Africa – Breathlessly Beautiful, but Brutal and Ruthless
They came thundering through the thick dark bush in their thousands, on roads carved through tall towering trees, in big American left hand drive cars with blue number-plates, fleeing the madness which had erupted in the Belgian Congo. Some of the cars were laden with whatever their occupants could grab while others were empty of possessions, as their traumatised occupants fled for their lives.
This was shortly after the Belgian Congo had gained Independence from Belgium on 30 June 1960.
Word got out that a mutiny was brewing and members of the African population sought to seize weapons from Belgian soldiers by brute force. The Belgians in Leopoldville fled their homes seeking safety in hotels and other venues. Their homes and other buildings had been rampaged by wild-eyed dagga and alcohol-crazed demented Africans, demandingly searching for weapons. Belgian military men who were in possession of firearms had been followed for days and were stripped, not only of their guns, but every item of clothing they wore and were paraded naked through the streets. Power-crazed madmen held their families at gunpoint.
A few planes arrived in Leopoldville from France and Belgium to evacuate those in dire need. Women and children were the first to be airlifted to safety and taken to Europe, home of their forefathers. Others fled across the immensely wide crocodile-infested Congo River to Brazzaville in the French-ruled section of the Congo where they awaited rescue. It was here in Brazzaville that nuns working in the rural areas sought safety and shelter. Those nuns who were not so fortunate to escape became the victims of rape and savagery. The brutal and gruesome rape of helpless nuns hit headlines around the world. Drunken rifle-wielding mutineers burst into the mission station at Matadi. They ransacked the mission, terrorised the nuns and then gang-raped them, including 70-year-old Sister Agatha. Thousands of Belgians and other Europeans who were unable to flee, were caught up in the horrors which followed in the coming years.
 Now known as Kinshasa
My family lived in Mufulira, in Northern Rhodesia, a small mining town on the Copperbelt situated a mere ten miles from the Belgian Congo border. It was the ‘Rhodes and Founders’ weekend and my ninth birthday, Sunday 11 July 1960. We had enjoyed the day motor boating and water-skiing on the Mindola Dam near Kitwe, 31 miles away. It was a warm but windy day and we had to climb the vertical steps into the yachtsmen’s lookout tower to light the nine candles on my iced chocolate birthday cake. A small crocodile with its armoured pre-historic body had come up the stream which fed into the dam and was basking in the sun on the opposite bank.
In the late afternoon on our way back home a flood of on-coming cars with foreign blue-number-plates were travelling in the opposite direction. This warned us that something was amiss. The Mufulira community had sprung into action and high school kids were on the roads directing the traffic.
Friendly and empathetic mining families temporarily accommodated many hundreds of the refugees. Others were given petrol if needed and sent on to surrounding Copperbelt towns. They formed an endless convoy on the broad roads, making their sad and painful way down through Northern Rhodesia and into Southern Rhodesia.
We heard stories of atrocities that were enough to turn the sternest of stomachs. The Congolese danced a savage and wild dance of barbarism. The perpetrators of these callous atrocities, volcanic in their temperament, laughed with joy as though possessed by demons.
On the instructions of a neighbour who had learnt that his parents were out, a 13-year-old boy who had been taught to drive by his father put his little brother in the back seat and drove across the border to Northern Rhodesia. This lad found his way to Chingola, a Copperbelt mining town where they were housed. (In Central Africa most fathers taught their children to drive when they reached the age of 12.) In the chaos, panic and confusion families were split up; men fled without their families, children were loaded into neighbours’ cars with no time to leave notes as to their intended destination. In the panic and confusion many were left behind.
On hearing these abominable tales, some miners from Kitwe and Mufulira immediately entered this war-torn territory and braved the flying bullets to rescue those terrified and destitute souls who had no other means of escape. These atrocities and the goodness of the people that selflessly rendered assistance, left an indelible impression on me. Empathy is an inspiring motivator and many great and heroic deeds are committed in its name. In a world of falsehood, hypocrisy and corruption, the truth is that we are each prompted to help those who are in trouble, for we each have an amazing potential for goodness.
Many lives were destroyed in those few days, but when the evening came, unperturbed by man’s plight, the stars lit up the night sky and in the morning the sun rose in the east, the birds sang and life went on. Many hearts bled for the sorrow of such a massive tragedy, but the blundering and butchering has continued for many decades.
