Noel “Zambo” Heath, who was killed at approximately 5:00am on Friday morning, (14th October, 2011), while leaving his home and just about to enter his vehicle; some say on his way to his agricultural farm, is now being remembered by various members of the public who have been expressing their outrage in what has become the 31st homicide for the year so far.
Kittitians had hardly gotten the chance to reflect on the killing of the 30th victim, 17 year old Vincent Ritchen, who was shot and killed in the East Basseterre district of Newtown on Thursday night, when news broke that gunmen had again struck, ending the life of another citizen.
For many Zambo was a philanthropist who made sure that his neighbours in need and his “Village” Community, especially sportsmen, were never left without the assistance that he could render. His love for football in his later years and cricket when he was a youth were activities that he relished and dedicated much time and effort.
But he was also a father and husband who, from all reports, believed strongly in his family and at times it is said he treated his friends with the same love and affection.
Amongst those grieving his loss are the brothers and sisters in the Rastafarian faith. Zambo was also a leader in the Nyabinghi tradition. He could be often seen in worship with fellow believers, especially back in the 1990s when they gathered at the Patsy Allers Park, due to the absence of a more suitable community based venue at the time.
He could not be accused of being a racist but Noel Heath loved his black race. He tried in his teachings to educate fellow Kittitians about the greatness of Africa and Africans; and the need for our people to love themselves. He also held the view that more needed to be done for black Kittitians and Nevisians to emancipate themselves from the chains of mental slavery and though gaining political independence in 1983; he felt we were still trapped in the nightmare of psychological slavery. There was no doubt that he was a scholar in Africanism.
He lived a relatively quiet life since returning to St. Kitts two years ago. It was only a few weeks ago he participated in a public march in the McKnight area, where as youth he spent some of his formative years. He at that event urged the young people to take a new direction in life…one away from crime and violence, not knowing at the time that he too would soon become a victim of the horror that has, unfortunately become a feature of the social landscape of this small island that once knew not the pain and agony of such heightened killings.
Turning the clock backwards into the past 15 years would reveal chapters that profoundly impacted his life. For about 10 years the United States Government tried to have him, (Zambo), and another Kittitian, Glenroy Matthew, extradited for trial in that country. However, on two occasions the request for extradition was denied by the local magistrate who explained that the evidence was not compelling enough to grant the requests.
The Americans however, had no desire to give up and it was reported then, that much diplomatic and other pressure was being placed on the government.
The mid 1990s were tough times for St. Kitts and Nevis which had seen an upsurge in crime and violence, some of which was tagged to a local figure known as Charles “Little Nut” Miller. Miller was accused of being a leading figure in the Jamaican drug gang called the Shower Posse which was said to have operated an underground business in drugs and guns and was alleged to be responsible for many killings in America.
This is the same Shower Posse of which Jamaica’s Dudas Coke was accused of being a leading figure, running guns and drugs into the United States. Dudas’ extradition to the US was denied by the Jamaican Government of Bruce Golding but eventually they too gave in to the requests. Golding himself has suffered greatly from this incident and has been forced out of office; already announcing that he intends to step down as Prime minister of Jamaica. He admitted that the Dudas Coke matter was one that led to his decision.
Like Zambo’s case for extradition, the US government was accused of using illegal wire-tapping evidence to build their case against Dudas. In both St. Kitts and Nevis and Jamaica, such activity when occurred, was against the laws of the countries and thus the requests were not favoured by local authorities.
In terms of Mr. Heath, the lengthy extradition proceedings, which were processed through the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, related to a five count federal indictment handed down in 1995, which principally charged Heath with conspiring to import more than five (5) kilograms of cocaine into the United States, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 952, and conspiracy to possess more than five (5) kilograms of cocaine with the intent to distribute, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1) and 846. Each of these charges carried a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, a fine of $4,000,000, or both. Heath however, got less than two years after some of the charges were dropped.
After being extradited in 2006, serving just less than 2 years in US prison, Heath returned to his native St. Kitts and given a hero’s welcome at the nation’s international airport. Though he continued his support for the community, he lived under the public radar until recently when he started to preach tolerance and peace, especially to the youth. He became a caller, though only on rare occasions, to local talk radio and started to contribute to the efforts to rid the country of the violence that was killing our people.
For many, it is therefore painful that his life was taken in an “hour” when he was deep in his efforts to bring peace among local gangs and alleged criminals.