All posts by Christopher Hepworth

A Rhodesian Canberra bomber attacks Westlands Farm, Lusaka, Zambia in 1978. We were next door neighbours when the bombs fell.

The recent fall of the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe in November last year brought back painful memories of my own unwitting involvement in that country’s history. My parents emigrated to Zambia with my brother and I in 1968 shortly after its independence. For two small boys aged 6 and 7 it was a thrilling childhood full of adventure and excitement. The Zambian people are among the most beautiful and friendly in Africa and the country was prosperous thanks to its abundance of copper and its fertile farms.

I remember our camping trips to the game parks and the visits to the stunning Victoria Falls. I admired the majestic lions and the magnificent elephants, rhinos and giraffe. It was a place where the Zambians and Europeans mixed freely in mutual respect and friendship. At times I felt like I was living in a Garden of Eden.

A hundred miles to our south, the situation in Rhodesia as it was then called, was very different. Unlike Zambia, the white led government of Ian Smith had resisted the tide of African self-rule and had declared UDI against the British. The 300,000 whites in Rhodesia ran the government, business and most of the large farms for over sixteen years. Ian Smith had the support of the apartheid government of South Africa and against all expectations and global sanctions, Rhodesia prospered. The white Rhodesians had one of the highest standard of living in the world but over time their relationship with the African population deteriorated and the situation became untenable.

Meanwhile in Zambia, our economy worsened as the country became a one-party dictatorship and the genial and clean-living but misguided President Kenneth Kaunda flirted with socialism. When my parents bought a farm on the northern outskirts of Lusaka in the mid 1970’s, shortages of essential commodities became commonplace. To make matters worse, President Kaunda took the fateful decision to harbour an army of ‘ZAPU’ guerrillas who were fighting for Zimbabwean independence against Ian Smith’s Rhodesian regime.

Of all the places in Zambia that President Kaunda could have picked to locate the guerrilla base, he chose Westlands Farm which shared a long boundary with our own farm. We would frequently wave to the guerrillas as we drove past their training camp in our little red Fiat 127 on the way to town. The well-armed guerrillas became our polite but volatile new neighbours.

The political leader of the ZAPU guerrillas was a man called Joshua Nkomo and in September 1978 he looked like a man on the brink of history. He had the ear of both the British government and Zambia’s president Kaunda. Nkomo held secret peace negotiations with Ian Smith of Rhodesia who had realised a peaceful settlement was preferable to a long and bloody civil war. But then the inexplicable happened.

On the 3rd September 1978, a civil airliner, Air Rhodesia flight 825 carrying 52 passengers and 4 crew was shot down by ZAPU guerrillas. 38 innocent people died in the crash and of the survivors, 10 were rounded up by the guerrillas and executed. Only 8 lived to tell the tale. It was a horrific act of brutality which ended the aspirations of Nkomo to become the first president of an independent Zimbabwe. From that moment, his international supporters regarded him as toxic and their support moved to his more extreme rival Robert Mugabe who was to rule Zimbabwe with an iron fist for the next 40 years. The event also led to brutal retaliations against Zambia from the Rhodesian armed forces.

On 19th October 1978, in what became known as the ‘Green Leader’ raid, the Rhodesians launched one of the most audacious air attacks in history against Westlands Farm (renamed as Freedom Camp).  A squadron of Hawker Hunters, Canberra bombers and Alouette attack helicopters flew 100 miles across Zambian airspace and bombed Freedom Camp just as the guerrillas were parading on the central square. Luckily my brother and I were still at boarding school in the UK, but my father described how he dived into a nearby ditch to take cover and how the glass in our farm shattered from the exploding bombs. The attack resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives and the destruction of Freedom Camp.

In one of the most famous aircraft broadcasts in history, the leader of the bombing mission known as Green Leader, calmly instructed the Lusaka air traffic controller to pass a message on to the Zambian air force not to interfere with the raid. Just as calmly and politely, the air traffic controller acknowledged the instruction. Video footage of the raid can be viewed below in a dramatic seven-minute YouTube clip. It is not for the faint hearted. If you do not like bad language or the harrowing implications of the bombing raid you are advised not to watch the video. In the video, just as the bombs are being released, our family farm looms into view. It is almost as if our farm is the target of the raid. The discovery of the video clip had a profound impact on myself and my brother.