The two Rhodesias, rich in warmth and generosity, rose to the occasion and assisted those flocking into these countries. Emergency committees were set up to provide accommodation, food and medical assistance. Hercules aircraft flew refugees into Southern Rhodesian towns and cities. For some, all their worldly possessions were contained in a small packet. These people were housed wherever possible until further arrangements could be made. The Belgian authorities in the Congo had simply abandoned all their commitments and taken the first planes out. Planes arrived to collect the citizens of Belgian descent who were willing to say farewell to Africa.
The Lion Feeds Tonight
Northern Rhodesia is one of the most beautiful and peaceful countries in Africa. It has vast areas of open plains in which huge herds of wild game roam. The landscape is laced with lakes, rivers, streams, rapids, waterfalls and swamps. It has enormous pockets of dense bush consisting of tall trees, clumps of bamboo and is dotted with ancient anthills built by prehistoric ants in the mists of antiquity.
Northern Rhodesia, a landlocked country with crisp air, quiet stillness and endless sunshine is situated between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Equator and stretches from the golden-brown Zambezi River in the south to the silver shores of Lake Tanganyika in the north. At an altitude of 1000 –1600 metres above sea level, 10 – 18 degrees south of the Equator, it offers a magnificent temperate climate with a high annual rainfall and little humidity.
This land of lions, elephants, buffaloes, rhinos and the most deadly of snakes, including the black mamba, is no place for the faint-hearted. Northern Rhodesia is the domain of Africa’s largest and most ferocious man-eating lions. In many areas these lions reigned with terror and although there was an abundance of buck for the lion to feed on they preferred to eat humans.
In Barotseland, the western plateau of Northern Rhodesia, the ‘Kazangula Killer’, a gigantic wounded lion that found people to be soft targets, plagued primitive rural areas. It devoured about 50 people simply by creeping into a village at night and removing a sleeping occupant from their hut and dragging them off. Fortunately, a European hunter eventually managed to get the great beast in the sights of his hunting rifle, thereby restoring peace to those living in the bush.
In 1909, Chiengi Chali, a pale-coated lion devoured 90 Africans before it was finally killed in a gun-trap. The people were reluctant to hunt the lion or report the killings because on his deathbed, an influential old chief vowed to transform himself into a lion and kill his enemies.
At Mporokoso where the whole species of lion appeared to be man-eaters, about 10 Africans and a few European men were killed every year. Many villagers were careless with regard to taking precautions against lion and crocodile attacks, but they eventually learnt to build thorn-bush stockades around their villages for protection.
In the Kasama district, a lion which had been wounded by a missionary at Kapatu continued on its killing spree and carried off about 80 Africans before it was shot in 1922. In this same district another lion named Mishoro Monty claimed over 100 victims between 1926 and 1929. It was eventually poisoned. In 1943, the bold Namweliyu (The Cunning One) entered villages in broad daylight and bit off people’s arms and legs, before sauntering off with the torsos. 43 people fell victim to Namweliyu.
In 1954, a lion ate an African girl in a school dormitory at Mpika on the Great North Road, near Shiwa Ngandu, (Lake of Royal Crocodiles). In that area a lion chewed the brass doorknob on the front door of a European’s house.
Even in later years it was a regular occurrence for lion to drag people from their huts at night and eat them in full view of terrified villagers who retaliated by flinging their hunting spears at the fearless beasts.
In the Zambezi Valley people built their huts on stilts 20ft high, but hungry lions were still able to leap up onto the platforms and pull their victims down.
In later years, Africans cycling along lone paths were knocked from their bicycles by lion and dragged into the long grass where they were hungrily devoured. European hunters or rangers were called in to track and shoot the offending beasts.
Cattle farmers paid hunters well to destroy marauding lions. Huge prides of lions were killed all over Northern Rhodesia from the Victoria Falls up to Lake Mweru in the north.
The Romance that was the Rhodesias
‘…oh those old familiar forgotten feelings…’
I spent my childhood in the Federation of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. I grew up in the real Africa, the raw, wild and beautiful Africa, the Africa romanced in the minds of those day-dreaming about adventure. That Africa flows through my veins and my heart beats in rhythm with her pulse.
