The Miseducation of the AFrican Negro
Queen Elizabeth II, the "Queen Mother of Rhodesia", inspects the Guard of Honor provided by the Kings African Rifles at Matopos in Southern Rhodesia, 1957
(Credit: Steve Bennett)
This is a photo of one of the native police forces employed by the European colonial powers in Africa.
Without these men, it would not have been possible for them to control the land and resources of the continent during the colonial era.
The Brutal Police Forces of Africa's Colonial Era
(Source: Ethnological Museum of the State Museums in Berlin)
In Western and Central Africa, native police forces worked for the French. The local people called them the "dou." They carried whips and they could be seen patrolling the streets all day and every night looking for trespassing Africans. If you did not have "a good reason" to be out and about, you could expect a good lashing.
Police officers in the Congo "Free" State were notoriously the most brutal of all. The famed American philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916), in an article for the International Journal of Ethics, described the system there as follows...
If a particular group assessed does not at the proper time deliver the required amount of produce, pretty well any member of that group, man, woman, or child, that can be caught, is liable to be shot, flogged, or maimed by the officers of a special police of slave hunters and cannibals enrolled for the purpose.
This system, said Royce, was simply capitalism at its finest.
In Southern and Eastern Africa, native police forces worked for the British. They were a key step in the colonial process.
Zulu Police Officers
(Source: National Library of the Netherlands, Museum of Ethnology)
How did Britain do it?
British businessman Cecil Rhodes.
Rhodes first sent an expedition to meet any rebelling armies, then he used the police to take over the new Southern territory he named "Rhodesia" after himself.
By most accounts, these policemen were not your average traffic cops. They whipped the local people and they rubbed salt water in the wounds when they were finished.
One chief from this area (what is now Zambia and Zimbabwe) complained bitterly about the cruel treatment by the native police who were sent among the people after the king was removed and they surrendered to the British.
The police, he said, attacked innocent people on a regular basis. They ordered the locals to carry their belongings. They raped the women. They took whatever they wanted - mainly farm animals.
We were treated like slaves...We said, "It is not good living under such conditions; death would be better."
When Queen Elizabeth II visited the Matopos Hills of Southern Rhodesia in July 1957, she was invited to attend a welcome ceremony, arranged by the British South Africa Company's Native Affairs Department.
During this event, she inspected the native guard and was saluted by chiefs from all over the country, who presented her with various gifts in recognition of her authority.
The Miseducation of the European Caucasian
Nearly 30 years after his death, the queen declared:
It was a tremendous vision of encouraging immigration from Great Britain to the Dominions and colonies of children who might profit from a new life and boundless opportunities which might there be offered them.
Himself a "Rhodes scholar" (a recipient of a scholarship inspired by the British nationalism and colonial legacy of Cecil Rhodes), Fairbridge introduced a new system of education which was later subsidized by "Fairbridge scholarships."
These scholarships allowed for British students to attend "Commonwealth" schools, replenishing colonial personnel, and thus, ensuring that Britain maintained their hold on the land they seized from the people.
British education in the Fairbridge schools for immigrants and in the mission schools for the native people helped to advance the colonial pursuits of the government and the corporate elite.
Ellen Boucher, in her book Empire's Children: Child Emigration, Welfare, and the Decline of the British World, 1869–1967, writes that the curriculum of Fairbridge's schools reinforced the "racial order" as central to everyday life in Rhodesia. These schools were White Supremacist assembly lines, pumping out successive generations of stormtroopers, one graduate at a time.
While in Australia, the students learned to value hard work and home values, Rhodesian students were taught to look down upon manual labor as 'demeaning to Europeans.' They needed to occupy positions in industry and business that would keep them above the Africans so that no native person would ever be able to 'take their jobs.'
Meanwhile, the native people were goaded to pursue positions in mining and agriculture. Their greatest share in the responsibility of administration was only to sympathize with the laws of their oppressors.
American minister and civil rights activist George Houser (1916-2015), writing on behalf of the American Committee on Africa (ACOA), decried the discriminatory policies of the Rhodesian government beginning with the voting restrictions of 1923 all the way through to The Law and Order Maintenance Act of 1960, which empowered the police to pursue, arrest, and even execute political dissidents.
All these laws enforced and perpetuated inequalities.
By 1970, 64% of Rhodesia's national police force was Black, but for the masses of Black citizenry, their situation was now all the more daunting.
