Anarchy 44/An anarchist in Africa

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An anarchist
in Africa


As an intro­duc­tion to this article it is my in­ten­tion to estab­lish that, through my an­ces­tors and my­self, I can claim to be a per­son who is inter­ested in help­ing Africa rather than ex­ploit­ing her. This is worth men­tion­ing be­cause many Euro­peans who have been as­so­ci­ated with Africa havee been greedy ex­ploit­ers, tak­ing rather than giv­ing, de­stroy­ing rather than build­ing.

  There is how­ever a trad­i­tion in Africa which speaks for Euro­pean rad­ic­als. It can be seen hist­or­ic­ally in the life-work of Living­stone; today men like <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: Guy Clutton-Brock">Guy Clutton-Brock and Terence Ranger fit into this trad­i­tion. In Africa “the lib­er­als” are re­nowned for cour­age and de­term­in­a­tion, they are a proud ex­ample of be­lief being trans­ferred into action; un­like the weak lib­er­al­ism of the Euro­pean coun­tries Africa’s lib­er­al­ism is tough and prac­tical. Its rad­ical tough­ness places it close to the anar­chist philo­sophy.

  I can claim some as­so­ci­a­tion with the Living­ston­ian trad­i­tion. My great-grand­mother was the sister of Adam Sedg­wick, a close friend of Living­stone’s. Adam Sedg­wick as a Fellow of Trin­ity Col­lege, Cam­bridge was in­flu­en­tial in as­sist­ing Living­stone. Of Living­stone Sedgwick wrote: “He stood before us a plain, single-minded, cheer­ful man and he ad­dressed us in un­adorned and simple words.” The auth­ors of Sedg­wick’s bio­graphy[1] re­port that when Sedg­wick spoke at a meet­ing in Cam­bridge after Living­stone “he en­treated his hear­ers not merely to wel­come and thank Living­stone for what he had said, but to carry for­ward the noble work which he had so auspi­ciously begun. His words were few, but well chosen, and when he sat down the ap­plause told that they had gone straight to the hearts of his hear­ers.”

  Sedg­wick, as can be seen, was a rather senti­mental Chris­tian and his at­ti­tude was a trifle ex­alted but when Living­stone’s “Lec­tures” were pub­lished and Sedg­wick wrote the pre­face the auth­ors of his bio­graphy write that “prob­ably no­thing con­trib­uted more di­rectly to the estab­lish­ment of the Uni­vers­it­ies Mis­sion to Cen­tral Africa than this short essay.”

  Writ­ing of the Living­ston­ian trad­i­tion in Cen­tral Africa Patrick Keat­ley[2] men­tions the two em­pire build­ers of Rhod­esia, Cecil Rhodes who “built with money and mil­it­ary power” and David Living­stone who “built his empire in the abid­ing al­le­gian­ces of men.” Keat­ley quotes an old Afri­can friend of Living­stone’s who wrote of Living­stone
as a person who “treated black men as brothers” and whose “words were al­ways gentle and man­ners kind, and who knew the way to the hearts of all men.”

  For my­self I feel it legit­im­ate to claim that to teach in an Afri­can run school in Salis­bury, South­ern Rhod­esia for close on a year at half wages is evid­ence of a de­sire to help the Afri­can people. I have worked out that the amount of money due but not paid to me by High­field Com­mun­ity School is rather more than the con­trib­u­tion made to the school by the Brit­ish South Africa Com­pany over the same year.

The School

  In his de­scrip­tion of the birth of High­field Com­mun­ity School[3], Mr. Chin­amano the Prin­cipal of the School paints the back­ground to the story by men­tion­ing the lodger sys­tem which oper­ates in the High­field Afri­can Town­ship of Salis­bury. These lodgers were al­lowed in High­field so that the owners of the houses would be better able to pay off in­stal­ments on their houses. But “be­cause, ac­cord­ing to law, chil­dren of lodgers may not enter gov­ern­ment schools, this year (1962) more than 1,500 chil­dren found them­selves with­out school­ing.”

