TRIBUTE TO ERROL HICKEY
Like many Zambians, the death of comrade Errol Hickey (Errol) MHSRIP – hit me with a sense of sadness. Because he was a giant of a man, I concur with those who have been advocating that he should have been given a National Mourning. Here is why:-
I met Error in late 60s in Lusaka when he returned from United Kingdom where he had gone to train as a photographer. At the time I had just registered a Modeling Agency company. Since we needed an experienced photographer, we engaged him in helping us to coach and publicize our models.
Because of his professionalism, very soon we started attracting the most beautiful and sophisticated women in town. On our roaster we had names like – charming Mea Lishomwa, Paxina Kalulu, Joyce Makulu, Monde Lishomwa, Elizabeth Fundafunda, Claire Mutepuka, Rebecca Moyo and many others.
On the handsome men side, you had people like – Clement Ntema, Larry Old, Wilbrod Mulesu, Moses Chimbelu, Daniel Kasonde, Malio Malio, John Nkhoma etc.
May the souls of ALL those who’ve left us rest in peace!
As you can imagine – under UNIP government, it was not an easy matter to have women parade on a ‘Cat Walk’ wearing modern dresses and latest fashions. Mini skirts and wigs were forbidden. Neither could men wear tight pants and bell bottoms.
But with insistence and great counseling from people like Errol, we were encouraged to forge ahead. With the help of Error Hickey, we organized fashion shows, and these were done in collaboration with local musicians, culminating sometimes into large concerts.
When Soul King – James Brown (JB) visited Zambia, Hickey was very much involved. Since JB was very popular at the time, even people like Dr Vernon J Mwaanga (VJ) were one of the organizers.
Myself, though not directly involved in organizing J Brown’s trip – a Youth Organization I belonged to: True Sons of Africa, donated elephant tasks presented to Mr. Brown at ZNBC TV studios. It was Mr. Hickey who facilitated our contact with JB. By offering tasks to Brown we were trying to attract attention of other Black Americans about Africa and its resources.
From these activities developed local musicians and Zambian fashion industry. Though political parties’ cadres kept on harassing women wearing minis, wigs or boots – the revolution never stopped. Today Zambian women can wear pretty much what they want. Thanks to people like Errol Hickey.
Further, everybody agrees that Errol is the Father of Private Radio. Hickey became a pioneer by establishing Radio Phoenix, which started to compete with the State Radio – ZNBC.
Very soon Radio Phoenix became the most popular “peoples’ voice”. Programs like ‘Let the People Talk” hosted by household names like Frank Mutubila, became popular. People in the community felt that – at long last they had a channel through which they could express or communicate their views.
Emulating Radio Phoenix, many other community radio stations mushroomed up. Such that today you’ve a radio station for every niche – type of music or interest etc. For example, Radio Hassan, Komboni, Chengelo, all serve the needs of their listeners.
Mr. Hickey’s Radio Phoenix is not only known for free speech, but is also a source of fair, impartial and balanced information. This is unlike The Post, which at times tended to be over carried. Some of Post’s Editorials were very biased, thereby inhibiting Zambians from making well-informed decisions.
Director Hickey refrained from abusing his power as owner of Radio Phoenix. Over the years we saw Post Editor Fred M’membe locking horns with Presidents. But while remaining humble EH was still resolute in fighting vices like corruption. He was not afraid to allow programs critical of government to air on R. Phoenix.
Women issues like equality were also given prominence. Gender, human rights, and even feminism have been promoted through the radio. Organizations like NGOCC and women activists like Emily Nakazwe have turned to Phoenix for support. All in all Hickey through his Radio Phoenix, he has been a huge cultural influence on the Zambian society as a whole.
One of the big contributions Errol Hickey made but not easily recognized is in the creation of multipartism. Many of those who claim to have been founders of Movement for Party Democracy (MMD) tend to forget that late Arthur Wina was one of the pioneers. He was in fact the first Chairman and could have been our 1st post-Kaunda president.
The idea of replacing UNIP’s one-party state and socialistic model was already muted long before 1990/91 by people like Valentine Shula Musakanya, Edward Shamwana, Elias Chipimo Snr. and many others. Sentiments against one-party were circulating freely at Lusaka flying club. But UNIP under Pres Kenneth Kaunda (KK) wouldn’t let them. In fact in 1980, Musakanya is one of those convicted for coup attempt against government.
However, in spite of threats from government, the idea never died. It was Arthur Wina after leaving government who formally revived the idea of finding a lawful means for which to change government. At the time Mr. Wina had established a number of companies one of them being a public relations one.
Thus, he was in contact with Errol Hickey. Dealing with models, I happened to have been in their loop too. Though Hickey was not into politics, but he was very much keen to see a free market enterprise in Zambia.
It was during one of those informal meetings – probably at Lusaka Hotel where we frequently met for lunch when I heard Errol Hickey present passionately the idea of multipartism to Wina. He based his admiration of this system on a two-party model from UK and USA. He urged Mr. Wina to explore the multiparty idea with other concerned Zambians. Indeed, Arthur Wina got interested and did just that.
Before long, I heard that Wina sold the idea to other people more notably Humphrey Mulemba, who was notoriously known as ‘capitalist’ by his UNIP colleagues. As they say, the rest is history.
For those who have been following Zambian politics will recall that it was Wina who organized the coalition of several political parties way before Fredrick T Chiluba came to join them.
Though I wasn’t there when the full fletched MMD became established thereafter, I do know however, that Errol Hickey and Mr. Wina remained close associates. This was confirmed later by my late friend – Dean Mungomba, who himself became one of the key founders of MMD.
Finally but not least – way after FTJ Chiluba had become president, he incarcerated Pres Kaunda on dubious citizenship and trumped up charges. Leaders from all over the world were trying to find ways of getting KK released from prison.
Again I am told that – through his Ndola Coloreds Community contacts, Errol sent appeal feelers to Pres Chiluba, who was a Ndola man, so that he could free Pres Kaunda. These efforts, in combination with those coming from others like President Mwalimu Nyerere, KK got eventually released.
Narrated above are just parts of what Errol Hickey did for Zambia. I am sure that there are many other things he did which I am not aware of. But there is no doubt Hickey made that country of ours a better place to live in.
It would therefore be not asking too much to have a man like Errol Hickey deserve some “honor”. After all Her Honor the Vice President Inonge Wina, would also be indirectly honoring her late husband – Mr. Arthur Wina (MHSRIP).
Dr Kaela B Mulenga /Social Commentator
Toronto, March 7, 2017