Change

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Globe and Phoenix Mine Swimming Pool 1950 George Banfield and daughter Tess photo courtesy of Tess Harris NZ

Change

It was 1947 when Dad resolved to run for office.  The issue was the preemptory rejection, by the Mayor, of Mom’s proposal to council for a municipal swimming bath for Que Que.  She and the High School Headmaster had secured the funding for it from state lotteries.

Change

Historically it had been hard to persuade anyone to run for office in Que Que.  Usually the Town Clerk, John MacIntosh, would have to search in desperation for candidates and end up at the Que Que Hotel bar or even the Friends Hotel, the workers pub, as a last resort and for some alcoholic solace.  With a few minutes to spare he would slap an unsuspecting soul heartily on the back and declare, “I have great news for you.  I hereby declare you a Que Que Municipal Councillor, elected unopposed.

But 1947 was different. The post WWII boom, coupled with the launch of the RISCOM  iron and steel development project meant change. Two retiring Councillors seeking reelection were joined by four aspirants including Dad: six candidates for two seats.  It was unheard of.

Mom felt that the hanging of two British soldiers by the Irgun in Palestine would engender anti-Semitism which she felt was latent in most British folk.  But Dad hoped he had established a record and rapport with the community.

There was canvassing, posters and even betting at the local bookie. The favored candidate was Al Davies, the town’s only pharmacist, a friendly intelligent Welshman whose only blemish, Dad noticed, was an uncontrollable left periorbital spastic tic, markedly exacerbated when emotionally upset. It probably explained why he always fought shy of controversy, which contributed to his popularity.  He was President of the local branch of the Sons of England Society and high up in its national hierarchy.

Stuart Robertson, the sole town bookkeeper and auditor, a staunch disciple of the mayor, Harry Watt, sought to retain his seat. With Harry’s Caledonian blessing and active support his rating was a close second. Dad saw no threat in the remaining candidates. The challenge was to beat Robertson. Dad wasn’t odds on for either of the vacancies but his practice brought him in touch with most of the electorate. Though the contact was medical, conversation invariably veered to the election issue, at least when bidding farewell. He knew who gave him the nod.

Al Davies, as predicted, came in first with 70 votes.  Dad was a close second with 67.   Stuart Robertson had a mere 43.  The minuscule tally did not indicate electorate apathy.  The turnout was 97% with each voter having two votes.  One voter was too ill and a couple were away in Bulawayo on business. (The Globe and Phoenix Mine was outside the village jurisdiction.)

The Town Clerk opened the Town House portals to make the official declaration.  No one was in sight. Perhaps few expected the result so soon. In consternation he turned to the Mayor who headed the candidates trooping out. “Read it oot mon, read it oot. The Municipal Act says soo,” ordered Harry. Embarrassed, John Henry McIntosh dutifully as usual, obeyed.

As he ended a voice rang out, “What was all that? Repeat please.”  Silver haired old Doc Richards, the Municipal Medical Officer of Health in addition to his Government appointment, emerged into the light, puffing his pipe as usual.

John Henry was non-plussed once more.  He was sure the Municipal Act had no such provision. “Ach mon, Mac, geet on with it,” ordered Harry. By the end of the second reading, a motley half dozen or so arrived to repeat the Doc’s demand. John Henry, beside himself, shouted the announcement to wild cheering and banter. Only Harry and Stuart had long faces and only Stuart mumbled congratulations.

Harry sensed his cozy rubberstamp council was to be unsettled. But neither of them had any inkling of the major confrontation to come that would hit the national headlines and change the course of the town’s development and both their lives.

Special thanks to Tess Harris (nee Banfield) for sharing this photo and many other materials with me.

19 Comments

  • Betty Goolsby

    Reply Reply November 13, 2010

    I love it! I was caught up in the excitement of the results, wanting Harry to be embarrassed and defeated soundly! What an unbelievable victory, and I know Harry regretted turning your mom away without a thought! Hurray for democracy! It seems even more important, that it took place way down south in Africa…..can’t wait for your next installment to find out about the national headlines and the new course of human events! Your book will be a page-turner, for sure!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 13, 2010

      Betty,

      Yes, I think we do take democracy for granted and then we suddenly wake up and realise we do each have the power and responsibility to change things…and it works. But since you mention it, I do have to qualify it: it was 1947 in the heart of Africa. Europeans only had the vote. Bringing the African along in the Western sense to “majority rule” through education, job creation, etc. and thus ultimately the need for a new inclusive constitution was a slow process in which my Dad played a critical role and is the climax of the book. At that time no one could see Black Nationalism on the horizon with its interpretation of democracy in which one man one vote is not a recurring right. Read on…

      You always make the insightful (and inciteful) comments…thanks for reading.