  Mr. Chin­amano goes on to de­scribe the demon­stra­tions that the chil­dren made for schools. “Gov­ern­ment” he wryly re­marks “de­cided to stick to the legal aspect and dis­persed the chil­dren with <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: tear-gas">tear-gas. De­ter­mined to get school, these young­sters de­cided to ‘In­vade’ class­rooms de­mand­ing to be taught. And again gov­ern­ment turned deaf ears to the de­mands of the chil­dren and in­stead charged them with tres­pass.” Even­tu­ally the com­mun­ity of High­field formed an as­so­ci­a­tion to pro­vide school­ing for the chil­dren.

  “By means of this self-help ef­fort”, Mr. Chin­amano con­tinues, “Afri­cans were able in a matter of a week, to raise about £3,000 as school fees.” The Gov­ern­ment toler­ated the estab­lish­ment of the school but did not sup­port it and a fund-rais­ing cam­paign was started. Enough money was raised and church halls and old shops were lent or given to the school, 32 teach­ers were em­ployed and 1,300 chil­dren pro­vided with school.

  An inter­est­ing com­ment is made by the School Prin­cipal in his re­port when he writes: “The High­field Com­mun­ity School As­so­ci­a­tion is con­vinced that the answer to this edu­ca­tional crisis lies in the hands of the people and not of the Gov­ern­ment. As a re­sult of the High­field scheme vari­ous centres in the coun­try are estab­lish­ing sim­ilar lo­cally sup­ported schools.”

  In Septem­ber 1963 I left Britain to teach at the High­field Com­mun­ity School. A re­turn to Living­stonia was evid­ent in the fact that a trustee of the school, Sir Robert Tred­gold is re­lated to Living­stone. It was not my first visit to Rhod­esia, those inter­ested in my earlier ex­peri­ences with the North­ern Rhod­esia Gov­ern­ment can find them re­lated in the “Uni­vers­ity Liber­tarian” No. 11.

  Before I was able to enter Rhod­esia the body which was sponsor­ing my jour­ney, the Scot­tish Union of Stu­dents, re­ceived a cable at­tempt­ing to stop them send­ing me. It was claimed, I am in­formed, that I was a Com­mun­ist. Obvi­ously the Brit­ish secret police and the Rhod­esian Gov­ern­ment work hand in hand and dis­tort the facts in the pro­cess. How­ever by the time a final cable for­bid­ding me to go to Rhod­esia had ar­rived in Britain I was in the air being trans­ported, iron­ic­ally enough, by the South Afri­can Air­ways, armed with a work permit issued in some bur­eau­cratic error.

  Whilst I was teach­ing at the school the num­ber of chil­dren there rose to 1,800 and the num­ber of teach­ers in­creased. From month to month the school just man­aged to pay sal­aries and even the Gov­ern­ment pointed out in an article about the school “As a so­cial ser­vice it has an un­doubted value, re­cog­nised by the police in keep­ing poten­tial juv­en­ile de­lin­quents oc­cu­pied through­out a full work­ing day.” The school was also im­port­ant to Afri­can na­tion­al­ists as a demon­stra­tion of their cre­at­ive­ness and prac­tic­al­ity.

  Con­di­tions at the school were poor. Classes were over 50 in num­ber, text books were scarce, class­rooms be­came very stuffy and hot in the warm weather, the load for teach­ers was very heavy. Yet through all this a cheer­ful school emerged. A memor­able Christ­mas carol con­cert was given by the school to the com­mun­ity and Afri­can songs be­came part of the con­cert.

  Many is the time at the end of an ex­haust­ing day when one could hear three or four chil­dren sing­ing to­gether in a class­room demon­strat­ing the Afri­cans’ great love of song. I taught His­tory, Eng­lish and Bio­logy mainly th the class pre­par­ing for ‘O’ level and the in­tens­ity of their polit­ical views over-reached it­self in the his­tory classes, whilst in Bio­logy total lack of equip­ment meant ex­peri­ments were im­pos­sible.

