- "A Naughty Child with a Pen":Gahadzikwa Albert Chaza as an African Policeman and Author in Colonial Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) 1936–1963
Those who have visited book stores in Zimbabwe in recent years, even the small one in Harare international airport, will have seen a thin volume authored by G.A. Chaza and entitled Bhurakuwacha: The Story of a Black Policeman in Colonial Southern Rhodesia.1Bhurakuwacha is the longest and most detailed first hand account by an African member of the British South Africa Police (BSAP), Southern Rhodesia's paramilitary law enforcement organization, and as such constitutes an important source for studying the experience of black security force members in a white settler state.
Chaza was typical of the moderate and loyalist black middle class of the 1940s and 1950s that wanted equality with whites as part of a civilized imperial citizenry but became less significant during the anti-colonial and revolutionary violence of the 1960s and 1970s.Unfortunately, the book only hints at Chaza's early interest in writing which began when he was a young constable in the late 1930s and continued through his post-retirement involvement in politics in the early 1960s.
The aim of this paper is to examine the first three decades of Chaza's publications within the context of African police service in [End Page 159] the colonial era. Bhurakuwacha was written after African nationalists had come to power in independent Zimbabwe and promoted a version of history that lionized those who had resisted colonial rule and vilified those, such as African policemen, who had worked for the colonial state. Therefore, it is tempting to see Chaza's book as an effort to rehabilitate his image by portraying African colonial police as victims of racism against which some, like the author, struggled. Looking at his now forgotten earlier writings will illustrate how Chaza's views changed over the years and reveal whether or not Bhurakuwacha represents an accurate account of African colonial police service.
"Bhurakuwacha" is an Africanization of the term "Blackwatch" which was a colonial nickname for African police and reflected a double meaning of dark skin color and a famous Scottish regiment. Chaza was born in 1916 in Wedza in the province of Mashonaland East. As the son of a teacher-evangelist, he attended the well known Waddilove and Domboshava schools in the early 1930s, finished with Standard V and worked briefly as a teacher before enlisting in the BSAP.2Bhurakuwacha seems to have been written in the early 1990s when the author was in his late seventies and was published a year after his death in 1997.3
The book is a sometimes humorous and sometimes angry autobiographical account of Chaza's career in the BSAP from 1936 to 1957. Beginning with a firm indictment of British colonialism in Zimbabwe, Chaza wrote: "Whilst giving comfort and security to the white settlers, the native police force was a symbol of oppressive authority and of tyranny to the indigenous people."4 Borrowing a phrase from [End Page 160] pioneering black Zimbabwean journalist Lawrence Vambe's early 1970s book, Chaza maintained that African people had "their possessions, especially cattle, confiscated and their freedom curtailed by these 'dogs of the white settlers.'"5Bhurakuwacha contains numerous accounts of how the author cleverly overcame the ignorance of the older uneducated black police and the racism of white police authorities who both looked at him as a troublemaking "bloody mission boy!"6 Uneducated African sergeants resented him for speaking directly in English to European superiors and European police frustrated his desire for improved conditions such as wearing boots, learning new skills like typing and living in a comfortable house.
Not everyone is criticized as Chaza clearly admired the other western educated and modernizing African police and he worked well with several Europeans who treated him with humanity and respect. During his career all African police were male and their wives and children often lived in BSAP camps. While looking down upon the apparently lazy and dirty wives of the older uneducated African police, he praised the industriousness of his own wife, Ida. The book ends with Chaza's retirement from the force...