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Chapter Seven The Visible Horizon In the middle of May 1923, Isaac Clements Katongo Muwamba, a government clerk working in Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), approached the colony’s Chief Secretary, Donald Mackenzie-­ Kennedy, with a proposal to establish a “Native Improvement Association” in the town compound. “[S]ince February . . . I have been observing . . . the constant week-­ end quarrels , differences and disrespectfulness among the African workers that consist of many tribes now living in the Lusaka area due no doubt to hatred, lies and jealousy,” explained Muwamba. Such circumstances not only encouraged breaches of justice; they were “barriers against civilisation and improvement .” They threatened to return Africans living in Lusaka to “barbarism .” An improvement association, Muwamba suggested, would counter these impulses by fostering inter-­ ethnic harmony. It would instill in local Africans a respect for the “civilised law and order” that life in a “village of the whitemen” demanded.1 Muwamba’s presentation to the chief secretary was obsequious, and the substance of his argument suggested nothing more than an interest in establishing a cautious, accommodationist organization dedicated to furthering the goals of the colonial administration by cracking down on disruptive behavior such as illicit beer making and petty crime. Muwamba was the son of a former chief, educated at the prestigious Livingstonia mission, and a veteran of the First World War. He had demonstrated his loyalty to the colonial state on one occasion by bringing to the notice of the native commissioner the surreptitious activities of an independent and officially undesirable African religious sect, the Church of Zion. Muwamba declared himself a “British subject,” with an interest only in “helping [his] own people towards civilization.” Disavowing the “foolish” path of radicals like Watchtower prophet Elliott Kenan Kamwana, he pledged to conduct his business in the open, and within the circumscribed barriers to African political participation demanded by the state. The historian Karen Fields, noting Muwamba’s subsequent opposition to the Watchtower movement, has deemed him an “Anglophile.”2 The Visible Horizon • 187 Nevertheless, Mackenzie-­ Kennedy had good reason to be suspicious. A month earlier,it had been discovered that Muwamba was receiving copies of the Negro World posted from Cape Town. Around the same time, Northern Rhodesian officials had intercepted correspondence between Muwamba and two of his nephews,Ernest Alexander Muwamba,a government clerk at Ndola, on the northern end of the rail line, and Clements Kadalie, general secretary of the Industrial and Commercial Workers’Union (ICU) in South Africa, that suggested a broader ambition for Muwamba’s project. Using careful language, the three men considered strategies for ascending “to the loftiest pinnacle” and most effectively serving the interests of the race. Kadalie and Isaac Clements discussed arrangements for a proposed trip to America that would allow them to further their education and “culture [themselves] in the whiteman’s modern government,” making them more effective advocates.Recognizing that the political climate of Northern Rhodesia precluded the fiery and confrontational approach of his own organization , Kadalie expressed approval that “[i]n the meantime” Ernest Alexander and Isaac Clements were busy “planning to devise ways and means . . . to make representation” to the government. If theirs was not a solidarity of means, it was certainly a solidarity of aims.3 Mackenzie-­ Kennedy understood enough about this correspondence to know that authorization for the association was out of the question. Political organizations were barred in Northern Rhodesia, let alone ones connected even tangentially to the UNIA or the ICU. But he lacked the social vocabulary to properly contextualize Muwamba’s contradictions. Mackenzie-­ Kennedy was privately convinced that it was only a matter of time before clerks and other educated men in the colony were approached by the UNIA to contribute to its project of African liberation. But for the chief secretary, as it was for his fellow administrators posted across the continent , the arrival of Garveyism portended disturbance, disobedience, and defiance. Muwamba may have received copies of the Negro World, but his declarations of admiration for the wisdom of British administrators and British policy suggested that the contact had been ephemeral,insubstantial. The moment of reckoning had yet to arrive.With sympathetic treatment,he concluded, Muwamba might remain an asset, might repay the administration with “loyalty and honest dealing” down the road.4 Muwamba was fortunate to evade punishment, for in truth he had already begun to participate in the networks of communication that would facilitate the spread of Garveyism across the continent.5 But he was fortunate by design. If, as the previous...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400852444
Related ISBN
9780691157795
MARC Record
OCLC
884645721
Pages
320
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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