The Heart of Africa

Mauritius Times 60 Years Ago — 2nd YEAR NO. 31 – Friday 11th March 1955

There are plenty of African territories where the powers-that-be will be displeased with Mr Campbell’s book. (‘The Heart of Africa’ by Camphell – published by Longmans, 18s.) It is biased, in favour of humanity and civilization. It is also lively, readable, and absorbing, it rouses, and keeps roused, the reader’s interest in what is to too many people the esoteric and wearisome subject of colonial affairs.

We are taken on a tour to all colonial Africa south of the Sahara: Belgian, French, Portuguese as well as British. We learn of the different approaches to colonial problems: Belgium denies political development to her Congo subjects while yet advancing their economic status. France is opposed to a rigid colour-bar yet subjects her African people to forced labour. Portugal also imposes forced labour; and exports labour to the Rand goal and coalfields. (In French and Portuguese Africa, the ILO has an overdue job to do). Britain – well, British colonial policy is a jigsaw which this book will help readers to understand.

Mr Campbell shows us the problems of British colonial Africa through African, English, Indian and Afrikaner eyes; we hear too those problems discussed through many lips. We meet the white settlers of Kenya in their homes and in their clubs; they become so live under Mr Campbell’s masterly pen that as they speak, we can not only see and hear them, but even smell the gin on their breath. The remarks that are recorded illumine clearly the root cause, racial hatred, underlying many of Africa’s troubles. There is the businessman from Durban: “O yes, you’ll see a lot of Indians here. The first thing to remember about them is that though they look human, that doesn’t mean we have to treat them as human beings.” Later, we hear the Kenyan farmer instructing the recruit to the anti-Mau-Mau patrol:

“After midnight, you can shoot any Kuke who doesn’t halt when challenged.”

“What do we do with the ones who halt?”

“You shoot just the same, stick Pangas in their hand, and say they tried to escape.”

Throughout the book, we meet the leading figures of the political scene in Africa. Their achievements and aspirations are fairly possessed. There are the leaders of the subject peoples: Mathu, Kenyatta, Manilal Gandhi, Danquah, Nkrumah Awolowo, Dr Zik, Murumbi, Musazi, Seretse and Tshekedi Khama, and Mutasu II. The occupying powers are represented by political leaders such as Malan, Strijdom, Welensky, Huggins and Blundell, and by Governors Arden-Clarke, Baring and Twining. We meet also a host of Colonial Office officials among whom a courageous and forthright provincial commissioner like Fox Pitt shines as a beacon.

The importance of Africa to, and in, the modern world is apparent. So is the importance of the peaceful development of an African consciousness. The Colonial Office is apparently attempting to pursue at the same time two diametrically opposed policies in Africa: in the West, a progressive policy of race emancipation; in the East, it supports the repression and colour-bar of the white settlers. The results of these widely different and indeed, antagonistic policies are displayed and appraised; blame is apportioned as it is due.

The facts and background material are assembled succinctly yet with no sacrifice of accuracy. Unlike Mr Delmer, Mr Campbell has no axe to grind in his reportage; the result is a book vital to the understanding of the vast problems besetting Africa to-day, and what is more, helpful to that understanding.

(M.Times – 11 March 1955)

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Glimpses of Mauritian History

Rev. Jean Lebrun and the Coloured population

By D. Napal B. A. (Hons.)

« Nous ne voulons pas nous blanchir. Nous sommes les égaux des blancs par nos droits. » — Remy Ollier

From the years of French colonisation the coloured population existed in the island. Pirates with negro wives and coloured children made their homes here. European adventures landing on our shores did not bridle their passions when it concerned their relations with negresses. They introduced from the African coast female slaves who played the double role of mistress and slave. The offsprings of such connections could be sold as slaves by the masters – very often that is what happened. There were, however, cases when paternal affection stood in the way of such sales. Hence the growth of the coloured population who occupied an intermediary position with the slaves on one hand and the masters on the other.