In July 1979, my brother and I returned to our farm in Zambia for our long summer holiday. There had been a second raid on Freedom Camp in March that year and tensions were high. My brother and I still waved to the survivors in our red Fiat, but many of the guerrillas were deeply suspicious of the young white schoolboys who they believed may have had a hand in passing intelligence to the Rhodesians. Many guerrillas had abandoned Freedom Camp and were ‘living off the land’ with their AK47 machine guns. Inevitably our farm was attacked by an armed gang and tragically one of our farm workers was killed. As luck would have it, my brother and I had chosen to spend the night in Lusaka and missed the raid by a few hours. We will never know if we were the intended targets.

The Rhodesian war ended a few months later and our ZAPU neighbours returned to an independent Zimbabwe. Many of the white Rhodesians blamed the politicians for betraying their beleaguered white run country. No-one can deny their bravery or fighting skills, but how much better would it have been if Ian Smith had followed the Zambian model in 1964? There would have been no civil war and it is unlikely that the despotic president Robert Mugabe would have wrecked the economy of the once prosperous nation and caused such widespread social unrest. But with the recent fall of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe is at the threshold of a new dawn. I wish the country, its new president Emmerson Mnangagwa and its long-suffering people of all races the very best for the future. May it be prosperous and peaceful one.

Sydney writer Christopher Hepworth’s Hollywood-paced international thrillers feature a 21stcentury “James Bond” hero, a high body count and lots of action in exotic settings. It’s Indiana Jones with high stakes conspiracy.

Hi there: I’m your host Jenny Wheeler, and today Christopher tells us why he loves the thriller genre and how growing up in Zambia has influenced his writing.

Six things you’ll learn from this Joys of Binge Reading episode:

  • What Christopher loves about writing thrillers 
  • The magic Sydney location where he works
  • Why Sam Jardine is a particularly “21st century” hero
  • The mentors who’ve inspired him
  • How he survived a guerilla attack in childhood Zambia
  • And why he’d rather go down the Nile than camping in England

To read full article click here

 

Looking for some holiday reading? We review Christopher Hepworth’s “The Last Oracle”, a fast-paced thriller starring Sam Jardine, the world’s greatest negotiator – and a procurement professional!

As a series of bizarre climate-related events occur across our planet, it seems the world is edging towards a catastrophic tipping point.

Rex Daingerfield is the owner of a giant fracking company that seeks to exploit a rich seam of gas in the environmentally sensitive Greenland ice shelf. But Daingerfield has a nemesis – his daughter. Born to an Egyptian mother, she is inducted as the Oracle of the Temple of Sekhmet. Her role is to protect the earth from the likes of her father.

The Oracle recruits the world’s greatest negotiator, Sam Jardine, to convince her father to change his destructive business model. But a secret society of the rich and powerful stands to profit from the chaos that has gripped the world. Led by an errant priest from the Temple of Sekhmet, they will do anything to stop Jardine

Full Review Available at this Link:

MEET THE JAMES BOND OF PROCUREMENT – PROCUREMENT NEWS

 

I recently attended a presentation by a ‘futurist’ who advises large corporations how they should prepare for technological and societal changes over the next five years. While highly entertaining, there was nothing in his list that couldn’t be predicted by the average Joe. So last night I gazed into my author’s crystal ball to determine your future, dear reader and was shocked by what I saw.

Politics will descend into an Orwellian nightmare.

Continuing the trend of obnoxious politicians from Donald Rumsfeld (“there are known knowns and known unknowns”) to the truth distorting Nigel Farage and the thin-skinned bullying of Donald Trump, politics will become a race to the bottom of the gutter. Western style democracy as we once knew it, will be on life support. Neo-Nazi’s will become your next door neighbours, Antifas will use your granny flat as a squat and your local pub will become the chapter house of a white supremacist gang.

2018       Your pre-school toddler will suffer burn-out.

A new breed of early learning tutors will emerge to bring out the young Einstein in your three-year-old child. He will persuade you that if your little angel cannot memorise ‘pi’ to one hundred decimal places and recite the opening soliloquy of Shakespeare’s ‘Much ado about Nothing’ then she will ‘miss out’ forever and be thrown on the scrap heap of life. Toddlers around the world will become fat, obnoxious and hyperallergic as their Tiger mums drag them off the playground and into the classroom to study yet more quantum physics and ancient Greek.

2019       Your country will avoid the worst consequences of global warming.

But only by the skin of its teeth and no thanks to your local politician who trusts his gut more than the country’s most eminent and concerned scientists. Pure economics will save the day. The cost of renewable energy will fall to the point that your fellow taxpayers will refuse point blank to pick up the $10bn bill for your MP’s pet ‘clean coal’ project.

Electric vehicles will struggle to gain traction until some bright spark will work out how to make money by the bucket load from electric vehicle recharging stations.

