbelt. In 1997 I left for Finland and found work on the local reggae circuit. Fortunately I got introduced to the best artists there, some of whom featured me on their albums which helped get my name established. I have curtain-raised for some big names in the reggae business, including the Marley children, and I have also performed in festivals in the Nordic region sharing stages with some of my childhood idols. I have quite a name in Finland and I get a lot of local gigs which has led me to be able to access the rest of Europe as well as quality equipment and skilled players.

Now I am drifting from reggae and bringing in more afro-funk-jazz-calypso influences that I grew up with but being careful not to alienate my fan base. This I feel is more representative of my personal journey as an African. I am now in studio with a band producing a new album.”

Isn’t that nice?


Motor Assembly Again In Zambia?

The motor assembly plant that once produced Fiats and Peugeots in Livingstone has lain idle since 1992, so I was interested too see this article in Times Of Zambia

Two local business entities have partnered to establish a motor assembly plant at a cost of US$1.3 billion that will see the creation of more than 8,000 jobs. And a representative of one of the entities has urged the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) to be proactive in its regulatory role and ensure that regulation does not divorce itself from business facilitation.

Roberto Sabbadin, president of the Petroleum Transporters Association of Zambia (PTAZ), said at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Savenda Management Services and Savenda Africa Holdings Limited yesterday that the association was worried that a number of foreign trucks in Zambia dealing in the petroleum transportation sub-sector did not meet the minimum safety standards to move dangerous goods.

Mr Sabbadin wondered what role the ERB was playing in promoting safety in the sector. Savenda Group director, Clever Mpoha said at the same ceremony that his company and its partners had planned to establish a motor assembly plant for 4,000 trucks, representing $1.3 billion investment in addition to the assembly of Savenda Roller Packs (compactors).

Mr Mpoha said out of the 4,000 trucks, 700 had been committed to PTAZ. “This partnership collectively will create well over 8,000 jobs and we are established to manage this process very well because of the economic benefits,” he said.

And Mr Sabbadin said the entities would bring 700 units of brand new petroleum tankers into Zambia which would help improve the standards in the sector and also help in the fight for increased market share. He said the investment would as a result create more than 4,000 jobs which would represent an investment of $300 million. “These tankers will help up the standards in the sector and help us in our fight for increased market share.

“This investment will create more than 4,000 jobs and will represent an investment of $300 million,” he said. Mr Sabbadin said the entry of the trucks would enhance movement of petroleum products within the country and internationally. He called on the Government to deliberately provide special incentives for the special exercise, adding that “in the second place we want as an association to call upon ERB to be more proactive in their regulatory role and to ensure that regulation does not divorce itself from business facilitation. We believe as an association that ERB needs urgent reform.”

Mr Sabbadin said the association was committed to helping Zambia’s long-term vision by the year 2030.

The article does not say where the plant will be. The picture is an image of a Peugeot 504, similar to those that used to be assembled in Livingstone – I had one as a company car when I worked at Ridgeway Hotel. They were pretty basic, but like all Peugeots of that vintage, very strong. You could choose any colour as long as it was white – as I remember!


Richard Experiences The ‘Experience’!

Check the photo above! Yes that’s me on The Chanters Lodge Experience as the guest last Sunday with host Milli Jam over my shoulder! The tables were turned! ‘Why would you guest on your own show’ I hear you ask. Well our scheduled guest had a last minute problem and was unable to appear, so co-hosts Milli Jam and George Kaufela quickly said ‘it’s a long time since we interviewed you Richard, you’ll have to do it!’ For the uninitiated The Experience is our weekly radio show airing every Sunday evening at 20.30 hrs on Zambezi 107.7 fm and is a great mixture of music and chat. Each week we give away a prize of a dinner for two to the first person to text us the answer to a simple question – usually who’s singing our ‘oldie of the week’. This week the answer was James Blunt and the response was fantastic – not always the case.

So, what did they ask me? How long had I been in Zambia? – 32 years. When did I open Chanters Lodge? – 1998. What was I doing before I came to Livingstone? – I was general manager of what is now called Southern Sun Ridgeway Hotel, then just Ridgeway Hotel in Lusaka. How did I get into the hotel industry? – I studied hotel management at Middlesex University for 4 years. What did I do between the time I qualified and the time I came to Zambia? – A lot! Namely, working in various hotels in UK followed by stints in Mombasa Kenya, Mahe Seychelles, Lake Malawi and Jos, Nigeria. I was able to give listeners some insights into the highs and lows of working in the hotel industry across Africa.

The music on the show was great, once we’d sorted out one or two technical issues (it was one of those nights I’d say!) The guys opened with ‘World In Our Hands’ a great new track from Taio Cruz back to back with Drake’s smash single ‘Take Care’ recorded with Rihanna. George chose Naeto C’s ‘5 & 6’ – topical as the star is due to perform in Lusaka this Friday night. He coupled this track with Pompi ft Exile and their ‘Chipolopolo Remix’. Milli Jam featured Kelly Rowland’s ‘Work It More’ back to back with Ace Hood featuring Chris Brown with ‘Body To Body’. James Blunt’s ‘You’re Beautiful’ was the ‘oldie of the week’ from which we moved on to Trey Songz hit ‘Top Of The World’ closing with ‘Do Ya Thing’ by Rihanna.

