David Phiri, Zambian businessman, Governor of the Bank of Zambia, died he was 74.
David Abel Ray Phiri  was a Zambian businessman who was a former Governor of the Central Bank of Zambia and Chairman of the Football Association of Zambia died he was 74.. He died in Lusaka, Zambia
on 16 January 2012 from complications arising from a brain stem
infarction he suffered 10 days earlier. He had two sons with Elizabeth
Ann Phiri: Sipho Philip Masewera (1967) and Guy David Zingalume (1969).
He had two brothers, Dr. Mannasseh Phiri and Chris Phiri, both of whom
live in Lusaka, Zambia, and four sisters: Irene Kabwe, Zondiwe Maboshe,
Cecilia Phiri and Hlupo Phiri (18 March 1959 – 16 March 1998).
(22 May 1937 – 16 January 2012)
Family history and early life
David Phiri, or ‘DARP’, as he was affectionately known, was born in Zimbabwe,
on 22 May 1937, to Abel Masewera Phiri and Elizabeth Sibanda. Abel
Masewera Phiri had decided to leave Kapela village near Chadiza, Northern Rhodesia, in what is now know as the Eastern Province of Zambia, to find work in the mines of Southern Rhodesia.
Abel Masewera Phiri had the firm belief that the traditional village
life of the African was going to end and turned down a Chewa chiefdom to
enter the ‘new world’. He left Kapela village on foot with two
companions and headed South eventually ending up in a mine town called Kwekwe, where he found work at the Globe and Phoenix Mine. Abel Phiri married a local of the Shona people, Elizabeth Sibanda, and David was born in the Globe and Phoenix mine compound, the only child of this marriage.
Phiri was an exceptional student, despite his tendency to play truant
in order to play football which he preferred to the rigors of study,
and was noticed by Mr. Green, a manager at the Rhodesia Iron and Steel
Company (RISco), subsequently known as Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company
(ZISCO), where Phiri’s father Abel was now Head Clerk. Mr. Green took
personal interest in Phiri’s education and encouraged him to well in
school and gave him books, and along with his father’s stern
educationalist beliefs and disciplinarian approach to achieving the
highest grades, Phiri would continue to excel educationally and became
involved in many charitable trusts providing scholarships to young
Africans, including the Beit Trust
in Zambia. His son, Guy David Zingalume Phiri, spoke of this belief at
his memorial service at the Anglican Cathedral in Lusaka on the 20th of
January 2012, whilst relating a story of how DARP got his first watch.
Phiri was forced to enroll in Latin classes and at the end of the school
year proudly presented his report to his father, wherein it showed that
DARP had come second in his Latin class. His father, proud of his son’s
achievement told Phiri that as he had done so well in Latin he would
buy him his first watch, a considerable source of pride for DARP. It was
only about 30 years later that DARP confessed to his father that there
were in fact only two people in his Latin class.
In 1945, when Phiri was 8 years old, he was sent to a Presbyterian
School, the Gloag Branch Mission School, near Bulawayo. Here he
developed his love of gardening, where it was taught as a subject, and
it remained his hope that gardening would one day be taught as a school
subject in Zambian schools.
In 1951, Phiri went on to secondary school at the prestigious Goromonzi High School,
considered by many as the Eton of black schools. His first Headmaster
at the school was a Mr. Miller, a Cambridge graduate, inculcated in him
the belief that Oxford and Cambridge were the best Universities in the
world. His self belief that there is nothing that stops an African child
achieving whatever they want to achieve and race, religion or
circumstance were no obstacle to self belief and determination becomes
all the more evident when it is remembered that Phiri decided in a
colonial, black only school, in the early 1950s, that he would go to
Oxford University. Phiri led a full school life, becoming Head boy,
captaining the school football team, playing football at national
schoolboys level as well as being the conductor of the school choir.
Phiri graduated from Goromonzi with amongst the best A level results in
Southern Africa at the time, with 2 ‘A’s and 2 ‘B’s in English, History,
Geography and Chemistry.