Cash will go the way of the dodo and high street banks will close, replaced by crypto-currencies available as an app on your iPhone. As traditional banking jobs disappear, the only new jobs will be with Amazon, the local beauty salon or as a barista at the local café. You will lose half of your life savings in The Great Bitcoin Bubble of 2019.

2020       You will misplace your smartphone and life as you knew it will cease to exist.

It will take you three months to replace your phone and much longer to retrieve your precious data after you discover half a dozen Serbian students have stolen your identity and the rest of your life savings.

Later that year, Donald Trump will be elected for a second term in a landslide thanks to massive campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association and the American Petroleum Institute. His Democratic presidential rival ‘Crooked ole’ Bernie’ never stood a chance.

2021       The march of technology will blow your mind.

The internet will be provided by satellite; robots will have personalities; trucks will become driverless, but cars will not (but they will become a lot smarter). Your groceries will be delivered by drone. Amazon will ‘know’ what you need from the supermarket better than you do yourself based on ‘big data’ and ‘artificial intelligence’. Amazon will get your order right 99.9% of the time.

You will lose your ‘important’ job at the insurance company to a clever algorithm that was programmed by a teenager in Manila. You will refuse a job painting toe nails at the local beauty salon and so the government will stop your dole money.

2021       You will be on first name terms with the Russian mafia

Social media ‘bots’ will become so sophisticated, it will be impossible to tell whether that hot chick you will meet online is a real person, a Nigerian scammer or the creation of a Russian mafia gang. Unluckily for you, the lovely ‘Christina’ from Idaho who seduced you into parting with half of your redundancy money is actually the oligarch Sergei Volkov, head of the Novgorod mafia.

Just like Ebenezer Scrooge who was shown his future by the ‘ghost of Christmas yet to come’, you will be happy to know there is still time to change. You do not have to accept the dark, brooding social vision of the future that I have seen in my author’s crystal ball. Rise up! Be positive and fight for social justice when you see a chance to make the world a better place before it’s too late. And good luck with your future!

My latest novel, The Last Oracle will be launched on Tuesday 17th October. The book’s hero, Sam Jardine is the ‘James Bond’ of the Procurement profession. He is as ordinary a person as any one of us, but he has the bad luck to be the employed by various nefarious organisations who are putting the future of the world at risk to further their own selfish agendas. Luckily, his negotiation skills are extraordinary and with his moral compass honed by years of ‘procurement compliance training’ he is the right man to save the day!

In The Last Oracle, Sam joins a US based fracking company that is drilling for oil on the environmentally sensitive Greenland ice shelf. Sam soon clashes with the CEO and is re-deployed to Daingerfield Oil’s renewable energy division where it is assumed that his career will stultify for the foreseeable future. But as the world edges towards a disastrous environmental tipping point, a group of politicians and vested interests seek to profit from the climate chaos that will follow. Sam Jardine must embark on a life or death negotiation with the rich and powerful, the outcome of which the future of the planet will depend.

We cannot all be heroes like Sam Jardine, but we can all make a massive difference to the world around us. Procurement is becoming central to the ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) trend that is sweeping the corporate world.

With the rise of the giant Ethical Investment funds, no ASX 200, S&P 500 or FTSE 100 companies can ignore the demand to be good corporate citizens. Those that do, risk their share price falling as the ethical investors place their business elsewhere.

The most obvious example where procurement has been central to ESG movement is the Modern Slavery Act in the UK and which is soon to be introduced to the Australian Parliament. I was at a CIPSA Conference in 2015 when Twiggy Forrest, the CEO of Fortescue Metals, first raised the concept and received a ringing procurement endorsement of his crusade to end slavery in our supply chains.

Then there is the growth of Social Enterprises. These are companies that exist to employ physically and socially disadvantaged members of our community and whose goods and services contribute to the growth of our economy. None of these fine organisations expect hand-outs and they compete with the very best. If the Procurement teams of large organisations were to direct even 1% of their expenditure towards these social enterprises, imagine what a difference it would make to society!

Then there is Procurement’s fight against corrupt practices, anti-money laundering and sanctioned countries and organisations. If Procurement were to exercise a zero-tolerance approach to these insidious activities, it would go a long way towards destroying them altogether.

And finally, there is my personal passion which is encouraging the use of environmentally sustainable products throughout the supply chain.  Procurement should be leading the way in buying solar panels or sourcing energy from renewable sources. We should insist on recycled products and developing alternatives to damaging chemical products. We should be encouraging the use of Skype meetings and video conferences and discouraging wasteful travel.

