This posting has been in draft for nearly a year. I wanted to wait until all the actions were complete before posting. I could not come up with a catchy title. This is a story of unintended consequences, and unexpected and, as it turned out, unwanted inheritance and Chilanga cement company in Zambia.
My father, Walter Jack Whiteside, died in 1989 and left a complicated estate. In terms of the will two thirds was left to my mother and the balance divided between my father’s two daughters from previous marriages. My brother and I were the executors. It took a long time but we managed to wrap up most of the estate by about 1992. I used a local Durban attorney, Russell Sobey to help with this as most of the holdings were in South African shares.
There were three shareholdings that, at the time, had no value outside the countries the companies operated in. These were two Zimbabwean companies, with the wonderful names of Matabeleland Tattersall’s (now trading as Commercial and Industrial Holdings) and Willsgrove Brick and Potteries (listed as Ariston Holdings). In addition my father held shares in Chilanga Cement Plc, a Zambian company. As an aside I visited Chilanga in the 1990s. This visit was part of my early research on the implications of AIDS on the private sector.
When we finally finished wrapping up the estate and settled the final account with the attorney in Durban in 1999, I had spent R4520 on legal fees. The shares were nominally worth about R4000 but were not tradable outside Zambia and Zimbabwe. Rather than being reimbursed from the estate, and after talking to my brother I simply had the shares transferred into my name. I thought it would be interesting to have these holding. All the certificates sat in my filing cabinet in Durban.
In 2004 Rowan, Douglas, Ailsa and I went to Zambia and stayed at Tongabezi, a wonderful lodge on the Zambezi River. The people who own the place are both idealists and lovers of Africa and the websites are worth visiting. They have established a charitable trust, the Tujatane Trust School, which provides an excellent education to local children.
We had a fantastic time. It is an idyllic place – although I have a strong aversion to heights which made looking over the Falls and into the gorge challenging. Part of the deal was an excursion to Livingstone’s Island on the very brink of the falls. I was not comforted by the boatman saying that he was ‘going to try to miss the rocks and hippos’. It was the word ‘try’ that worried me. The visit was memorable to us all, but for different reasons.
At some point there after it struck me it would make sense to give the Zambian shares to the Trust as there was the possibility they would get some benefit. I simply sent Tongabezi the share certificate thinking that they would be able to get dividends or sell them. It turned out I was wrong, they needed the death certificate, probates and other documentation to do this.
On Monday 29th July 2013 I got the e-mail reproduced below.
From: Jonathan Waters
Sent : Monday, July 29, 2013 9:37 PM
To: Alan Whiteside
Subject: Re: Walter Jack Whiteside
I’m writing in connection with an investment held by your late father Walter Jack Whiteside. He must have been in Zambia at some stage or had friends there.
Anyway, firstly I’m just checking you are still on this email as I found it with a basic search on the internet. My father was at the University of Natal in the Dept of Surveying and Mapping until he retired.
I live in Zim (although I am in the UK at the moment). I publish the Central African Stock Exchange Handbook (www.casehandbook.com) and do “heir hunting” as an aside.
I can assure this is not a Nigerian scam!
Let me know if you receive this and we can chat further.
I wrote back and confirmed I was the son, but said something like if, “If these are the Chilanga shares then forget it, I gave them away”.
He informed me that it was these shares he was writing about. They had gone up in value since the French company Lafarge had taken over and dividends had been accumulating, and they. The value of the shares and dividends meant my holding was worth about R120 000, (C$12000 or GB£6500) was sitting in account. His deal was that he found heirs, would sell the shares and remit the proceeds in exchange for 20% of the money. In addition it was now possible to get money out of Zambia, which had been very difficult previously.
I asked why the school had not done anything with the shares, his response:
‘I doubt they would have been able to sell it as we’ve done quite a few of these and you need to register the Probate (of your father’s Estate) with High Court in Lusaka to get anywhere. We could go this route if you want to, and then you could send them the money. As it stands, they are unlikely to be able to do anything with the paper. The reason I know the shares have not been sold is because the dividends keep being returned. It’s your call.’
What I thought I had given away was, firstly worth far more than I had thought, and second I had to have it back again to give it away! So in August 2013 we put everything in motion. The school couriered the share certificates to me in Durban. They had been sitting in the safe in Livingstone with no benefit accruing to anybody.
I sent the certificates and the extensive paperwork to Harare. Jon Water sold the shares. The first and major tranche of the money arrived in my bank on the 31st December 2013. It then took a further nine months and numerous emails to get the money for the dividends. The money was sent and returned and finally arrived at the end of September 2014, following the intervention of my bank manager at Barclays Bank (Aylsham Road) to give full credit.
There was no question in my mind that, morally, I had to give the money away. However I did decide that I had some discretion. I am involved in Waterford Kamhlaba. I have written about this, I not only attended the school, but have been on the governing council for 20 years. I took the decision to divide the windfall and divided it between the schools. Jon was extremely generous and reduced his cut to 10 percent on the first tranche and nothing on the second. As my blog is a matter of public record I kept enough from the second dividend payment to pay for a family dinner. I told the people in Swaziland and Zambia that I would write and post the full story of why they were getting these donations when everything was done and dusted, and now I can finally do that.