In 1974, the average yearly earnings of Black workers was $641.00. For White workers it was $7,152.00.
Education was not a guarantee for success.
The government spent $68.14 for each African child in school and $746.66 for each White child.
This system of education was effective not only for Black students, but also for the White ones, who carried on the racist underpinnings of their training both in Rhodesia and in England. Naturally, there were quite a few problems associated with the Fairbridge scheme. In addition to the brainwashing they received, former pupils reported widespread physical abuses during their time in the program. (In 2008, payments of more than $1.1 million were made to 205 migrants who attended between 1930 and 1981.)
England was not the only nation to install a cult of minority rule on the African continent. Neither were the British alone in using classroom education and police training to maintain the status quo. But we have little cause to doubt that the British brand of colonization was a powerful one.
It was through these avenues that the British can now boast of a "Commonwealth" and a certain respect for the crown, decidedly untethered from its crimson past.
the Work Ahead
The settlement of British immigrants in Rhodesia was made possible by the work of the Africans who kept their brothers and sisters "in their place."
The earliest police forces laid the foundations for colonialism in South Africa. Rhodes' British South Africa Company appointed these men as escorts for the first band of pioneers. There were more policemen than there were workers - 500 to 200, respectively.
After the pioneers cleared the land, with the help of the police, the final step was to install the government and to import settlers from England. The native people provided the bulk of construction on the roads and the railways, the drains and the dams. There was an African supply for every European demand. There was no end to indigenous labor. They were worked until their work was used against them.
The establishment of a native police force to oppress native people was considered a sure way to keep Blacks from achieving equality with Whites.
Royce lauded the English colonial system in which 'Black men...were trained, under English management, of course, to police Black men.'
He insisted upon its immediate implementation in the United States, saying "look to the English colonies." (In his statements, he included Jamaica and Trinidad, where similar models of governance had also been proven "effective.") To White America, Royce said, there is too much talk about "a race problem." But what America has been dealing with is actually 'an administrative problem.'
For the Englishman, in his official and governmental dealings with backward peoples, he has a great way of being superior without very often publicly saying that he is superior...The trouble comes when you tell the other man, too stridently that you are his superior. Be my superior, quietly, simply showing your superiority in your deeds, and very likely I will love you for the very fact of your superiority.
Royce concedes, 'it may...be alleged that...[the natives] find existence somewhat dull under the British administration.' He further voices the importance of keeping indigenous systems of governance intact, acknowledging that 'the pacification and opening up of these countries does tend continually to weaken the tribal system.' However, in the same breath, he writes:
But on the whole there can be no question that the conditions of existence for the majority are improved.
These "improvements" were made at the expense of African innovation and African progress. They were made through the sacrifice of African law and African order. The cost of a legislative and judiciary government defined by Western standards was the absolution of our life and substance.
Something changed. We could feel it then.
Zulus Meet Policemen
A group of South African dancers from the Zulu troupe 'Ipi Tombi' becoming accquainted with two French policemen
(Photo by Keystone/Getty Images via Avax News)
How about now?
A closer look at the historical influences on modern systems of policing is vital to our understanding of the central role that law enforcement continues to play in African politics and the dynamic they share with the most vulnerable members of our communities.
What can we say about Africa's systems of policing today?
Who do they protect? Who do they serve?
You can read more about the Native Police forces of the colonial era from the Journal of Black Research here.
Scientific Researcher, Independent Historian, and Co-Founder of Black Research Central
Rhodesia's Intaf - The Royal Indaba, Matobo 1957
International Journal of Ethics - Vol. 16, No. 3 (Apr., 1906), pages 265-288
Australian Dictionary of Biography - Fairbridge, Kingsley Ogilvie (1885–1924)
Reviews in History - Empire's Children: Child Emigration, Welfare, and the Decline of the British World, 1869–1967
Our Rhodesian Heritage blog by Astley Hawkins - The Royal Tour of Southern Rhodesia 1953
Our Rhodesian Heritage blog by Astley Hawkins - The Vision Of Kingsley Fairbridge
The Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles - Vol 1, Issue 4 (October 1, 1928)
Africa Action - Rhodesia To Zimbabwe: A Chronology, 1830-1976 (1977)
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - Rhodesia Handbook (1970)
Black Research Central
When Negritude Meets Pettitude.