The British Empire Library


District Officer in Tanganyika: 1956 - 1960 Part 2: The Memoirs of Dick Eberlie

by Dick Eberlie

From the Cam to the Zambezi: Colonial Service and the Path to the New Zambia

by Tony Schur

From Northern Rhodesia to Zambia: Recollections of a DO/DC 1962-73

by Mick Bond


Courtesy of OSPA


Review by Veronica Bellers (Daughter of C H Williams CMG QBE who joined the Kenya Administration in 1931. He became Provincial Commissioner, Nyanza and retired in 1957)
I am always struck when I read of the men who went to Africa as administrators how, living and working in a strange land, they met the unexpected with such steady nerves. This applies no less to those who went out at the end of the span of seventy or so years of British administration than it did at the beginning.

In Dick Eberlie's charming book (District Officer in Tanganyika) he describes how, whilst on a particularly wet and uncomfortable working safari early in his first posting in Tanganyika, he became aware that he had become blind in one eye. Although greatly distressed, he completed his safari and when he got back to the boma, he played a game of squash and buried himself in his work. No headless chicken he.

In Northern Rhodesia/Zambia, one of the first duties of the District Assistant, Jonathan Leach, was to warn the Senior Prison Warder that a certain prisoner was to be brought to the boma early the following morning for transportation to Provincial Headquarters. In the dusk he walked through the mango-tree grove to the gaol to pass on the message. "Warder!" I called in my best military/colonial voice. Not a sound. Met with an eerie silence his now perhaps less military voice rose in crescendo until a ghostlike figure emerged in the evening gloom. The apparition timidly explained that he was the senior prisoner. He had the keys on his person whilst the warders had gone visiting. With the aplomb of a veteran Leach transmitted the District Commissioner's orders to the senior prisoner, who proved worthy of his high office, and the dangerous felon appeared at the boma the next morning, manacled, escorted and on time. (From the Cam to the Zambezi.)

On a more sombre note, Mick Bond (From Northern Rhodesia to Zambia) recounts how he and his colleagues were faced with the completely unfamiliar religious Lenshina movement, or Lumpa, that had boiled up in north-eastern Zambia in 1964/65. As with similar agitations in Africa, it involved many unnecessary deaths and tore villages and clans apart. While the new Government exacerbated the tragedy with politics (again, a novel situation for DOs and their superiors) the administrative officers worked tirelessly to carry out the orders they were given to move the Lumpa people back to their original villages, while ensuring that they acted with humanity. Dr Kenneth Kaunda, the then Prime Minister, must not be forgotten when, at the eleventh hour after listening to the hotheads in his fledgling Government, he ruled that the Lumpas were to be forgiven and accepted back into their villages... The security and administrative officers sighed with relief. (From Northern Rhodesia to Zambia.)

The wives also met the unexpected with courage and resourcefulness and made their contribution. Their duties and interests were many and varied. They welcomed endless visitors; they helped with the local women's self-help or craft groups; they kept up the spirits of the bachelors far from home by teaching them the rumba or they went on safari with their husbands to help collate the electoral lists. I am glad that Tony Schur, who edited the collection of accounts in From the Cam to the Zambezi, did not forget the women and included accounts from three of these invincible volunteer members of the administration.

Two of the books under review cover Zambian pre-internal self-government and the transition to independence. The third is about Tanganyika just before independence. It is interesting to detect the difference in atmosphere between those two countries. Although it is difficult to put a finger on it, it seemed to me that throughout the Zambian accounts there runs a certain uneasiness. This is surely partly caused by the high tension of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Southern Rhodesia, war in Angola and turmoil in the Congo bringing waves of refugees. These crises across the borders probably also exacerbated the tribal and party strains that were building up during Zambian Internal Self-Government. The new DOs and cadets in Zambia appear to have been under greater pressure than many of their colleagues in Tanganyika; working in what appeared to be an atmosphere of disquiet.

In Tanganyika Dick Eberlie records that the population's concerns were more often with roads, cattle and marauding hippo wrecking their shambas but he also comments that "arranging [local] elections was worthwhile and sometimes amusing work" That does not sound too tense. The UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold, who visited Tanganyika in January 1960 was impressed by the contrast with Ruanda Urundi where he had found violence and revolution in the air. Yes, the Tanganyika administrative officers had the usual time-consuming workload checking on the village markets and schools, getting medicines to the dispensaries, dealing with the destitute, building bridges, arranging voter registrations or struggling with the legal complexities involved in such crimes as the alleged theft of a duck by a small boy - and worse too, of course. Despite their many duties, there appeared to be more opportunity in Tanganyika to play tennis, to party, to fish in the hills, or racing sailing dinghies off Dar es Salaam of an evening.

What happened next? Dick Eberlie leaves us wondering. His story ends when he flies back to England to enjoy his end of tour leave in 1960. But I have learned that he is busy writing two further books, one about his later service in Tanganyika and the other about his subsequent assignment in Aden as Private Secretary to the governing High Commissioner Sir Richard Turnbull.

Because the other two books dip into the early years of independence we have an idea what happened to some of the British officers who served Zambia in the years of transition and even later, but it is distressing to read Valentine Musakanya's story (From the Cam to the Zambezi). It began with such hopefulness following his parents' great sacrifice to ensure that Valentine was well-educated. He was much liked by his fellow cadets who attended the Overseas Course in Cambridge and he joined the civil service in Northern Rhodesia which included working as a District Officer. At Internal Self-Government he was asked to help establish the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the 1980s there followed a period when he was shamefully treated. Arrested, tortured and sentenced to death, he was eventually acquitted in 1985 but his health was broken and he died at 62. How did he keep his head when all about them were losing theirs? He wrote "I have found out that although I love Zambia so much, I perhaps love a truthful approach more, because only the latter will make her truly free." I hope Zambia will not forget him and will honour him and that sentiment.

British Empire Book
Author
Dick Eberlie
Published
2015
Pages
320
Publisher
Richard F Eberlie
ISBN
0993273203
Availability
Dick Eberlie has kindly made his book available online on this website in HTML for you to enjoy and read in full.
Abebooks
Amazon
British Empire Book
Author
Tony Schur
Published
2014
Pages
320
Publisher
I.B.Tauris
ISBN
1784530042
Availability
Abebooks
Amazon
British Empire Book
Author
Mick Bond
Published
2014
Pages
252
Publisher
Gadsden Publishers
ISBN
9982240900
Availability
Abebooks
Amazon


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