The British Empire Library

Mapolisa: Some Reminiscences of a Rhodesian Policeman

by David Craven

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Robert Barkley (Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia Police 1946-65)
David Craven joined the British South Africa Police (BSAP) in 1948 and served for twenty years before retiring with the rank of Superintendent. This was a period that started with the old established self-governing regime of Southern Rhodesia, which in those immediate post-war years no one thought would change. But seventeen years later the guerrilla war had begun and Ian Smith had declared Rhodesia independent.

The reminiscences are an account of the author's career from beginning to end, listing all his transfers and promotions and as such will be of interest to others who followed similar careers. There is something rather superficial about it, however entertaining the tales may be and much of it is both entertaining and informative. The style is at times a little too jocular and verbose, which some may find irritating. For the serious reader it would have been of interest to learn something of the social and political changes which took place and which must have affected the everyday life of a policeman. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland is barely mentioned, though the remark that the BSAP might have become the basis of a Federal police force, an arguable point for members of the Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland police forces, betrays in one line the Southern Rhodesian attitude to the Federation and one of the many reasons why it failed.

For one who served in both the BSAP and the Northern Rhodesia Police (NRP) the lack of references to the African police is striking. In both the BSAP and in the NRP the African policemen were personalities on whom one depended. Yet the only two David Craven mentions by name are the pair that accompanied him on a brief mounted patrol. Otherwise except for occasional references to constables they might not have existed in the BSAP. There must have been some change in the status of the African policeman as Appendix one shows that there was a broadening of the rank structure in 1961 but this passes without comment. The only reference to African advancement is made when recalling passing through a customs post on the Congo border efficiently manned by Africans, which the author remarks would not happen in Rhodesia for another thirty years. The advancement of the African policeman in the northern forces was slow enough but it was streets in advance of the situation in Southern Rhodesia.

Ian Smith's Declaration of Independence (UDI) does receive more coverage and it is interesting to note that as well as being requested to stay on under the new regime by the Governor Sir Humphrey Gibbs so that law and order would be maintained there was also the threat that any member of the police who refused duty would be detained and charged under the Police Act. David Craven continued to serve but left three years later when completing the twenty years service needed to qualify for a pension and also the two years he was expected to put in after promotion to superintendent. Mapolisa is a book with a certain appeal but it would have been improved if it had not confined itself so rigidly to the author's career.

British Empire Book
David Craven
Covos-Day Books


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