The guys asked me about my ‘history in broadcasting’ and I explained to listeners that my first experience of the media was in Nigeria where I occasionally appeared on state television in interview programmes. During my time in Lusaka we had organized Christmas and Easter entertainment specials featuring the Cool Knights, Lubumbashi Stars, Akim Simukonda etc in conjunction with Field Ruwe, Errol Hickey and late Timmy Mvula. I’d become well known on radio through the Ridgeway Radio Request Show, a very popular Sunday night music show on national radio in 1984/5, which I hosted. We had started the Chanters Lodge Experience on 107.7 fm in 2007.

Asked where I would like to be and what I would like to be doing in 2021 (!), I said I hoped I was still in Livingstone but working rather less, and that my children were all doing well.

The tables were turned indeed!


Then And Now

“Good morning Richard, your daily updates are really something I look foward to everyday. Good for information and good for your business. Age does not seem to be slowing you down. Remember from your days as General Manager at Ridgeway hotel I was a member of that cosy bar Copper Horse and always enjoyed meals in the Musuku restraunt with regular entertainment provided by Ackim Simukonda and PK Chishala. Remember your regular client Kelvin Siame my big guy? We talk about our times at Ridgeway but all this is gone with you. The hospitality industry is dull without you. I spent a weekend at your lodge in Livingstone in 2006, enjoyed the serene arrangement, your workers were good but best of all the food was excellent!”

“Richard and his staff are excellent host to the lovely part of Africa. He picked us up at the airport and dropped us off at the end. For Africa, these accommodations are good but for individuals expecting Holiday Inn level will be disappointed. It`s Africa, get over it. If you are looking for Holiday Inn you will be paying through the nose ($300+ USD min) for a basic western hotel. Livingstone only has a number of accommodations and are all overpriced (including the activities), go with Chanters to save your money and put it towards paying for the activities”

Thanks to the contributors! The photos? I’m sure you can work out what’s what!


President Elect of Zambia -Hon Michael C Sata

Congratulations to President Elect of Zambia Hon Michael C Sata on his victory at the polls, following tripartite elections in Zambia on my birthday 20th September! Noisy celebrations continued in Livingstone throughout last night and were still happening as we drove to work at 6.15 hrs. Appropriately it’s a warm, sunny morning in Livingstone.

Mr Sata was District Governor of Lusaka when I was General Manager of Southern Sun Ridgeway Hotel in the 80’s and his offices at the Civic Centre were opposite mine at the hotel. He occasionally used to phone saying “I can see you from here, and you’re not working!” Just imagine!


Elias ‘E-Vibes’ Limwanya

It’s no good pretending that all was well on the latest edition of The Chanters Lodge Experience with The Milli Jam Ingredient featuring George Soulchild, our regular Sunday night radio show airing at 20.30 hrs on 107.7 fm, Zambezi Radio, Livingstone’s popular local radio station. Why? Well three of us, including our Guest Elias Limwanya, pictured above, are Arsenal supporters and we were still in a state of shock following our team’s defeat in the Carling Cup Final about half an hour before we went on air. Even George Soulchild’s team Liverpool had lost. Anyway, we all tried our best!

Elias is better known as ‘E-Vibes’ and is a full time presenter, disc jockey and newscaster on Zambezi fm, for whom he’s worked for almost 3 years. He told listeners that he’d had a tough upbringing losing both his parents in a road accident on the Copperbelt in 1998 when he was 8. He’d been brought up by an uncle, completing his Grade 12 at Linda Secondary School – our second consecutive weekly Guest educated at that Livingstone school I pointed out. How had he got the name ‘E-Vibes’? We wondered, and Elias explained that George Soulchild was the person who’d helped him find a good name to use on radio. In fact it transpired that George had helped Elias at almost every stage of his career and that was a source of pride for us on the show!

Still single, Elias told listeners he’d never been bungee jumping and had no intention of doing so and had not walked with lions but would quite like to do that. His main work project at the moment was co-hosting the Breakfast Show on 107.7 fm with George Soulchild which he was enjoying. He’d been on Facebook since 2008 and was a regular contributor. What did he think of Arsenal losing that vital match? He was quite philosophical about it and said he was looking forward to their upcoming FA Cup replay and of course the return leg against Barcelona in the Champions League.

We played Adele’s number one UK smash hit ‘Someone Like You’ at the top of the show back to back with Ne-Yo’s ‘Give Me Everything’. We dropped C.R.I.$.I.$ featuring Nalu ‘I Wanna Live My Life’ – informing any listeners who didn’t already know that C.R.I.$.I.$ had won the best international act at the recent BEFFTA awards in the USA. Moving on to Exile’s ‘In Love With You’ and Alesha Dixon’s ‘Breath Slow’ the mood in the studio was slowly improving, the music taking hold. Lady Saw featuring Eve ‘He Is At My House’ and Wizkid’s smash ‘Holla At Ya Boy’ rocked the house. We were happy at that point to get a call from Swithin Haangala the owner of 107.7 fm saying how much he was enjoying the show, even if we weren’t sure that we were! ‘Why did he call now”? I asked the guys. George quipped “he heard the track ‘Holla At Ya Boy’ and decided it was time to give you a holla!” We laughed!

I had a surprise when we offered a prize of a dinner for two at Chanters Lodge to the first listener to text us Elias’s radio name. One of the many people to send us an answer, (some before I’d even finished asking the question!) was a former Ridgeway Hotel worker and Ridgeway Raiders (our football team) goalkeeper – Emmanuel Malunga. Seeing goalkeepers were very much on the mind of we Gunners, for all the wrong reasons, we gave him the prize!

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