  Trouble for the school started earlier this year when the Prin­cipal of the School Mr. Chin­amano was ar­rested with Joshua Nkomo and re­stric­ted to a re­mote area of South­ern Rhod­esia. It seemed to all of us that the Gov­ern­ment was set on de­stroy­ing the school and we heard ru­mours of plans to close it down. Some­how we man­aged to strug­gle on but in re­cent months an un­happy series of events has brought the school to its knees.

  I can quote from an article I wrote for the Afri­can Daily News[4] shortly be­fore I left Rhod­esia which ex­plains the posi­tion. “We have had a very hard time re­cently at the school. Some­body has organ­ised a dis­rupt­ive ele­ment both in­side and out­side the school

  “These thugs have made teach­ing dif­fi­cult. They have broken down the de­sire to learn and they have in­tim­i­dated the chil­dren into de­mand­ing that all teach­ers with af­fili­a­tions to the Zim­babwe Afri­can Na­tional Union should be boy­cot­ted.

  “Three of the long­est serv­ing and most loyal mem­bers of staff were at­tacked or boy­cot­ted by the chil­dren at the school. It was a de­plor­able ex­hib­i­tion of chil­dren being used for polit­ical mot­ives.

  “Indeed Mr. Chin­amano in his letter to me wrote: ‘I was sorry to hear that Mr. Mafu­kidze was sub­jected to un­healthy treat­ment by the stu­dents.’

  “He wrote this be­cause he knows it is fatal if polit­ics, rather than edu­ca­tion, is the main con­sider­a­tion at the school.

  “Never­the­less, when the teach­ers had been boy­cot­ted I was shocked to dis­cover shortly after­wards that the teach­ers in ques­tion has been re­placed. They had not re­signed, they had not been dis­missed but they had been re­placed.

  “I was dis­mayed that the com­mit­tee of the school could allow them­selves to be in­tim­i­dated into treat­ing these teach­ers so un­justly.

  “It was after this that I de­cided to re­sign in the hope that it would be real­ised the in­just treat­ment of the teach­ers was not con­doned by this par­tic­u­lar mem­ber of staff.

  “I would em­phas­ise that my action has no polit­ical mot­ive. It is action over the prin­ciple of a per­son being vic­tim­ised for his opin­ions.

  “If the tables were turned and a PCC teacher was vic­tim­ised for his opin­ions I would take sim­ilar action.

  “I be­lieve, very strongly, that edu­ca­tion domin­ated by polit­ics be­comes in­doc­trin­a­tion and that this worth­less sub­sti­tute for the real thing is a mark of total­it­arian­ism. For a polit­ical move­ment to have con­trol of chil­drens’ minds is fatal—no free­dom can flour­ish in such an atmo­sphere. An at­ti­tude of slav­ish obe­di­ence is driven into the mal­le­able minds of the chil­dren so that they can­not think for them­selves.

  “All I can do is ask you, for your own sakes to build a sense of toler­a­tion of other people’s views. Do not follow the ex­ample of Ian Smith and call those who dis­agree with you en­emies of the people. Do not re­peat the worst mis­takes of Euro­pean his­tory where dic­tat­ors have sought to wipe out the flower of free­dom.”

  That I was ad­vised to leave Rhod­esia at the earli­est op­por­tun­ity after the pub­lica­tion of this article shows that it had some ef­fect at least.