I was born in a town outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, of which my paternal grandfather had been the mayor for a few terms of office. He had also been the chairman of the Spiritualist Church for over four decades.
I have little recall of that life. Most of my memories start when I was about three or four-years-old, travelling up north by steam train. The train puffed through the spray of the Victoria Falls and headed on in the direction of the Congo. After four days my mother, my brother Walter and I arrived in Mufulira, Northern Rhodesia.
My father, a handsome and adventurous man had left South Africa nine months earlier to work as an electrician on the copper mine in Mufulira. Here, through hard work and diligence he soon worked his way up the ladder, eventually to become an official on the mine. He was highly respected and an excellent role model.
We were not able to move up North as a family unit as there were insufficient houses to accommodate the flood of people pouring into this land of great promise and prosperity.
Although Mufulira grew to become Northern Rhodesia’s fourth largest town, initially it was referred to as a camp, carried over from the days when it was merely a mining camp. The town was hacked out of wild and unyielding bush; where the town ended the bush flourished, thick with tall trees, tufts of bamboo and enormous anthills covered in bush and trees.
Mufulira became known as the ‘Place of Abundance’. Situated near a network of rivers, malaria, black-water fever and typhoid were so prevalent they were referred to as ‘rivers of death.’
Mufulira, a town surrounded by the splendid perfection of undisturbed Nature was the ‘River of Life’ for those privileged to live there. Mufulira was shaded by acacias, flamboyants, flame trees, frangipanis, jacarandas, mimosa and msasa trees, kaffir booms and bougainvillea and golden shower creepers. The phenomenally rich Copperbelt, tucked away in the heart of Africa, offered a civilised way of life which seemed improbable in such a wild and remote country.
In those early days, people flocked to the Copperbelt where prospects were excellent for those willing to venture into Central Africa. The copper mines offered one of the highest living standards in the world.
Wind of Change
Nefarious plans are brewed in big black pots on distant shores. The British Prime Minister, Harold McMillan’s ‘Wind of Change’ speech made in South Africa early in 1960 caused a storm. Political unrest swept throughout the Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. Colonies were free to secede and the clearance sale was on. These events were carefully orchestrated and their plans rolled out until their aims were achieved.
After the formation of the Federation, Sir John Moffat (of the old Rhodesian Moffat family) persistently demanded that the Federation be dismantled and that the Africans run these countries, simply because they were in the majority. Moffat formed the Liberal Party which was soon exterminated. Moffat was in a state of shock because the Africans had spurned him. Whites who were loyal to Africans were viewed as suspicious.
The Rhodesian Press, spouting the personal views of the editors did not help matters and put many obstacles in the path of the Federal Government and prominence was given to Pan-Africanism. The UN was hugely instrumental in steering the break-up of the Federation. The British Prime Minister, Harold McMillan, repeatedly told the Rhodesians that ‘they had never had it so good’, but the Rhodesians were later to regurgitate his phrase to ‘we’ve never been had so good’. Amongst certain of the African population McMillan was considered ‘a bad man who said horrible things’. Many of the Africans were against Black Nationalism and preferred to back the Rhodesian Government which seemed to symbolise law and order.
As time went by, politics continued to creep in, evilly manipulating and corrupting the African people of the two Rhodesias; it robbed the chiefs, traditionally men of dignity and standing, of their authority over their people. Governmental authority, in the guise of Native Commissioners removed the essential elements of all chiefly authority. The Africans, not necessarily wise to the ways of the world were easily taken in by the dubious promises delivered by black political provocateurs which could generally not be fulfilled. Politics was of little interest to the average African. If asked his response was something like ‘Mina aikona hazi, mina funa baisikol’ (I don’t know, I want a bicycle). These simple people were not left alone and were compelled to conform whether they wanted to or not. At night the mpeni (knives) and ndodo (sticks) were used for canvassing support amongst these innocent and disinterested people. At political rallies slick words spun webs around the naïve. With arrogance they described how, by voting for them everything would be magically served to them on a silver platter. Those who were doubtful were dealt a heavy hand.
