Talking to the Chiefs: John Hammond

John had started up the regular days of discussions, which he always held in the Gwaai area, with the local chiefs and headmen. This Mzingwane/Esigodini area was much bigger so it was a great pleasure to see that on almost every occasion, everyone whom the chief had invited had taken the trouble to come.

John would take Teachers Bulle, Moyo and Malusalila as well as Roy Alvord or Rex Coleman with him as well. They discussed every possible aspect of the school – the reason this type of curriculum was offered; the potential for the boys in the future; the desirability of staying at school longer and the contribution the boys could make to local building or agricultural projects, if they would like them to do so.   

John had always insisted on tough discipline and in the accepted manner of the time would use the cane when necessary to reinforce a much-needed lesson. But he was well aware that times were changing and was always interested to know what the chiefs themselves felt about discipline and how it should be meted out.   

‘You white people are much, much too soft,’ one of the old headmen said. ‘Only yesterday a cheeky boy in my village was boasting how he had been able to make maningi  (lots of) trouble at the school. He was saying that the teachers were only laughing at him. But this was not good trouble and this is a bad boy. I know him.’

‘If you let these boys think they can do what they like,’ said another, ‘we cannot teach them their place when they come back. They think they are now too smart and they think they have more brains than we have. They are wrong. They must learn how to live in the village before they can learn to live in the town.’ 

‘You must beat the boys,’ said the Chief. ‘There is too much change now for them and they can be very hard for us.’ 

John brought up the question of leadership and how difficult it was to get those boys who were not from the families of chiefs and headmen to take responsibility.

‘Ah! But you cannot,’ was the general consensus of the group. 

‘The new Rhodesia will want many, many men of leadership – there are not enough from the traditional families.’ 

‘Ah, but you cannot,’ was all he could draw from them, as they slowly shook their heads. ‘No, you cannot.’ 

It did not give John much comfort.