People #2


Payne was and remains the only person I have ever known who lived in the UK on a UN refugee passport, or whatever it is officially called.

He was born in what was then Rhodesia and his father was a commander in Nkomo’s liberation army fighting the government of Smith. At that time Payne was a schoolboy and even though he aged as the fight went on his father would not let him join those in the bush as he wanted him to finish his education.

Upon the collapse of the Smith white government and majority rule, things looked to be on the up for Payne and his family. Mugabe was elected and Nkomo remained at that point in alliance with Mugabe. However, things soon became more complicated leading directly to Payne becoming a refugee.

Payne’s father was one day to travel across country for some purpose I can no longer remember on a train. However, he became sick the day before going and had to appoint a lieutenant as his replacement. On the journey the train was stopped by Mugabe loyalists and the carriage the lieutenant was now in was sprayed with machine gun fire killing the lieutenant and his family. Payne’s family by some direct or circuitous route then ended up living in London devoid of their previous possessions but freshly issued with the often sought after passport.

Before I had met Payne at college where he studying computer science at degree level he had attended South Bank Polytechnic where he had had to depart his chemistry degree after an incident where a laboratory was destroyed in an explosion.

Payne now works as a lecturer in computer science at some college in London and we remain in touch by Facebook. Or rather a collection of the latest reports on the travails or triumphs of Tottenham Hotspurs appears on my Facebook account via Payne’s. Payne has always been a Spurs fan.

Payne was my predecessor as president of the Student’s Union at PNL back in the days of Revolutionary Communist Party student union play and glossy Living Marxism magazines along with the enigmatic and talented organiser Claire Foster (Fox). Payne though was a member of the Labour Party in Britain and one of the founder member of the National Union of Overseas Students in the UK and as such viewed with suspicion by the left-wing that were strong, although not as strong as in my term, in PNL politics, and the culmination in events at a college occupation in Kentish Town that resulted in allegations of violence against a group of mostly female students and bans left scars that weren’t going to be healed.

Payne was also one of the group of us living in the Trowbridge Estate tower blocks in either squats or student housing before the eventual demolition of them all and replacement with new low-rise housing.

Life after presidency at PNL was not usually a normal one for anyone and Payne got caught in the cycle of unemployment that typified those days of Thatcher’s surplus workforce theories to undermine union power and improve competitiveness of British corporations by reducing wages. A few year son having experienced the brutal reality of this myself for 6 months, I took Payne out to the George in Hackney for a night out. It was for many reasons memorable but one of the last times I saw Payne.

Now I sit at work looking through an old personal hanging file that contains the transcripts for my degree that Payne sent to me complete with a short letter that ended ” well G, I have to sign off now, I am not good at writing long letters, hear from you soon.” and I wonder how we lost touch, or how our only contact is now a one way deluge of reports on a football club, but a deluge I know I will never cut off.


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