You don’t have to be Sam Jardine to make a world of difference. By doing your job in the most responsible and ethical way possible, you can make procurement a profession fit for heroes!

To order your copy of The Last Oracle, clink on the link below:

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Dear readers, I have something special, I’d like to share with you. I’ve teamed up with mystery and crime thriller authors to give away a collection of 30+ novels.
You can access the giveaway page at this link:

Crime Thriller Giveaway

This opportunity is available for a limited time only and will expire on 16th October. Enjoy

The giveaway is handled via Instafreebie and is subject to their terms and conditions.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of the global oil industry. We depend upon it for almost every aspect of our lives and until recently our biggest fear was that oil would run out. How would we drive our cars and fly to our favourite destinations without this precious commodity? Whole economies including those in the Persian Gulf, Russia and to a lesser extent the USA still depend upon oil for their wealth and wars have been fought to ensure access to cheap and reliable sources.

The US oil and gas industry is worth over two hundred billion dollars a year and employs ten million people in the US or about one in nineteen of its working population. The wealth that the industry produces is enormous and is firmly emblazoned on the American psyche and culture. I remember watching shows like the Beverly Hillbillies and Dallas with fondness and the instant riches that ‘black gold’ bestowed on those lucky fictional families.

The oil industry carries a huge responsibility and on the whole, it does so very well. Most multinational companies have ‘green’ programmes and are obsessive about health and safety. Its employees are highly skilled, trained and well paid. Most multinational oil companies are respected and rightly so. When you consider the massive logistical effort in extracting oil from some of the most inhospitable places on earth it is cheap and convenient. It has always amazed me that a litre of petrol is often cheaper than bottled water.

Unfortunately, oil extraction has come at a significant cost to the environment and human life. The large number of ‘spills’ including Deepwater Horizon and the Exxon Valdez has been well documented. And there is considerable debate on the long-term effects of ‘fracking’ which is well covered in my book ’The Last Oracle’ due out in October.

All three of my three books have taken an apocalyptic view of particular industries that we rely upon and trust. I explore the implications for the world should those industries (e.g. the pharmaceutical and social media companies) abuse the power that society has bestowed on them. My study of the oil industry has been especially fascinating because of the enormous wealth it generates. How far would the industry go to protect its wealth and position at the top of the food chain? I have focussed on a fictional but entirely plausible conspiracy by the oil industry to eliminate its main competitor – the electric and solar powered vehicle industry. I have imagined a situation where the fossil fuel industry has used its vast resources and influence to corrupt our politicians and engineer the destruction of emerging renewable technologies to protect their interests. The impact of this action brings about catastrophic climate change as the rise of greenhouse gases from vehicle and power generation chokes the planet.

But is such a scenario realistic?  I honestly believe that it is and is happening right now. An astonishing thirty cents of every dollar donated to Republican presidential candidates in 2016 came from people who owed their fortune to fossil fuels. The total amount donated by those individuals to the candidate’s election Super Pacs was over $107m.  Unfortunately, because of the massive expense of running for office, American presidential candidates cannot win elections unless they have considerable independent wealth (like Donald Trump) or their fund raising teams accept donations from industry special interest groups. That is why so many presidential candidates push the agendas of the gun lobby or climate science denial so hard. Ted Cruz, for example, banked 57% of his campaign funds from fossil fuel interests* and claimed climate change is a fiction perpetuated by liberals who want control over the economy. It is now almost a prerequisite for Republican presidential candidates to ignore scientific evidence and deny climate change.

My new book explores the possibility that politicians would go one step further and kill off an entire developing industry that competes with fossil fuels even though it would mean the eventual destruction of the planet. I leave you to judge whether this scenario is pure fiction or is happening for real even as we speak.

*Source US Federal Election Commission

Unlike today’s Gen X’ers, Gen Yer’s and Millennials, I was born and educated in mankind’s Industrial Age but graduated in the Information Age. Just as Fred Flintstone and his stone age car existed on the cusp of the bronze age, my career has straddled two different epochs. Unlike my Information Age business colleagues, I have never lost that child-like sense of awe as each new invention is unveiled with ever increasing frequency.

Here I pay homage to six inventions that have had a profound impact on my life. I list their finest qualities and their positive impact on my life. But I also take a nostalgic look back and assess what each invention may have taken away from my former Industrial Age innocence.

 

1.  The Sinclair Cambridge pocket calculator. Okay, so I missed out on the abacus, but when I first studied maths at school I was instructed in the use of logarithmic tables and slide rules.