There were in Ile de France express laws passed against the coloured population which made their position no better than that of the slaves. The code Decaen or Crepin published in 1803 and in force till 1830 was quite tyrannical so far as it concerned the coloured population. These unfortunate people who were free but in name did not enjoy political rights and had no social standing. In a petition to the governor in 1830 we find coloured people complaining that so much contempt is shown towards them that “tous les actes civils et judiciaires qui concernent un homme de couleur et un esclave se redigent ordinairement de cette manière: Le nommé Tel, home de couleur libre, dit” (instead of Monsieur so and so)

Speaking of the prejudices of the whites against the coloured population, Rev. P. Beaton writes: “If a coloured man met a white man in the street, he was obliged to leave the pavement and salute him by lifting his hat.”

It was for the uplift of this downtrodden class the Rev. Jean Lebrun worked. Lebrun was a Methodist missionary who came in the island in 1814. An eyewitness Rev Beaton thus describes him: “I think I see him still with his snow white hair, his open honest countenance, his simple but touching eloquence and his earnest faith.”

The Methodist missionary began his work with mighty odds against him. His meetings were declared illegal and suppressed by the application of a law which forbade the assembly of more than fifteen people without the permission of the governor. He obtained a special dispensation which legalized his meetings.

In an interview with Gov. Farquhar, Lebrun depicted the unhappy situation in which the coloured population found itself. The governor was touched by the words of the missionary and showed the desire of meeting the representatives of the class whose cause he had pleaded.

The children of the coloured population could receive no sound education as there was no college which opened its doors to them. There were not even efficiently run primary schools were they could be educated. Rev. Lebrun grasped the situation to its full extent. Finding that the missionary was at heart interested in their lot, the prominent members of the coloured population enthusiastically supported him and he founded “des écoles de la mission, écoles où beaucoup d’enfants pauvres reçurent les premiers éléments de la langue française et de l’Anglais.”

(M.Times – 11 March 1955)

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Hindu Cadets Association

Executive Committee for 1955

Hon. President               Mr D. Burrenchobay

President           Mr R. Ruhee

Vice President        Mr S. Dhanjee

Secretary             Mr G. Ramloll

Treasurer                   Mr P. Meetarbhan

Team Manager                Dr V. P. Poonoosamy

Members: Messrs L. C. Obeegadoo, S. Suntah, P. Padayachy, E. Chundun, D. Bacha, G. Vadivelloo

Auditors:            Messrs K. Seebaluck and K. Pyndiah

(M.Times – 11 March 1955)

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South Indian League

The Editor – Mauritius Times

Sir,

Whilst congratulating the South Indian League for the concert and bhajans which it gives at the MBS (Mauritius Broadcasting Services) from time to time, especially for the fine performance on the occasion of the Cavadee, could it not be reasonable for the MBS authorities to extend the Tamil programme? Though I don’t understand the language, not being a Tamil, I should say that the S.I. League has a bhajan team incomparable in the Hindu community of the island.

When one considers the number of hours wasted in sometimes disgusting and sexy Hindustani film songs, I think a part of that wasted time could be profitably used by extending the Tamil Programme.

Arrangements could then be made to hear the S.I. League bhajan team occasionally.

What do you think about it?

Yours respectfully,

Bhajan Fan

* * *

[The Tamil Community has produced three up-to-date Jazz bands and some well-organised Bhajan teams. Their love for music, especially classical, is more marked than the other sections of the Hindu community. The South Indian league Bhajan team is doing an appreciable service in making the MBS listeners hear some very fine pieces of a classical music which is becoming a forgotten art in Mauritius.

They need our encouragement. We do not see why the Manager of the MBS should not allow some more time to the Tamil programme. Until the MBS authorities decide to increase the period allotted to Hindustani Programme, the listeners should concede to this curtailment with pleasure, because it will, we hope, be profitably used especially if the South Indian League bhajunum team is given the opportunity to make itself heard. Anyway, bhajunum or no bhajunum the weekly half hour allotted to the Tamil programme does not do justice to the Tamil speaking community. Ed]

(MT – Friday 25th February 1955)

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