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Victorious Victoria

Victoria Huwiler is a household name in the business community. She is a shareholder of Roma Park, a real estate development project, and in Pilatus, a Land Rover and BMW dealership and service garage. Victoria owns her own company, Akasuba, which means ‘the Sun’ in Bemba, that puts together development projects throughout Zambia. Her business acumen has enabled her to strike partnerships with Renaissance Bank and the Davy Group, on the Roma Park real estate project that will total $40 million capital investment to complete.

‘Additionally, it may offer light industrial and warehousing facilities depending on demand’ she says.

Phase 1 of the Roma Park project, which consists of the housing developments was launched in April 2011 and sold out within 30 days of the offer.

Victoria says an initial investment of between $5-$7 million has been spent on the project, which should complete between 5-12 years maximum, depending on the market response.

A vibrant personality, Victoria has hosted a show on Radio Phoenix entitled ‘Madame Soleil’, which had a tremendous following with a lively call-in audience to whom she gave advise on life’s journey. She has appeared on the breakfast show ‘Kwacha Good Morning Zambia’ on the national broadcaster ZNBC, where she would analyse current events with popular television and radio personality Frank Mutubila, who was recently appointed ambassador  to Italy by President Sata. She has a column in a periodical magazine entitled ‘Nkhani Kulture’, where she writes on mythical tales, legions and keeps local customs alive through her stories of Zambian folk stories.

A spiritual person in her outlook on life, Victoria believes her aura has thrust her in the public eye where she has shared her philosophies with the public. While her media interaction have generally been received positively by her audience who know her to speak her mind on any topic, she once caused a huge uproar over an analysis she made that related to late president Chiluba. This incident she recalls with hindsight, has made her cautious of the press and she is now more than ever aware of the power of the media to make or break people.

Being a public figure has meant that Victoria’s personal life has come under growing scrutiny. The media flashed details of her divorce from her husband Joe Huwiler in the newspapers claiming that she had received the highest divorce settlement ever awarded to a spouse in Zambia.

Victoria disputes that her divorce was acrimonious, and says, ‘It was the easiest and most amicable divorce one can have. After the divorce was granted we left the courthouse together and had lunch. We had been separated for 7 years, before the divorce was granted 2 years ago. We get along very well.  Unfortunately, he is surrounded by people who hate my guts, but I will always love Joe, in a special way, because we share 3 children together and we were married for 22 years.’

Their first child (28) lives in Hollywood where she is pursuing a career as a movie star. She also promotes Zambian Fine Arts in Los Angeles and New York where she has held several exhibitions. Their second daughter (26) owns the Foxdale Court, a retail and office complex, and promotes Zambian Fashion through out the world. While their last child, a son (23), is a top student in his studies as a mechanical engineer at London’s prestigious Imperial College, from where he will graduate in June with a masters. Victoria believes he will take over the running of Pilatus, one day.

While some people may attribute her financial success to her former husband’s business, Victoria is a woman who has a rich upbringing in business. Her family, the Findlay’s, run various successful business enterprises in Zambia, some of which operate several branches nationwide. They own hotels, automobile spare parts and accessories distribution stores, service station, supermarket, building material stores, garden center and restaurants.

Victoria credits her mother with instilling business ideals in them.

‘My earliest memory of my mother are images of her sitting on the floor counting money,’ she recalls.

‘My parents had 13 children, I have 6 brothers and 6 sisters. My father was a doctor however, after having 9 children he realized he could not sustain the family on his salary. He left the practice and went into business. He began by selling cattle, at this time we lived on a farm. Later we moved to Emmasdale where he began trading and opened a supermarket, he later opened a bar.'

 Victoria says she was only 12 years old when he father passed away. Therefore, the task of raising the children rested with her mother, whom she credits with educating all of them. Victoria holds a major in African Literature and Theater, with an MA, dissertation on the ‘Direction of Zambian Theater. ‘Later my mum assisted everyone to start their own business before she died at age 75.’

Victoria recalls that her mother was the pillar of the family and held her children together through out her life. ‘She encouraged us to succeed and was there for us emotionally. We grew up as a strong Christian family. With her death,’ Victoria says wistfully, ‘sibling rivalries emerged’. 

Despite her Christian upbringing, Victoria confesses that she does not recall going to church much and she still does not practice any particular faith even though she went to catholic school at the Dominican Convent.

‘It’s the principals of religion that matter, the form of religion is of no consequence. I believe that as Christians we must change the form and it is time that we all unite.’

Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov, a Bulgarian philosopher and spiritual master who Victoria met in the South of France when she was 17 years old, heavily influenced her beliefs and spiritual inclination. She spent 5 months with him praying, fasting and meditating. Between the ages of 18 to 25, she would travel to France and visit with him, during which time she deepened her spiritual understanding of his philosophy, which espoused that ‘mans’ purpose on earth was to discover the world and to love it with all your heart and soul and then use this love with all your  talents and all your faculties to help alleviate the problems of humanity.

Being a woman in business Victoria says is very challenging. ‘ Men in Zambia do not want to see a successful woman. ‘The type of business I do is predominantly in a man’s world. I work with investment bankers, which people are not used to seeing. I work in a man’s world.’

Victoria says that she has had 2 attempts on her life, however, she hasn’t let this become a pre-occupation of her life.

‘Being spiritual, I understand that the only person that can block me from being successful is myself. It is important to realize that we all have weaknesses, when you give in to those weaknesses you get derailed. Enemies can only put spanners in your way, however, what is written in the stars will be.’

Victoria says her greatest goal is to create employment by bringing investors into Zambia.

While acknowledging governments role in creating conducive business polices and climate for entrepreneurs to carry out their ventures, she says, the business community has not stepped up to the challenge of job creation for the masses of unemployed. This challenge remains the responsibility of the business community.

'Looking at economies in West Africa which have created millionaires and billionaires in their societies,' Victoria believes that 'it is high time that Zambia builds up capital.' She blames Zambia’s inability to build capital in individuals on the socialist philosophies we practiced after independence. Calling socialism a ‘wonderful dream’ Victoria says, ‘we cannot get to socialism without being capitalists first. We have to build factories and industries if the country is to escape the poverty trap. We need to allow people to become rich.’

She blames jealousy as a vice that is holding people back. She says it is not uncommon for Zambians to question a person’s wealth despite seeing them working hard to attain it. This vice is so prevalent that in some parts of the country, wealth is attributed to witch craft. ‘This is a trend that must be stopped.

‘We need Zambians to surrender our petty jealousies and allow the rich to accumulate capital. It is by creating millionaries that jobs are created. In the long run the poor jump on the band wagon of the rich. However with the ‘PHD syndrome’, so prevalent, we tear down the people who actually could make a difference in this country.

‘My personal philosophy in life, is HAVE A CAPITALIST MIND BUT A SOCIALIST HEART! The rich and the poor, we need each other.’

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