18 December 1995

Filed under Biographical

Holman ex Cowell

”LUBUMBASHI, Zaire - The green sign-boards are faded now, but the
message remains: Holman, the sole guide.
"For some 20 years, Editor Michael Desire Ngwazi Nkomo Holman has
maintained an iron-grip on one of Africa’s potentially most lucrative sinecures.
He is known by various arcane tribal titles thought to evoke great spiritual
and physical powers - Lion of Kitwe, Chongololo who goes from ant-hill
to ant-hill without tiring. Bullets are said to melt in the face of his
many Pope-style edicts, known to his followers as ’leaders’ and compared
by diplomats to papal bull.
In this copper-pinching newspaper, he maintains power through a
pervasive network of agents called mujibas, whose fierce loyalty is cemented
by fulsome, if mendacious, praise and retainers paid on the Cape ’dop’
system of free gin-and-tonics in lieu of cash.
Like other African leaders, M’Holman displays a tribal totem: in
place of Kaunda’s tear-stained handkerchief or Mobutu’s carved walking-stick,
Holman has been known to emerge from the bizarre Rite of the Asparagus
in the depths of the Um’0verton’s jungle with only a fragment of his hallmark
Airey and Wheeler clothing visible above the ululating mass of the m’bumba,
as his many female followers are known.unquote.
Ladies, gentlemen, honorable ministers, paramount chiefs, excellencies,
I quote the above passage - acribed to one of the FT'S more talented,
nay brilliant, erstwhile stringers 7 only to say that, like the leads
they write, the best of the old Africa hands do not fade away, they are
recycled as editors, in which capacity they rule by the old dictum: you
cannot have two bulls in one kraal. Anyone who thinks otherwise soon discovers
the other adage: when the elephants fight, the grass is trampled.
we old Lusaka boys are men of few words. 
Few, but expensive.
So, on this auspicious occasion - and in the absence of an advance
- I will limit myself to saying this: we salute you, Holman, on this half-centur
y. And on these your first words published without the sustaining power
of an expense account. Even my entire tribe of m’fazi send their greetings
to you, Holman.‘And I send a special greeting from one who has known you
and your compositions from French-dog to Stripey, with many stops on the
Cowell of the Congo.