Memories of Rhodesia


Man-eaters of Mporokoso

MAN-EATING LIONS have played a big role in tales of adventure written about Africa. While many of these animals may never have existed outside the imagination of their authors, there is in Northern Rhodesia ample factual evidence of the terrible cost in lives which can occur when a lion acquires a taste for human flesh. Moreover, there is little in the evidence available to suggest that it is only the old and relatively enfeebled lion which turns from his normal prey to hunting men. No one, of course, will ever know how many victims have fallen to lions even in the relatively well documented last fifty years, but from such figures as have been recorded it is clear that the total of the slaughter in the neighborhood of lonely African kraals must be very high. In 1909, for example, a single lion at Chiengi, Northern Rhodesia, is known to have accounted for eighty unfortunate villagers. Like many other notorious killers, and indeed like the cyclones which occasionally devastate our countryside, he was given a nickname, in his case the unimaginative alliterative Chiengi Charlie. It must not be thought that it was only in the early days that these holocausts took place. In 1929, Msoro Monty conducted a reign of ten-or in the district from which he derives his name, and as recently as 1945 "Namwelu," which means "the cunning one," killed some forty people in the Kasama neighborhood. Of all the places with records, the Mporokoso district seems to have been particularly unlucky and dangerous. From 1903 to 1910, the District Notebook laconically records an average of ten villagers killed by lion every year, and in 1922 one of the brutes was only dispatched after he had devoured just short of eighty people. Those men who wrote up the District Note. books had a sterner task than keeping a mere catalogue of victims. It was also their duty to seek out and kill the destroyers.

Two of them in Mporokoso alone are known to have lost their lives while trying to protect the villagers under their care. Mr. "Chipata" Johnstone died in 1898 from a fight with a lion near the Dabo stream. An ex-employee of the African Lakes Corporation, he was known to be an experienced and very cautious hunter, and the full story of what happened has been lost. But it is known that at one stage in the life and death struggle, he managed to climb a branch, fifteen feet above the ground. The enraged and exceptionally powerful beast leapt after him, knocked him off the branch and mauled him mercilessly. Although he was not killed outright, poor Johnstone died a short time later. Another entry in the Notebook records that a Native Commissioner, Mr. E. W. VeIlacott, was mauled on 19th April, 1918, and succumbed to his wounds a fortnight later. As he aimed at a lion which suddenly charged him, he was, in the agony of the moment, literally incapable of squeezing the trigger of the rifle which might have saved him. They are but two of our many unsung heroes who lost their lives not in war but in what was, in the circumstances, rather inappropriately called the "civil service."



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Kalulu And The Baboon

A SHORT WHILE ago, you heard one of the African fables which told why it is that mice dig holes. There are scores of such tales, all of which give fanciful explanations of animal habits. There is also a vast collection of stories in which Tsoro or Kalulu the hare is the hero, always outwitting beasts larger and stronger than he. Brer Rabbit's traditional enemy, you may remember, was the fox, but Kalulu in Africa pulled off most of his tricks at the expense of the baboon. For example, there was once a hare and a baboon both in love with the same beautiful girl. Although the hare danced and showed her how graceful he was, she just laughed at him. She preferred the baboon who was fierce and strong. "You're a foolish weakling, compared with the mighty baboon," she told the hare, "How dare you think of asking for my hand'" "Size isn't everything," said the hare. "The baboon may be big, but I have tamed him. He does whatever I tell him. A horse is bigger than a man, but a man rides him, just as I ride the baboon. He is my horse." "Prove it," said the beautiful girl mockingly, "and I will marry you." So the hare went and made friends with the baboon, and he did this by sitting meekly near the baboon's feet and always telling him how strong and big he was. The baboon loved to hear this, and became fond of a hare who showed so much sense. And when the hare had won completely the baboon's friendship, he chose a day when the beautiful girl was washing clothes at the river, to say: "Oh great and mighty baboon, you are strong, but we hares are fast." "I can run faster than a hare, even with you on my back," scoffed the baboon. "Jump up and I will show you." The hare jumped onto the baboon's back, and the baboon began to run. "Please. . . please. . ." squealed the hare.

Babboon"You run so fast that I am afraid I will fall off. Be so kind as to hold the piece of tambo in your mouth, and I will hang on to the ends. Only that way can I feel safe when you run so fast." The baboon smiled and did what the hare asked. Then when he ran further, the hare again cried out: "The flies are so thick I can't see where you are going and that frightens me. Give me a switch please so that I can chase them away." "Are you even afraid of flies?" asked the baboon, but he gave the hare the switch and then began to run again. The hare say the beautiful girl by the river, and he shouted to the baboon. "There is the fairest maiden in the country. Show her how fast you can run." The baboon, who recognized the girl he loved, ran and ran, until his breath came in sighs and his flanks were covered with foam. All the time, the hare sat on his back, holding the tambo that was in the baboon's mouth like a bridle, and waving the switch around the baboon's head, while he shouted: "Faster, faster. I will drive away the flies so that you can see." The beautiful girl watched, and she could hardly believe what she saw. But there was the hare riding the baboon and beating him as a man beats a horse. So she saw that size isn't everything, and she married Kalulu and they lived happily ever after.

The Flower Exile

The Flower Exile

She lives in exile on a lush green island,
An island that’s always leafy, always wet;
Where new leaves push out the old,
And great fleshy flowers of orange and red
Rest on beds, on cumulous clouds of green;
Of viridian, emerald and forest green,
Of green striped and spotted and splashed
With gold and cream, as if a profligate god
Had whirled and danced, and flung gobbets
And streaks of tinted liquid with his eyes closed,
Laughing wildly against the sun.

But she will always yearn for the spare baked spaces
Of the high plateau of Africa, where, after a harsh dry spell
The weather turns, and against the gray lace of bare branch
A faint stirring comes. Among the eddies of dust
Small pale bells push through the ends of drooping wood,
And suddenly along the streets there come
Heavenly clouds of lilac, hiding branches, shimmering
And multiplying in fallen reflections on the ground.
The people stop and stare, their eyes grateful for this change,
This outpouring of beauty in a dry land, and she measures her exile
In jacaranda seasons.

Liz Davies
The Philippines


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