British Empire Article

Courtesy of OSPA

by J. Lewis-Barned
Riotous Assembly
Ufipa Plateau
Ufipa was a poor, and comparatively backward, district. In 1957 we collected a mere 15,000 pounds sterling in Personal, house and Poll Tax and sundry other sums in Market Cess, cattle slaughter fees and Court fees, etc. 275 vehicles were licensed and 4,450 bicycles! A little progress was made with road improvements.

Ufipa was rich in soil and climate and potentially could have become much wealthier. In spite of low productivity, the Veterinary Officer reported 20,648 pounds sterling worth of Hides and Skins, Butter, Ghee and Cattle exported and the Agricultural Department 122,378 pounds sterling of produce likewise including coffee and tobacco.

Unskilled labour was paid at the rate of shs 26/- to shs 40/- a month and a census revealed a population of 130,000 Africans, 82 coloureds, 512 Arabs (mostly traders), 100 Indians and 130 Europeans of whom 21 were officials and their wives.

Of all these just 138 were convicted of criminal offences in the District court - 38 more than in 1956, and mostly the cases were for failing to pay poll tax, petty theft and traffic offences.

On reflection, 33 traffic offences for 275 vehicles does look to be heavy, but I think that this was the year that we had for the first time a gazetted British Police Officer and I remember that there was something of a blitzkrieg on road safety and the general state of the Indian lorries. I was myself lucky not to be caught with no hand-brake.

Still the Administration had not been idle that year and we boasted that we had completed no less than fifteen new buildings, inclding a new primary school and teachers' house and several dispensaries.

I had many safaris in the District, usually about one a month lasting about a week and it was great to leave my office desk and travel round the countryside, hearing local Courts appeals, checking Local Authority Accounts, visiting the Mission Stations, dealing with applications for tax exemption, land matters, buildings, and holding meetings to hear of local problems and disseminate Government Policy.

Sadly, the old Chief died in early 1957 following a lengthy safari and meetings were held to elect a new one; political activity increased in the District and we were required to supervise local Council elections and alas! the stirrings of organised democracy took root.

Because practically everyone was illiterate and only about one in nine children were receiving primary school education even then, local Council elections were held in a fairly simple way. The electors were summoned to appear and the candidates lined up whereupon on the word "Go!" the electors strung themselves out behind each candidate in a long queue.

They were thereupon counted and the candidate with the largest number behind him was declared duly elected. The Africans thought it all great fun though I doubt if they had much idea what it was all about since they already had their own traditional form of representation and formally elected councillors was something new.

Still we were making progress. "Beef and beer" payments for road labourers was abolished in favour of regular wages and the District Annual report states baldly that "some political activity in connection with compulsory labour occurred. The trouble is still that the incentive to work is not such as to persuade the African to look for it and until he is made to realise the benefits of a higher standard of living, the position will remain unchanged." This of course referred to the Local Authority right to recruit labour for the roads or essential services for a month in any one year, under the Compulsory Labour (Essential Public Works) Order made under the Native Authority Ordinances.

map of Nigeria
1947 Map of SW Tanganyika
Colony Profile
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 62: October 1991


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