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Many of the traditions which we think of as very ancient in their origins were not in fact sanctioned by long usage over the centuries, but were invented comparatively recently. This book explores examples of this process of invention – the creation of Welsh and Scottish 'national culture'; the elaboration of British royal rituals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the origins of imperial rituals in British India and Africa; and the attempts by radical movements to develop counter-traditions of their own. It addresses the complex interaction of past and present, bringing together historians and anthropologists in a fascinating study of ritual and symbolism which poses new questions for the understanding of our history.
The 1870s, 1880s and 1890s were the time of a great flowering of European invented tradition – ecclesiastical, educational, military, republican, monarchical. They were also the time of the European rush into Africa. There were many and complex connections between the two processes. The concept of Empire was central to the process of inventing tradition within Europe itself, but the African empires came so late in the day that they demonstrate the effects rather than the causes of European invented tradition. Deployed in Africa, however, the new traditions took on a peculiar character, distinguishing them from both their European and Asian Imperial forms.
By contrast to India many parts of Africa became colonies of white settlement. This meant that the settlers had to define themselves as natural and undisputed masters of vast numbers of Africans. They drew upon European invented traditions both to define and to justify their roles, and also to provide models of subservience into which it was sometimes possible to draw Africans. In Africa, therefore, the whole apparatus of invented school and professional and regimental traditions became much more starkly a matter of command and control than it was within Europe itself. Moreover, in Europe these invented traditions of the new ruling classes were to some extent balanced by the invented traditions of industrial workers or by the invented ‘folk’ cultures of peasants. In Africa, no white agriculturalist saw himself as a peasant. White workers in the mines of southern Africa certainly drew upon the invented rituals of European craft unionism but they did so partly because they were rituals of exclusiveness and could be used to prevent Africans being defined as workers.
In February 1998, having retired from my Oxford Chair, I went for three years as Visiting Professor to the University of Zimbabwe. At that moment I had two books in the press – my history of the Matopos hills, Voices From the Rocks, which was published in 1999, and my history of northern Matabeleland, Violence and Memory, researched and written with Jocelyn Alexander and JoAnn McGregor, and published in 2000. Enjoying as I did free access to the National Archives and to the field I wanted another research project. Jocelyn and JoAnn and I had so much enjoyed our collective work on Nkayi and Lupani that we planned another joint book, this time on the Zambezi valley. But they were not successful with their application for research funding. JoAnn carried through the Zambezi project on her own. Jocelyn turned to her work on imprisonment and punishment. I dug about in the National Archives, Harare, and came across hitherto unused material on Labour Boards and on the relations of the Rhodesian government to the municipalities, especially to Bulawayo. I used this material to write a couple of seminar papers for the UZ Economic History Department. My audience encouraged me to carry the research further so as to explore the class character and interests of the Bulawayo City Council and the reasons why it quarrelled so fiercely with Sir Godfrey Huggins’ government over African labour and housing. Some of this archival material and of these political economy questions persists in this book.
There have been three Bulawayos, two established by Lobengula and a third established by Cecil Rhodes. Lobengula's Bulawayos both ended in flames. The actual and metaphorical fires in colonial Bulawayo form the subject of this book.
Lobengula's first Bulawayo was burnt as part of royal custom. Whenever an Ndebele King moved his town the previous site was burnt to the ground. Royal towns were ritually fortified at various places – around the King's house, at the palisade, etc. The medicines could not be allowed to fall into the hands of witches and so everything was fired when the King left. The site of KoBulawayo (Old Bulawayo), which today is being restored and rebuilt, was abandoned by King Lobengula in 1881 and was set on fire by Induna Magwegwe Fuyane just after full moon on 15 September. As the Jesuit missionaries reported:
Makwekwe set about burning the King's palace, the queens’ huts, all the buildings in the royal kraaal, sheds, coach-houses, stables and even old King Mosilikatsi's wagons.
The burning of New Bulawayo twelve years later at the climax of the 1893 Matabele War was less ceremonial and more spectacular. Lobengula left the town as the white column fought its way from Fort Victoria. Few whites had ever approached Bulawayo from the east and the American Scout, F.R. Burnham, was sent ahead to locate the royal town. Burnham was hoping to take his bearings from Ntabas Induna, which turned out to be ‘a miserable little molehill’, but eventually found a spot from which to view Bulawayo.
At the end of an eventful 1929, and three and half years before they were deprived of their legal monopoly of the pavements, the whites of Bulawayo celebrated the glories of European urban culture. Oddly, perhaps, for a town which went to so much trouble to proclaim its Britishness and where a dour Lowland Scottish influence was strong, Christmas Eve 1929 became something like a festival. The Chronicle rhapsodized:
Christmas Eve in Bulawayo. Once a year the people of Bulawayo – young and old – forget all worries and cares and remember only that it is Christmas Eve. It has been said that the Britisher is inherently incapable of really feeling the carnival spirit, but judging by the merriment and riotous fun of Christmas Eve this would seem to be scarcely applicable to Rhodesians. Streets were thronging from early in the morning until late at night with pedestrians, motor cars, motor cycles and pedal machines.
People bought paper hats, masks and false noses, entering ‘these shops as ordinary citizens and as often as not coming out so altered by these artificial aids that even their best friends could not have recognised them’:
The noise made by the high-pitched whistles, the rattles and by the babble of voices and the sight of paper caps and streamers made it almost impossible to realise that the modest Bulawayo of December 23 had not been shifted bodily and replaced by a French Carnival in a sub-tropical setting. The crowds at night jostled along the footpaths and into the shops: strings of people linked arms and almost danced their way around the town.
