British Empire Article

Courtesy of OSPA

by Humphrey Taylor
(District Officer, Tanganyika 1959-62)
Soon after Tanganyika became independent, and near the end of my time as a District Officer in Njombe, I received a call from the British manager of the Commonwealth Development Corporation’s wattle plantation and factory a few miles from the District Office. The factory took the bark that was stripped from the wattle trees and used it to make tannin. The workers there were on strike for higher pay, in part because they expected to earn more now that the country was no longer a British colony.

The manager called me because he was afraid that a large crowd of strikers near the factory might attack and damage it. He asked for police protection. I arrived a little while later with ten or fifteen African policemen. I cannot remember if they were armed with anything other than truncheons. It is possible that they also brought rifles. Anyway, everything passed off peacefully without a serious incident. The police and I stood for a couple of hours between the strikers and the factory. The strikers then dispersed and went away. There was no violence of any kind.

However the local union leader sent a fiery telegram to the Minister of Labour, John Mwakangale in Dar es Salaam, in which he wrote that there was a dangerous crisis with provocative action by the British colonial District Officer and the police and that there was a “danger of the spilling of blood”. Mwakangale was believed to be the most aggressively anti-white or anti- British member of the government. He telegrammed back to say he was coming to Njombe the next day and he sent us a very sharp message criticizing my action and asking to meet with us as soon as he arrived.

At the start of the meeting he was very aggressive and hostile, but as he listened to the manager, the police and to me, he understood what had, and had not, happened. At the end of the meeting we went off and had some beers together.

A little while later, I was in Dar es Salaam to catch the plane on my way home at the end of my brief colonial career. As I was walking on a street there I saw a small group of African cabinet ministers, including Mwakangale, walking towards me on the other side of the street. When he saw me, he dashed across the road, welcomed me enthusiastically, took me by the hand, and brought me across the meet his cabinet colleagues. He told me how sorry he was to hear that I was leaving Tanganyika.

A year or two later I heard that he went to prison: I am not sure why.

British Empire Map
Map of South-Western Tanganyika, 1949
Colony Profile
Njombe's Wattle Plantation
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 112: October 2016


Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames

by Stephen Luscombe