In 1957, in order to earn a full scholarship to study in the UK,
Phiri had to return to Northern Rhodesia for a year and returned to Lusaka
by train, where he was met by a colonial government official and given
housing in Matero, a high density suburb of Lusaka. He was given his
first job at Government Stores in Lusaka, a job he thoroughly detested,
however his lifelong ethic of making the best of all situations allowed
him to persevere and perhaps his greatest asset, his ability to
communicate and get along with everyone he came into contact with, came
to his rescue. Whilst humming a hymn, a white colleague struck up a
conversation with him and ended up inviting him to attend the then white
only Methodist Church, Trinity Church on Church Road in Lusaka. It was
here he met Phyllis and Don Fluck, who soon invited him to live with
them, a shocking occurrence in the then racially segregated community.
Phiri also met another member of the congregation at trinity, Mr. Henry
Fosbrooke (10 October 1908 – 25 April 1996), the Head of the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute(RLI)
from 1956, the first local anthropological research facility in Africa
and notably RLI anthropologists have since been lauded by some as
“liberal, anti-racists,” furthering the cause of African independence.
Mr Fosbrooke arranged for Phiri to leave Government Stores and work at
the RLI. Here he discovered anthropology which he would go on to study
In June 1958, DARP was informed that he had been awarded a ‘grant’ to
study for a Diploma in Social Work at Bristol University for 2 years.
He rang Mr Green at RISco who informed his father of the good news. In
September of the same year Phiri would get on his first flight and leave
to the UK. At his farewell party many people gave him money to help him
on his way, further testimony to his astounding ability to connect with
people. One of the most generous contributors, with a fifty pound gift,
was a Dr. Scott, father of Zambia’s current Republican Vice President
Dr. Guy Scott the current Republican Vice President of Zambia.
Phiri studied social sciences at the University of Bristol and went on to obtain a degree. He then won a Rhodes scholarship to study for a degree in Social Anthropology at Oxford University.
At Bristol, he took up golf, making such rapid progress in just two
years that he was appointed captain of the university team. At Oxford,
his handicap was reduced to three and he played first in the Divots, the
second team, against Cambridge in 1961 (winning both his matches) and
for the university team in the varsity golf match in 1962 (again winning
both matches) and in 1963. He was also elected a member of the Royal
and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews, another first for a black African.
Phiri had over 30 years’ experience in the private and public sector. He began his career in 1963 for Anglo-American Corporation in London and joined Anglo-American Corporation in Zambia the following year in 1964. in 1967 he became Director for Central Africa of Anglo American. From 1974 to 1982, he was Managing Director of the Roan Consolidated Mines, from 1982 to 1984 he was appointed Zambia’s Ambassador to Scandinavia in Sweden. Phiri became Governor of the Central Bank of Zambia from 1984 to 1986, after which he chaired Zambia’s Prices and Incomes Commission for a year. Phiri chaired the boards of several companies in Zambia including Stanbic Bank, Citibank Zambia, Zambia Venture Capital Fund, Madison Insurance, British American Tobacco, Holiday Inn, ZamBeef, Commonwealth Africa Investment Fund, Atlas Copco, Barclays Bank and Blackwood Hodge.
Phiri designed the golf course at State House in Lusaka, having introduced Kenneth Kaunda to the game of golf
In 1991 Phiri led the Zambian Independent Monitoring Team which monitored the fairness of Zambia’s first multi-party general election. This appointment was controversial because of Phiri’s close relationship with Kenneth Kaunda.
Phiri became the first black Oxford Blue in Golf and was a trustee of the Lusaka Golf Club and a member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in Scotland. Phiri was the Chairman of the Football Association of Zambia
and various other sports club including the Lusaka Rugby Club. Phiri
was awarded the order of “Grant Officers of the Order of the Eagle of
Zambia Second Division” for his contribution to sport in Zambia.
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