Thanks for your e-mails. Your experience and knowledge is not quite the same as mine, but you understand how things seem to happen in Africa that was never intended.
I had been unemployed for nine months when the agency I was using rang to see if I was interested in an immediate appointment in Zambia. Providing I passed the interview we could be on a plane by the weekend. Before speaking to Paula I went down to the library to check out Zambia. Not a country I knew a great deal about and have mixed views on it now.
After nine months on the dole I would consider anything. Zambia seemed not too bad in the library. A bit wild and woolly perhaps but the MMD had been democratically elected the year before. All this happened in 1991 much the same time you were in Zimbabwe. Anyway the IMF and World Bank were pumping in money to sponsor and support the new 'democratic' government. Things seemed to be on the up, and there had not been any serious trouble in the country for years. There had been some troubles but nothing that was major or particularly violent.
That night I had a chat with Paula. She was not so sure, but things were tight, she knew we had to do something, so she agreed to come with me for the interview.
The agency had been adamant that Paula would be required for the interview, and the client would seek reassurance that she was prepared to live in an African country for two years. This worried me as she had a steady job as a nurse.
Anyway the interview was in a private room in the Cricket Club in London where we were both invited to join the client, Mr Kioto for dinner. It seems Mr Kioto sponsored Zambia's cricket team and had guest status at the club. There was a Paul Keans at the interview who was the MD and who was British. There was also a Roger Edison who was an American mining expert.
The recruitment agency had sent a rep. Peter Thompson, and his wife whom had the odd name of Tristona. I thought it was odd for the agency rep to be there, but it was nice that Paula was not the only woman present. We were to meet Tristona again in Africa but that is moving on.
I was thoroughly grilled by Mr Keans with Mr Kioto keenly observing and making the odd comments. He seemed to moderate the aggressiveness of Mr Keans which made me think well of him. This initial impression of Mr Keans was born out during the contract. He was a thoroughly nasty piece of work, though it was a long time before I fully realised the man's greed and what he was prepared to do.
It is difficult to describe Mr Kioto. Especially in the light of what happened in Africa. At the time he seemed casually confident and particularly smart. He had a plantation outside Lusaka. When I say plantation it was 3000 square miles! He had numerous businesses from tobacco farming to a game reserve. He had a transport company, and other investments he was more vague about. It seems he wanted to improve road connections and had been offered a World Bank loan to build a new road, but needed professional staff on board before the loans would be granted.
He offered me, there and then, a position as Project Manager providing we flew at the weekend. I would be required to be present at a World Bank meeting planned for Monday. He also suggested that on completion of the road, there would be other opportunities in his organisation if I did well. He wanted to build a shopping centre and was investigating the possibility of opening up a cobalt mine on his land.
This was all a bit quick, but Mr Keans that if we did not accept there and then he would be sure to find someone else as he had three more interviews tomorrow. Mr Kioto showed us a picture of the villa he would provide. It looked idyllic, something out of a holiday brochure.
He assured us that this would be our actual home it was not an example. He owned many villas. We would have a house domestic and gardener. They were a married couple that lived in their own accommodation on the villa's land which was four acres. He showed us some more pictures of the office, and his game reserve, which we would be allowed to visit for free.
The salary was not good at £17,500, but Mr Kioto gave me his personal assurance that I would be able to send £500 a month back to the UK. Pointing out that we would be able to rent out our UK home for the period adding that to our earnings. We had already discussed that. We could get £750 per month. For two years that would be a great relief after the last nine months. We had never been able to save £500 a month before now.
I tool Paula over to the bar to discuss it with her. To my surprise she agreed immediately. The thought of living in that luxury villa for two years and escaping Bristol's suburbs was the great appeal.
Zambia was all that was said of it, a lot more, and a lot worse.
I had a rude awakening to African men before we left the airport when one of the luggage handlers casually fondled Paula's bottom in front of me. The arrogant bastard did not give a damn that I was standing beside. Paula froze in shock and I yelled at the African who just grinned and seemed bemused at my protest. He shrugged and walked off. That was only the start. It did not take me long to develop a new kind of walking. I am sure you know what I mean. Always trying to position myself between Paula and any group of African men in the street.
At first Paula was afraid. Our 'luxury' villa was indeed luxurious, but there steel shuttered doors to every bedroom. To prevent burglars raping us both in the night we were told we had to ensure that these were properly locked every night.
Mr Kioto had not mentioned that our domestic staff included an armed guard we would be expected to give tips to him to ensure he did not turn a blind eye to burglars.
Outside the area of the villa everything was filthy. If a pothole was only a foot deep you were lucky! Street children were everywhere. If you wanted your car to be still there after shopping you had to pay off these street kids. First time I have been afraid of kids. They ran in packs of 20 or more! Penniless, no shoes, threadbare, starving and uncannily threatening!
The supermarket was a joke. If food arrived it was sold within hours. If you wanted to know when food had arrived you had to tip the supermarket manager who would then ring when food arrived. It got better. After the first six months it did get better, a lot better. It was like an economic miracle when there was food still on the shelves at the end of the day. But I could not let Paula go to the supermarket on her own.
She would have been raped in the aisles! Police, you must be joking. Army everywhere. What do you do when the man stroking your wife's bottom is a soldier with a gun who is casually discussing the weather?
I have never felt so helpless as at that moment.
Paula was very resilient. She soon decided that African men were horny, but no problem if 'treated right'. It is strange how you get accustomed to the way people behave. Rape was a serious risk for any white woman in Zambia. Whenever we went out I was always careful to check the mirrors to be sure we were not being followed back to our villa. I tried to drive home to Paula the constant risk. She made a game of it, found it amusing. Not just the behaviour of the African men, but also teasing me.
Social life in Zambia went a long way to overcome the problems. On £17,500 we were incredibly wealthy by local standards. The company had only five expats in Lusaka. None of us were over 25, which came as a surprise, except Mr Keans who was in his 40's. We were all married. All of the other wives like Paula were very pretty. I did not twig at all to the significance of this until months later.
Mr Kioto was married to a stunningly attractive women who it turned out was Miss Zambia in 1988. She was only 25, whereas Mr Kioto was in his 40's. Of course, he was rich and influential, and could buy anything he wanted in this country. Buying the attention of women was normal behaviour for Mr Kioto.
Anika Kioto was very much the queen bee of the company's social circle. Aloof, superior and in complete control of her social circle, which included our wives. If you annoyed Anika your social life was terminated, for months at a time, according to her whim. At Anika's decree you would be invited to the best party's, be part of the diplomatic circle, part of the in crowd. Without her say so you sat at home by the pool.
The company had barbecues every three months. We missed the first one, which was a big mistake. For the next three months we were social outcasts. Even the other expats were reluctant to invite us around. I had never experienced the like before. Mr Kioto invited Paula to lunch a number of occasions and Mrs Kioto also, but no progress.
We were careful not to miss the second barbecue invite. Paula was desperate to be back in the circle. We had been in Africa six months now and Paula had changed. We both had. The life of penny pinching and making things meet seemed in the distant past. We were both more confident and relaxed. The job was busy but relaxed. By now Paula and I were both more relaxed about the Africans. The whole sensuality of Africa had taken its hold.
The party was shocking. I was not prepared for it. British parties were one thing, and got a bit wild. This party started wild and got wilder. Not all the husbands were there, but all the wives. The African Company Directors monopolised our wives, as well as their guests. There were expats there from the diplomatic circle, and we met some expats from other companies. It seemed embarrassing at times to stand together and watch our wives dance so close with the African men. To pretend not to see when African hands wandered...
.... There is more of this story ...