      Diana

  • Ed Goldberg

    Reply Reply November 13, 2010

    Hi Diana – I’m just trying to get the size of the White population in Que Que in 1947. With less than 200 votes available and each voter having two votes this would indicate there were about 100 adult Whites in Que Que at that time plus their children. Does this sound about right? How many more would have been on the Globe and Phoenix property?

    Ed

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 14, 2010

      Ed,

      The population of the greater Que Que area was 1500 Europeans, 5000 Africans and 150 other races in 1947. By 1953 the population had increased to 2200 Europeans, 7000 Africans and 250 other races. These figures include The RISCO/Redcliff complex, farmers, and smallworkers (given in the Royal Tour handbooks you shared with me). As you can see very few whites lived in the municipality in 1947. The tiny village grew up as an appendage to the Globe and Phoenix Mine. Nobody thought it would amount to anything. It was an anomaly (but that’s another story).

      Diana

  • Ed Goldberg

    Reply Reply November 14, 2010

    Thanks Diana – this is all very interesting. Even though I was born in the Que Que Hospital (delivered by your Dad) my family and I never actually lived in the City of Que Que but always had a house on the adjoining Globe and Phoenix Mine.

    Ed

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 14, 2010

      Ed,

      Yes, the municipality of Que Que was just a tiny grid, Ist through 5th Streets and avenues running perpendicular to them, that made up the commercial and residential village. The roads were unpaved without street lighting in 1946 when my parents arrrived and there was no water borne sewage. It was pretty primitive. The G and P Mine was completely self sufficient, with its own water supply, company store, farms, medical facilities, housing and so on. The mine was outside the municipality so had no say in village elections or issues.

      Diana

  • Tess Harris

    Reply Reply November 15, 2010

    So thats how your Dad started on his journey to becoming Mayor of Que Que! Very interesting to get an insight into the characters of those familiar names involved.

    Tess

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 15, 2010

      Tess,

      Yes, even in 1947, Que Que wasn’t big enough to warrant being a municipality. It has an interesting history from its earliest days. The village’s local business tycoon demanded Que Que be made a municipality as reward, for crucial political support, reinforced by his sizable donation towards the cost of a British battleship in WWI. He assumed prescriptive rights to the mayoral position until his death. He brooked no opposition. That is how the pattern of rubber stamp council began. And it just gets more interesting as time goes on.

      Diana

  • Andrew Davis

    Reply Reply November 22, 2010

    Hey Diana,
    thanks so much for the wonderful post!

    I too am intrigued by the electoral process in your little town. Where blacks are allowed to vote? I would imagine not. It seems that if they were your dad would’ve won in a landslide… do you think that’s the case?

    Really enjoyed this one.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 27, 2010

      Andrew,

      No, blacks didn’t have the vote then.

      Blacks didn’t have political aspirations then, they were just beginning to be urbanised, educated, and learning skills to be integrated in the industrial opportunites that were being created in the post WWII boom. But in just a few years the tide changed. When the Federation of the two Rhodesia’s (Northern and Southern) and Nysasaland formed in 1953 was dissolved December 1963, Northern Rhodesia became the independent state of Zambia and Nyasaland became independent Malawi, both under black nationalist leadership with majority rule. Southern Rhodesia, however, sought to maintain white minority rule under a new constitution based, not on race, but on merit (education, earnings, property ownership) which would have evolved to majority rule over time, estimated at the time by black leadership to be about fifteen years. My Dad had a big hand in the formulation of this rather complicated electorial system, which was accepted by Harold Macmillan’s government in Britain, and Nkomo the African Nationalist leader in Southern Rhodesia at the time. The electorate voted overwhelming “For” in a referendum in July 1961. It was a great moment of compromise and faith by all parties. However African Nationalist and British betrayal and subsequent White backlash led instead to a fifteen year terrorist war and independence finally as Zimbabwe in 1980 and the all too familiar “African democracy” of ‘one man, one vote, one time’: there hasn’t been a free election since and Robert Mugabe remains in power to this day (with all the abuses of power and finacial abuses that this infers).

      Diana

  • John Nee

    Reply Reply March 31, 2011

    Wonderful insight and gratifying to read a description of it as it was. African democracy .. “if you like me, put a big X .. if you dont like me, put a small x. Preservation of African culture (Tribal Trust Lands) were portrayed as harsh, inhabitable semi deserts. What of it now?

    • Diana

      Reply Reply March 31, 2011

      John,

      Its such a tragedy especially considering what it was and the potential it promised. You know the darkest hour comes before the dawn.

