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It was unthinkable then but now possible thanks to Hickey

By Nalumino Nalumino

The news about the demise of Mr. Errol Hickey last Sunday came as a shock and unexpected to me.

As a former Radio Phoenix employee, I remember Hickey as a man who had a dominant personality in the Zambian media industry as well as an astute entrepreneur.

Errol Hickey watching the fire that swept clean the 13th Floor we used to call the Club House of ZIMCO House along Cairo Road in Lusaka. Picture by The Picture Monger

Errol Hickey watching the fire that swept clean the 13th Floor we used to call the Club House of ZIMCO House along Cairo Road in Lusaka. Picture by The Picture Monger

I wish to state without any reservation that this country can ill afford at a time such as this one to lose a man whose life was embedded in a strong belief in his personal will to succeed in whatever inspiration he wanted to pursue.

His motivation to establish Radio Phoenix at a time when it was unthinkable to own a private radio station in Zambia displayed courage and ambition that has given birth to a myriad of both community and commercial radio station in Zambia.

Mr. Hickey steered his radio station in a country extremely difficult to operate an independent minded, unbiased and strong willed platform such as “Let the People Talk”. He sacrificed to do this amidst accusations and threats from those that walk or once walked in the corridors of power even opposition parties at times. The continued airing of this programme showed strength and courage. I am not ashamed to state that the true virtues of democracy, transparency, accountability and free press have lost a unwavering resilient ally.

He loved Radio Phoenix. It was like a real baby in his bosom and he cared for it such that he never tolerated or took kindly any failure by employees to give their very best to the satisfaction of his audience.

Seated in the News Room, 12 Floors in the sky of ZIMCO House. Busy keying in my stories in the afternoon of 19th August, 2001; Mr. Differ Mulimba from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services marshalled by paramilitary officers from the Zambia Police who appeared like were part of the dragoon regiments of the 17th century entered the News Room as if pushed in by a tornado. Suddenly the atmosphere changed in the News Room when Mr. Mulimba handed over a medium sized khaki envelope to Station Manager, Sam Sakala, presumably addressed to Mr. Hickey. Then the parliamentary officers and Mr. Mulimba proceeded to switch off the Radio Phoenix transmitter leaving us hocked.
The news scripts if my memory still serves me right Kennedy Tembo and myself were preparing for the 06:45 news bulletin for Monday 20th August, 2001 could no-longer be sustained because that envelope contained a letter to the effect that the stations licence had been annulled ostensibly for failure to abide by the ‘conditions of the licence’. This reason is a subject for another day.
What touched me as his employee was how the revocation of the licence affected Mr. Hickey to the point of crying. Yes, some social or political deviants may claim he was saddened by the loss of business but to me he cried because at that time and space he had been paused from doing what he loved most. I presume he felt like a part of him had been amputated without anesthesia options.

Radio Phoenix on fire in 2008. Picture by The Picture Monger

Radio Phoenix on fire in 2008. Picture by The Picture Monger

Just like it arose from the ashes after it was burned twice, Radio Phoenix again hit the air waves after two months owing to his dedication and courage which earned him not only awards, praise from the mighty or famous but also from the weak and nameless that gave meaning to his life. This is what I will remember him for and not the rides I enjoyed with him on his car to polo or bowling games, no!

My thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family as they go through this difficult transitional process caused by the cold arm of death. Mr. Hickey is the great architect and pioneer of modern private radio broadcasting in Zambia. Shockingly the one who gave a voice to the voiceless today unwittingly lies silent because his powerful radio voice can no-longer vocalize itself.

Many years later after I had left Radio Phoenix Mr. Hickey telephoned me to share his plans to bring in a new partner in his radio station. He sought my opinion first before he could officially write to me then serving as a media body chairperson.  This was an honor to me because this was no ordinary man in the local media sector. His life personified the people’s struggle for a better life through radio. Given his position in life; if he wanted he would have “sold” his Radio Phoenix to the highest bidder but that was never his motivation. Instead he served both the government and the people of this country mightily and honorably.

Those that own radio stations and any media platform have great lessons of objectivity, impartiality, fairness, valor, willpower and resilience to learn from the life of Mr. Hickey. His principles were never for “sale” but service to all Zambians regardless of religion, tribal or political persuasions.

Mr. Hickey like any normal living person may have had a fair share of mistakes. That is common because he was not infallible. However, the challenge is for us to live the Errol Thomas Hickey legacy.

Farewell Mr. Hickey. May His Soul Rest in Peace.

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March 1, 2017 - Posted by | Self Xpression | ,

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