Tony Goddard's excellent memoir My African Stories covers three distinct periods -
firstly his early childhood in Northern Rhodesia with his Colonial Service parents,
and subsequent university life in England; secondly his time as a District Officer in the
bush in the three years running up to Zambian Independence in 1964; and finally the
brief post-independence period during which he was Resident Magistrate in a remote
part of the Barotse Province.
He manages to cover all three periods with light-hearted anecdotes that give largely
personal but relevant snapshots of the last days of indirect colonial rule in Zambia and the
early days of Independence. Apart from the grisly localised uprising of the Lumpa Church
in 1963 (also covered by John Hudson in his book A Time to Mourn) Zambia was fortunate
in having a well ordered and relatively peaceful transition to Independence in 1964.
Nevertheless, Independence naturally resulted in major changes in the way in which
the country was run. The old system of indirect rule favoured by the British throughout
the years of Empire was one of the first to be scrapped. Tony Goddard, with a
perspective gained from extensive periods spent as a District Officer in the bush,
lovingly describes the old system of working through the local Paramount Chief, and the
Tribal Council. But he was also witness to its replacement by a highly centralised,
politically controlled civil service that sadly led inexorably to ever increasing
urbanisation and rural stagnation and decline.
On a more personal note Tony Goddard highlights the spirit of trust and understanding
that existed between the expatriate District Officers and the Chiefs, as representatives of
the traditional rural society, and the even closer relationship between the expatriate
District Officer and his personal staff. These were relationships that served the old
system well, but gradually mutated as the post-independence changes took root. It speaks
volumes for all concerned that they have been replaced by a non-racial, colour-blind
governing class that has, incidentally, recently welcomed to the country a significant
number of dispossessed white farmers from Zimbabwe.
My African Stories will also be of special interest to readers fortunate enough to have
experienced the wildlife riches of the Luangwa Valley, and they will have seen the fruits
of an enlightened game policy based on full local participation, which was initiated over
50 years ago by the colonial government in collaboration with the old Paramount Chief
Nsefu. One of the best camps in the Valley still bears his name - a fitting monument to a
remarkable man (with whom Tony Goddard developed a close friendship).
Footnote: The writer of this review was stationed in Fort Jameson (now Chipata) in
1954-56 almost a decade before Tony Goddard. He initially worked with the Kunda but
later was given a special assignment to carry out a survey of the Ngoni people. To write
this review has therefore been an especially great pleasure and restored many happy
memories of the people and the writer's family.