The song sung by these political propagandists was always the oppression of the Africans by the Europeans, the very people who had done whatever possible to educate, uplift and help them. The Federation was committed to spending more on African health, education and agriculture than any other country on this continent. Matters of finance, business and governance were of little interest to those spreading the theme of oppression, and so revolution threatened. When the politicians were questioned as to how the country was going to be managed economically if the whites left, they swaggeringly answered that the West would just give them lots of money and life would be very easy and they could just sit back and do nothing. Rather than make use of its tremendous manpower, Africa as always, unashamedly relies on the begging bowl.
Unlike the Congo, Northern Rhodesia’s transition to the independent Republic of Zambia was by Africa’s standards, considered a reasonably peaceful one. However, murder, rape and violence crept insanely into the compounds and rural areas. The black politicians, especially those of Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independent Party (UNIP), bent on destroying the Federation, canvassed for votes by intimidating the African population and threatening reprisals. Political agents were sent out amongst the African people to check that they supported only their party. Those who resisted joining any political party were beaten mercilessly.
Some tried to outsmart the agents by carrying a membership card for each of the two main local political parties, but this resulted in a good beating when the wrong card was produced. They were forced under threat of pain, intimidation and bodily harm to take part in subversive activities. UNIP even intimidated the Hindu population into going along with them. Deception was rife amongst the politicians themselves. Gang warfare and criminal intimidation was the name of the game. Petrol bombs were flung into the homes of those belonging to opposing parties and many were savagely hacked to death with axes and pangas. Some had limbs lopped off and were left helpless in pools of blood. ‘Bacon-slicing’ (slicing live people as thin as bacon) and stabbings were common practice. Others were dowsed with petrol and set alight. It sometimes took hours before the sweet relief of death came to their rescue. Many had tyres put round them which were then set alight.
Those who had any regard for law and order were dealt with in the harshest manner. Such action led to retaliation, which led to more misery and so the slaughter continued in vicious and ever widening circles. Those who resisted were mowed down with machine guns. In rural areas, political henchmen opened fire with automatic weapons on men, women and children attending church.
The Dying Embers
Friday 22 November 1963 was a very hot Central African night. My family were watching television when the programme was abruptly interrupted and a news reporter came onto the screen announcing the tragic news that John F Kennedy, President of the United States of America had been assassinated. I swear the world stopped turning for at least an hour.
I heard the beat of a different drum. I desired a life where I could shine, one where I could really live, where my heart could once again sing, my body dance in ecstasy and I could grow emotionally and spiritually. It was time for me to find my own path and to pursue my own interests. I had to be alone in order to follow my dreams. I had always dreamed of being independent, paddling my own canoe and gaining by my own effort and the time was now due for me to seek my destiny.
During the course of my life, I came to realise that
Nothing the World Believes is True
A false sense of righteousness has crept into the world where it is considered offensive to point out truths, unpalatable as they may be about those violating the rights of innocent good citizens. This opens the path for criminals to do their dastardly deeds reasonably unhindered. By exposing their actions and standing up for our rights and speaking out against injustices, we curb the possibility of evil being triumphant. People who speak out against the oppression of authority on humanity are those who make the greatest strides in bettering life on Earth.
‘God does not have a Religion’
I now have insight into why I sought knowledge and wisdom in a mountain of books, why my soul longed for me to wander alone along hillside paths seeking solace, longing to soar over cliffs and seas like an albatross, all in the hope of freeing my mind from the confines of indoctrination. I sought to discover the very secrets of the wind, and I came upon the key to alchemy and learned that transformation leads to miracles.
When great revelations are made known to us we have indescribable spiritual experiences which reach beyond the mere gaining of information. Truth has no beginning and no end.
In my desire for spiritual knowledge I sought teachings from the East. These I enjoyed, but knew there had to be more. Our continual re-embodiment is to correct the mistakes made in previous incarnations and learn from these situations so that we move on to our next adventure. However, the thought of having to continue to re-incarnate for countless more lifetimes held no appeal in this life and I wondered why humans struggle to grasp their own Divine Truth. I had no wish to once again walk the road of life like a child lost in the wilderness.
Before we reclaim our sword of power, we are to cleanse it of past wrongs. When reflecting on situations we realise we should have taken other action or walked another path. The rough road dogged with pain and suffering eventually leads us to our destiny, only worse for wear.