African Na­tion­al­ism

  Writ­ing in anarchy No. 3 on “Africa and the Future” in May 1961 I wrote: “What­ever one says or thinks of the Afri­can na­tion­al­ist polit­i­cians, it is good to see a people throw­ing off the yoke of colon­ial­ism. To me the thought of one na­tion for­cing its cus­toms and cul­ture on to an­other is so des­pic­able that I re­joice in the fact that the Afri­cans want to make their own way. This is what gains my qual­if­ied sup­port for the vari­ous strug­gles for in­de­pend­ence. What I do em­phas­ise how­ever, is that the strug­gle is only for in­de­pend­ence and is, sadly, no­thing to do with free­dom.” My re­cent ex­peri­ences of Afri­can na­tion­al­ism as re­lated above con­firm, to my mind, this ap­proach. A time has come to get the matter of Afri­can na­tion­al­ism in its true per­spec­tive. It is in fact a con­cept which is dan­ger­ous to those ideals which anar­chists hold dear. I have lost all pa­tience with pacif­ists who sup­port the “non-violent” Kenneth Kaunda and greet the slaugh­ter of 300 Afri­cans by Kaunda’s
Gov­ern­ment with si­lence. No amount of double-talk can just­ify the per­son who mouths words about fair play and turns a blind eye to the brutal and cruel treat­ment meted out by Afri­cans to other Afri­cans who op­pose them.

  One reads a letter to the Daily Tele­graph[5] by the Min­ister of Just­ice in North­ern Rhod­esia, Mainza Chona with un­ut­ter­able dis­gust. Con­cern­ing the sup­pres­sion of the Lumpa sect in North­ern Rhod­esia the Min­ister of Just­ice writes: “Your sym­pathy for these sav­ages is giv­ing rise to sus­pi­cions that an im­per­ial­ist may be a brain be­hind Len­shina.” He con­tin­ues to com­plain that “In Chin­sali the Lumpa Church was not merely non-polit­ical; it was pos­it­ively anti-polit­ics. Its lead­ers hurled the worst and most prim­it­ive abus­ive curses at lead­ing pol­it­i­cians.” For my­self, hav­ing seen at close quar­ters the work­ings of Afri­can polit­ics I would com­mend whole­heart­edly the anti-polit­ical stand taken by the Lumpa Church.

  Anar­chism has been of re­lev­ance to a few Afri­cans in the pres­ent age. In the war years Jomo Ken­yatta wrote for the anar­chist press, but look at him now, a com­mit­ted cen­tral­ist. The Foreign Min­ister of Zan­zi­bar has claimed an in­tel­lec­tual sym­pathy with anar­chism and Kaunda is friendly with the liber­tarian John Pap­worth. Al­though the whole di­rec­tion of events in Africa seems to be rush­ing away from anar­chism I am con­fid­ent that soon the short­com­ings of Afri­can na­tion­al­ism will be seen and les­sons will be learnt.

  The mutin­ies in East Africa and the gen­eral strike in Nigeria are point­ers to the fact that the Afri­can people are not con­tent with black lead­ers who line their own pock­ets at the ex­pense of the people. In my own ex­peri­ence I know the com­munal ideas of anar­chism are of in­stinc­tive inter­est to Afri­cans.

  We may yet see the day when the end of white suprem­acist rule in South­ern Africa coin­cides with the Afri­can people awaken­ing to the ideas of anar­chist com­mun­ism as they ap­pre­ci­ate the simil­ar­it­ies of the white settler rulers and the black rulers. One only needs to add that these twin events in Africa would in­volve the Iber­ian Pen­insula in a re­sur­gence of the <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: anar­cho-syn­dic­al­ist">anar­cho-syn­dic­al­ist strug­gle set off by the over­throw of Sala­zar.

  1. Life and Letters of Sedg­wick by Clark & Hughes. 2 Vols. (Cam­bridge Univ. Press).
  2. The Polit­ics of Part­ner­ship by Patrick Keat­ley (Pelican).
  3. The Story of High­field Com­mun­ity School by J. M. Chin­amano.
  4. “Why I Re­signed from Com­mun­ity School” by Jeremy Westall (Daily News 29/7/64).
  5. “Lumpa Sect Crimes” by Mainza Chona (Daily Tele­graph 13/8/64).