RISING STARS with BENEDICT TEMBO
LEE-ANNE Singh is no longer active in motorsport anymore.
Instead, Lee-Anne Singh, who took the continent by storm by navigating one of Africaâ€™s most revered motor rally drivers, Satwant Singh, and later became president of the Zambia Motor Sport Association (ZMSA) for five years, has two passions that she is focusing on: wildlife and environment, and conservation and education.
She sits on the boards of the Wildlife and Environment Conservation Society of Zambia as well as Barefeet Theatre Zambia.
â€œI run a careers fair annually. The next one is scheduled for March 2015,â€ she said.
The careers fair is an event that she does under her company, Image Promotions.
Elizabeth Anne Singh (named after Queen Elizabeth), but always known as Lee-Anne, was born on April 15, 1956 in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
She is the third in a family of three â€“ her older brother Adrian is an aquaculturist living here in Zambia, her older sister Terri lives in Cape Town while Andrew, her younger brother, who has a doctorate in chemistry, lives in Switzerland.
â€œMy parents developed one of the biggest poultry farms in Zambia at the time, Five Acres Farm, along the Baluba River on the Ndola-Kitwe highway, later sold to Henry Shikopa. My dad obtained the Bernina sewing machine franchise for East and Central Africa.
â€œThe headquarters for Bernina was established on Five Acres Farm. Distribution was done from the farm, throughout the country, we had branches in Ndola, Luanshya, Kitwe, Mufulira, Chingola, Lusaka and Livingstone,â€ Lee-Anne said.
Her father was elected Roan member of Parliament under Kenneth Kaundaâ€™s government in 1975.
Lee-Anneâ€™s mother, Catherina Phillipina Piers nee Terrablanche, was a high school chemistry teacher.
She taught at the Indian School in Luanshya and then took an active part in her husbandâ€™s business where she was an executive director.
Both her parents are deceased.
Lee-Anne, who was brought up in Luanshya, attended her early education at Luanshya Convent and later Eunice High School in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
â€œIt is a government school, my parents didnâ€™t have a lot of money, so only my elder brother went to a private school in South Africa,â€ she said.
At Eunice High School, it was compulsory to participate in at least three sports disciplines .
As a result of this policy, she swam for the school and also played hockey.
During her stay in Bloemfontein, she lived on the farm and always rode a bicycle.
â€œSubsequently I have done the Cape Argus [cycling competition] four times. I enjoy riding my bicycle.
We need cycle lanes in the country to make it a safer pastime, and an essential means of transport,â€ she said.
Lee-Anne developed interest in motorsport later in life when she met Satwant Singh, her husband.
After years of offering Satwant moral support and inspiration, she decided to become practical and navigated the eight-time African champion for two years in 1993 and 1994. Out of the eight, she successfully navigated Satwant to winning the Zambia International Rally in 1994.
The experience of navigating stimulated further interest in the sport and she was elected ZMSA president in 1995 and held the position until 1999 when she surrendered the mantle to Aaron Chungu.
Lee-Anne met Satwant in 1974 in Lusaka through her brother, Adrian, who served for Satwant in 1973 for the East African Safari Rally when he finished seventh, the highest-placed private entry.
â€œI finished school in December 1973, I came back to Zambia for nine months before I was scheduled to go to the UK for tertiary education,â€ she said.
The two fell in love but the marriage could not materialise sooner than they had expected due to many obstacles in the way, including age difference, cultural difference and non-acceptance by society and family.
â€œI was very young, and in awe (one of the reasons my mother was very opposed to the relationship). I have grown up now,â€ she said.
Several years down the line as a couple, Lee-Anne said they have a very good relationship of mutual respect.
Satwant started the transport business in 1975 while Lee-Anne joined him in 1980 and they worked together for 15 years in the transport business.
She was an executive director in Satwant Transport.
â€œWe have two wonderful children, Prethi and Mandeep. They are both living in Zambia, after studying abroad,â€ she said.
â€œPrethi works with me in the event industry, she manages Rooneys Hire Zambia. She is a professional hotelier by trade. Mandeep, a chartered accountant, is married to Miguel de Brito, a Portuguese-South African. They are jointly running the transport business, Satwant Transport. They have a beautiful daughter aged three, whom I adore,â€ Lee-Anne said.
She added:â€I am very happy to have my family close to me.â€
Despite their father having been a rally driver for over two decades and their mother a navigator-cum-administrator, neither of the girls is involved in motorsport though they follow it closely, and support their cousins (Muna Singhâ€™s children).
About the influence she has had on Satwantâ€™s motor rally career and business, Lee-Anne said: â€œI think to be successful, you should be happy. I am very happy and I hope that exudes to all around me.â€
â€œWe all work very hard and support each other in all ways. That permeates throughout the family. Some may be perceived to be successful, to me â€œwhat is the definition of success?â€ Success is making the people you care about happy, confident and independent,â€ she said.
Lee-Anne said Satwant had a very hard childhood.
â€œAs a result he is always very focused on what he wants to achieve. He was determined from a young age that he wanted to be a top rally driver and never allowed anything in his way. When he started rallying, he built his car himself and serviced it himself,â€ she said.
Lee-Anne said the rally enthusiasm in East Africa is infectious.
â€œI was totally amazed at the generous support rendered in the events that we participated in. I fully supported him through his rally career, from service, to navigating, and managing the business during his long trips across the continent, flying in for the events,â€ she said.
Lee-Anne started her own event management business â€“ Image Promotions – in 1996 and it has grown from strength to strength.
She heads a number of companies under the Events Solutions banner, including Image Promotions.
Rooneys Hire Services, which is run by her daughter Prethi also supplies marquees and everything required for an outdoor event.
The rest are Showmasters, Conference Systems Zambia and Shungu Services.
â€œMagic of Zambia is my passion. We publish travel guides and coffee table books highlighting the success stories of Zambia. It is exciting times, with lots of potential. There is a lot of interest in motocross and 4×4 adventures,â€ she said.
She said motocross attracts children, and can be a family event.
â€œ4×4 is really a great way to progress, especially with all the opportunity Zambia has to offer in off-road events. That can combine with tourism development and promotion. Also from a spectator perspective, there is a great scope for go-karts, we already have many small circuits, the next step is a commercial circuit,â€ Lee-Anne said.
She said rallying is really a great sport, but is very expensive, and as â€œwe donâ€™t have any motor industry here, it is not supported financially to the extent where it can growâ€.
RISING STARS with BENEDICT TEMBO