I know what you’re thinking. Am I that old? Captain Cook and Dr Henry Livingstone used a slide rule to chart their way around the world. But when the sleek Sinclair Cambridge pocket calculator made its appearance in the classrooms of England, it was too good to be true. I took my subsequent maths exams with a grin that spread from ear to ear. All the while I half-suspected that the examiners would realise a dreadful mistake had been made and would confiscate our Sinclairs only to replace them with Victorian era log tables.

Sir Clive Sinclair was a flawed genius and went on to invent the death trap that was the C5 electric car. But he will forever have a place in my heart. Forty years later I still have his marvellous invention in the top draw of my desk at home.

 

2. The Grandstand Model 2000 video game. I had always assumed that televisions were inert, dumb objects that sent information one way. It controlled you. Sure, some of the programmes of my youth like Star Trek, Get Smart and Dr Who were pretty cool, but when I saw the Grandstand Model 2000 video game with its four functions (Football, Squash, Tennis and Practice) that I controlled, I knew that I just had to have one. In 1978 I became the master of the short white line and the square ball that bounced infuriatingly around the screen. The Grandstand 2000 was my first taste of computer technology and it started my lifelong interest in consumer electronics.

On the flip side, its novelty value soon wore off and I am still receiving psychotherapy today for its incessant high-pitched beeping and bopping. My Grandstand console had an electrical fault and blew up two of my dad’s black and white TV’s. Luckily he never suspected my Grandstand 2000 was the culprit or I wouldn’t be here espousing the qualities of modern technology with you today.

 

3. The email. Many of today’s workers would not know what life was like without email. This marvellous invention came into my life as a post-graduate student at the University of Essex in 1984. I instantly recognised the impact and primary use of this epoch changing technology.

Until that moment, one had to pluck up vast reserves of courage and find the right moment to chat up the girl of your dreams, but with email it was possible to be charming and witty at the touch of a button. You didn’t even have to look the part. Dating would never be the same again.

But the fun couldn’t last. As the use of email spread from the university campus to the work place its purpose as an exciting carrier of flirty messages was corrupted forever in the name of corporate greed. Inboxes around the world would soon be filled with meaningless corporate drivel and cover-your-ass memos. The age of innocence was lost forever.

 

4. The Fax Machine. I had been in industry for almost a year when my company bought its first fax machine. I watched in stunned awe as my purchase order disappeared into the beeping, hissing rectangular box to appear instantly at the supplier’s end hundreds of miles away. It was the closest thing to magic I had ever seen, particularly when the supplier returned my purchase order, duly signed minutes later. Ten years before I had scoffed at Star Trek’s transporter beam as stretching credibility too far, but my document was being beamed up in front of my own eyes. Unreal!

All good things come to an end and so it was with the fax machine. Rest in peace, my friend. You have earned pride of place in the great electronic scrapheap in the sky.

 

5. The Microwave oven. It might be mundane and ‘old hat’ now, but when it first came out, I couldn’t believe my eyes! Not only could the microwave oven cook food in three minutes, but it could do so without heat! Had I been born three hundred years earlier I would have cried out ‘witchcraft’! Indispensable for warming up cold cups of tea and last night’s leftovers, it has forever etched a place in my heart.

Regrettably, the microwave oven never conquered the baked potato and left chicken looking insipid and foul smelling. Its street cred was damaged beyond repair with the rise of poncy TV shows like MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules.

 

6. The Satnav. I was never blessed with a good sense of direction and have been known to occasionally wander aimlessly along my own street looking for my house. So when I bought my first TomTom, all my Christmases arrived at once. So useful was this little marvel of the twenty-first century that I could even forgive it for dumping me in a non-existent cul-de-sac in the dodgiest corner of the Bankstown. The Satnav is the gift that keeps on giving and even directs me away from the unseen four mile tailback that threatens to wreck my day. Just how clever is the little lady in the satnav that guides me serenely to my destination despite my attempts to take a wrong turn at every junction?

Unfortunately, satellite technology is also threatening to give us driverless cars. In my book that’s one step too far. When little backseat satnav driver takes control, I will know that my Industrial Age boy racer days are well and truly over.

 

Honourable mention: must go to the smart phone which has changed our lives forever, but not necessarily for the better. You only have to walk down the street to see the entire population of Australia bowing their heads to the mighty iPhone. Try getting a sensible comment out of a Millennial when they are within ten metres of an iPhone and you will understand why the smart phone did not make my ‘big six’.

I do understand that my ‘Six of the Best’ is a personal journey. Feel free to let me know your own ‘big six’ and what impact they have had on your life.