      Diana

  • John Sandford

    Reply Reply June 24, 2012

    Hi Diana: From your letter to Betty,”At that time no one could see Black Nationalism on the Horizon”. (referring to 1960.) They only had to open their eyes, to read about it, and see it! The East African Standard Newspaper was always on display, and available to read, at the Bulawayo Municipal Library, one block behind Barclays Bank, in Main Street. The Mau-Mau rebellion is over, and Jomo Kenyatta is given a life sentence for his leadership of it. But the Winds of Change are blowing, and now a total reversal of British policy in Africa. Jomo Kenyatta is given his freedom, is now titled Sir Jomo Kenyatta, and installed by Britain , as President of Kenya. The Kenya farmers have their farms and homes confiscated, and the majority of the white population forced to exit Kenya. Very little on our news, and very little in the Bulawayo Chronicle on what was happening in Kenya. ( Was this a deliberate news blackout by the United Federal Party, in Rhodesia, we wondered, at that time? They might lose the “Yes” vote, if this news gets out. ) The Kenya Farmers with all their belongings on their trucks, in Bulawayo, told us exactly what was happening in Kenya. If, it was a “Yes”vote, they would all leave for a permanent home in South Africa.” You can write Rhodesia off, its going the same way as Kenya!”. South Africa realized immediately, what was happening, and declared a Republic, to avoid the same fate. Now, back to the Roy Welensky 1961 Constitution: The acceptance of this constitution, with its “built in “, rejection of Independence, makes all the (white), Rhodesians, illegitimate English Settlers. Colonialism is over, and they had now thrown away their Birthright for themselves and their children as Rhodesians. The Constitution was formulated and sold to the Rhodesians, on treachery and deceit! The Rhodesians/ Zimbabweans, continue to be forced to leave their homes in Zimbabwe to this day, for political/economic reasons. ( For those who voted “Yes”, their parents would not accept an Independent Rhodesia in 1960. Their children true Rhodesians, cannot accept an independent Zimbabwe in 1980. A nation of people without a country, without their real home. What have they learnt? ;- They have learnt survival skills such that they can and will survive anywhere in the world, whatever the political/economic circumstances may be! Their real hope in their hearts? :- To return one day, and together with South Africans, build a new . “Republic of Rhodesia, from the Zimbabwe ruins!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply June 24, 2012

      John, The blog Change was all about my father’s entry into local (municipal) politics in 1947. No one could see the rise of Black Nationalism then. Diana

    • John Sandford

      Reply Reply June 25, 2012

      Hi Diana,
      Many thanks for your fast reply. The years go by far too quickly for all of us, but we can never forget the Roy Welensky 1961 Constitution, which determined the end of Rhodesia we all knew and loved. Diana, to quote from your letter to Andrew above, “My Dad had a big hand in the formulation of this rather complicated electoral system, which was accepted by Harold Macmillan’s Government in Britain.” “The electorate voted overwhelming “For” in a referendum in July 1961.” (This is the Black Nationalism, your Dad was dealing with, and resulted in 42,000 plus a few hundred voters completely “Conned” into the “Yes Vote”, sold us all down the river, and we lost our Rhodesia as a direct result of this Vote.)

      • Diana

        Reply Reply June 25, 2012

        John, You really must refresh yourself on the historical facts before we can have a discussion. Please do not refer to “the Roy Welensky 1961 Constitution” its factually incorrect. Read my blog Pinnacles of Success posted on Saturday June 23, 2012. Diana

  • John Sandford

    Reply Reply June 26, 2012

    Hi Diana,
    I personally went to nearly all the political meetings in Bulawayo, of the United Federal Party and the Dominion Party in 1960. It was the Charisma of Roy Welensky which drew the crowds, and created the publicity for that Political Party. Typical comments from the Public in the street after the meetings was, “Did you see Roy at the meeting last night?”, “Did you hear what Roy had to say?”. This is exactly how it got the name of the Roy Welensky 1961 Constitution .(All other Political meetings of the United Federal Party and the Dominion Party, attracted far less interest and were not so well attended, and did not get the publicity, if, the Master Salesman, Roy was not there to address the meeting personally, and Con the voters into voting “Yes”.) (He was such a good Salesman, that there was a street collection in Bulawayo to buy him a boat, to sail Rhodesia down the river of no return!!!)

  • John Sandford

    Reply Reply June 26, 2012

    p.s. Diana, We heard later from others, how Roy was shouted down as “Traitor”, at some of his political meetings: They began to realize the disasterous consequences of the Constitution that he had sold them. “The Roll Riding Roy”, went from Hero to Zero!!!!!

  • John Sandford

    Reply Reply June 27, 2012

    Hi Diana. We lost our Rhodesia, due to this one tragic and fatal political mistake in 1960. Our thousands of Rhodesians, in exile, scattered throughout the world, must stand together in thoughts and Prayers,and await the opportunity, soon to arrive, to return and rebuild from the Zimbabwe Ruins, with our fellow South Africans, our new “Republic of Rhodesia.” Have Faith and, “The Green and White”, will soon fly again in Salisbury, and throughout our land, our true home!!!

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