In Memoriam: Sir John Basil Zochonis, 1929 - 2013

Thursday, 9 January 2014
DMF - Website Editor

Sir  John Basil Zochonis, 1929 - 2013

Sir John Zochonis

We, at the Royal African Society extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Sir John Zochonis, who died aged 84 on 30 November 2013, was an industrialist and philanthropist and for many years a supporter of the RAS individually and through his family’s company.

Sir John Zochonis part of the Zochonis trading dynasty that made their fortune importing raw goods including coffee, groundnuts and palm produce from West Africa into the UK. Later the company, under Sir John’s chairmanship branched into pharmaceuticals and home products, acquiring and growing the famous Imperial Leather brand.

Sir John was born Altrincham, Cheshire on 2 Oct 1929 and was educated at Corpus Christi College in Oxford where he was awarded a B.A. (Hons) Law. In 1953 he joined Paterson Zochonis and became a Director of P Z Cussons in 1957.

The company is now PZ Cussons, and remains in family control with annual profits of over £90 million. Sir John retired from active business in 1990. He devoted himself to philanthropy and development, serving on the board of the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC). He maintained a commitment to Africa as a place where his family had prospered, and was a great supporter of the work of the Royal African Society, and its sister organisation, the African Studies Association.

In partnership with the Royal African Society and the African Studies Association, he established the Mary Kingsley Zochonis Trust in 1992 to sponsor academics from the continent to give an annual lecture to the African Studies Association conference.

In keeping with his self-effacing and humble temperament he was reluctant to have the lecture include the Zochonis family name, but as he said in his letter to Sir Michael Caine, then Chairman of the society, “I don’t normally like my name being connected with any charitable gift, but in view of the family’s connection with West Africa over the last hundred years, it would seem not unfitting.”

Sir John also gave generously to numerous organisations working in the North-West of England where his family traded, and was one of the first and principal financial supporters of the Caine Prize, now the most prestigious prize for African literature published in English.

Sir John Zochonis is survived by his wife Brigid Demetriades (nee Smyth).

There will be a Memorial Service for Sir John in Manchester Cathedral on Tuesday 28 January 2014 at 2pm.

The Mary Kingsley Zochonis Trust

Some of the lectures and lecturers the trust has supported since it was established include:

Mr Kabba Bangura
Adapting to Climate Change: Coping with the Effect of Weather Changes in Rural Sierra Leone

Dr. Hassan Sachedina          
Will Carbon Finance Revolutionize the Face of Conservation in Africa

Dr James Muzondidya         
The Zimbabwean Crisis and the Unresolved Conundrum of Race in the Post-colonial Period

Dr Kasaija Phillip Apuuli     
The International Criminal Court and Implications for Conflicts in the Horn of Africa Region

Dr Garnette Oluoch-Olunya, Kenyatta University, Kenya              
Letter of James to the People of Limuru

Dr Timothy Kimathi Murithi, Addis Ababa University     
Under-Mining Africa: the Illicit Trade in Natural Resources and its impact on Peacebuilding and Development

Prof Abdalla Adamu, Bayero University, Kano                
Transglobal media flows and African popular culture: revolution and reaction in Muslim Hausa popular culture

Dr Joyce Nyairo, Moi University, Kenya
Modify: Jua Kali as a metaphor for African urban ethnicities & cultures

Dr Charles Ukeje, Ile-Ife University     
A Farewell to Innocence? African Youths and the Challenges of the 21st Century

HE Dr Salim Ahmed Salim
Former Secretary General of the OAU 

Dr Ennie Chipembere, University of Zimbabwe 

Dr Thokozani Xaba, University of Natal, Durban 

Dr George Abungu, National Museum of Kenya  

Wangari Maathai, The Green Belt Movement, Nairobi 

Professor Penina Mlama, University of Dar-es-Salaam 

Dr Akin Euba, Hon Visiting Prof, Music, City Univ 


Dr Emeka Nwabueze, University of Nigeria at Nsukka