My narrative of the feud between Bulawayo and the Rhodesian state has brought me to 1946. This is the year in which Yvonne Vera set Butterfly Burning, at a moment, she says in its opening lines, when ‘there is a pause. An expectation’. Her sense of timing was exact. The novel takes place in Makokoba just as a new urban world is struggling to emerge from the old. Yvonne's hero, Fumbatha – who built much of Bulawayo with his strength and sweat – personifies the old. Her heroine, Phephelaphi, personifies the new, feminized, urban culture, with all its possibilities and frustrations. I will seek in a later chapter to lay out Phephelaphi's world. In this one I want to look at Fumbatha's. I want to ask what Bulawayo's Africans were experiencing and doing during those years when city and state fought over their future. And just as I personified that struggle in the figures of Macintyre and Huggins, and just as Yvonne personifies Makokoba in 1946, so I want to narrate the years in Makokoba between 1930 and the late 1940s through the life of one person.
But who to choose? The Reverend Thompson Samkange, one of the heroes of the 1929 faction fights as he sallied out from the Makokoba Methodist Church to succour the wounded, left Bulawayo in the mid-1930s to serve in Mashonaland. Joshua Nkomo, who certainly became Mr Bulawayo and went on to become Father Zimbabwe, was only 29 in 1946, his extraordinary career just beginning.
On 1 January 1960 a new mass party – the National Democratic Party – was formed in Salisbury. Much of the literature connects or attributes this to Joshua Nkomo. In his autobiography Nkomo himself writes:
At the beginning of 1960 a group of people from the banned African National Congress met to form the new National Democratic Party. Its provisional constitution was almost identical with its predecessor's, and to underline the continuity I was elected president in absentia, while I pursued my work abroad.
Obituaries of Nkomo in leading newspapers gave Nkomo a more active role. The Times on 2 July 1999 asserted that Nkomo ‘responded immediately’ to the ban on Congress ‘with the creation of the NDP, with the same executive and constitution as the ANC, while he campaigned abroad’. Also on 2 July the Guardian obituary affirmed that ‘when the ANC was banned he [Nkomo] formed the NDP – and became its President’. But all these statements are in error.
Nkomo did not form the NDP or stimulate its formation. Indeed, for some time after its emergence he did not know what it was or whether he should throw in his lot with other parties which were seeking to establish themselves at the same time. He was not elected as President in absentia on 1 January nor mentioned as the new party's overseas representative. The last thing that the leaders of the NDP wanted was to underline its continuity with the banned ANC, which would have been fatal under the Unlawful Organisations Act.
White Bulawayans had been supportive of Responsible Self-Government in the 1923 Referendum, but they were determined not to allow their elected government too much power. The town was the centre of white artisan militancy, and the white railway workers’ strike of 1929 threatened to bring down the government of Howard Moffat. Long thereafter Bulawayo constituencies provided the main support for the Rhodesian Labour parties. Moreover, the commercial elites who dominated the Municipal Council joined with white worker representatives in their suspicion of the effete, bureaucratic capital city, Salisbury. White Bulawayo was determined to do its own thing.
In particular, the Council was determined to run its African Location in its own way. The Location was the oldest in the country. The regulations which governed it had been drawn up in 1895 before any government regulations had been laid down. The Location was controlled by the Council's own police force. In Bulawayo in 1930 the railway administration controlled its own ‘native’ compounds; various employers housed African workers on their stands; and the Municipality ran the Location. The Rhodesian government had no direct authority over urban Africans and no responsibility for their housing or conditions.
And yet what happened in the Bulawayo Location affected the Rhodesian government. Lewis Gann remarks that at the end of the 1920s Howard Moffat, the Rhodesian premier, ‘for the first time found himself facing a small emergent “Africanist” movement’. The most articulate of these ‘Africanists’ lived in the Bulawayo Location.
This book is designed as a tribute and response to Yvonne Vera's famous novel 'Butterfly Burning', which is set in the Bulawayo townships in 1946 and dedicated to the author. It is an attempt to explore what historical research and reconstruction can add to the literary imagination. Responding as it does to a novel, this history imitates some fictional modes. Two of its chapters are in effect 'scenes', dealing with brief periods of intense activity. Others are in effect biographies of 'characters'. The book draws upon and quotes from a rich body of urban oral memory. In addition to this historical/literary interaction the book is a contribution to the historiography of southern African cities, bringing out the experiential and cultural dimensions, and combining black and white urban social history. TERENCE RANGER is Emeritus Rhodes Professor of Race Relations, University of Oxford. Zimbabwe: Weaver Press.
The 1948 strike changed everything in Bulawayo but it did not change it all at once. Donald Macintyre continued to dominate the City Council. Sipambaniso continued to be the big man in Makokoba. But by 1953 both had gone from the political life of Bulawayo. Sipambaniso died in 1952 and in 1953 Macintyre became Federal Minister of Finance, continuing to live in west Bulawayo but no longer controlling municipal policy. They were replaced, as we shall see, by other black and white leaders, who played out the drama of the 1950s. But first we must narrate the humbling of Macintyre and the waning of Sipambaniso.
The Humbling of Macintyre
When the black Bulawayo workers went on strike in favour of the government and against Macintyre he could no longer maintain his stance as a socialist. In mid-1948 he resigned as leader of the Southern Rhodesia Labour Party and joined Huggins's United Party. He retained his seat in parliament at the next election as a government candidate. In parliament he had to abandon his feud with Huggins and his opposition to the Native (Urban Areas) Accommodation and Registration Act, but in Bulawayo he did what he could to delay and impede its implementation.