Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Abdulwahid Sykes and Dar es Salaam Dockworkers’ Union, 1948 Part Two

Abdulwahid Sykes and Dar es Salaam Dockworkers’ Union, 1948
Part Two

As an experienced politician and trade unionist, Kleist asked his son Abdulwahid to restrain the movement. He was worried about the safety of  his son and of  the political implications of the strike. He knew that neither the African Association nor the nucleus of the labour movement led by Abdulwahid could stand government reprisals. It was obvious to him that sooner or later the mighty hand of the government with its unlimited resources would fall on his son, the dockwokers and the whole movement.

At that time Barakat rented a room in a house in Kariakoo among some of the dockworkers. He received information from the dockworkers that the mzungu (white man) was inciting them to rebel against the leadership of Abdulwahid and calling them to strike. At the same time rumours filtered to Abdulwahid that Hamilton was also instigating dockworkers to call for his resignation. Union members complained that Abdulwahid was a sell-out, not militant enough, and should therefore be ousted or made to resign his post immediately. Hamilton became a problem and a big liability to both Abdulwahid and Barakat. The two were flabbergasted, and the rumours about Hamilton seemed to make no sense at all. How could a white colonial officer on a colonial assignment possibly, take sides with the dockworkers, who, in the eyes of the government were only trouble makers?

But there were indications that Hamilton was not an ordinary white colonial officer. His manners were too easy for a British officer and his views on world affairs were too radical for his African subordinates to comprehend. Barakat had one day received communist literature among his mail addressed to him by name from an unknown source. Hamilton, with whom they shared an office, took the pamphlet away from him without uttering a single word of reprimand. Barakat had once seen Hamilton reading communist literature in his office and he did not bother to hide it even when he knew that Barakat was watching him. In those days communist literature was considered seditious. The day following the communist literature incident, Hamilton invited Barakat for tea at his house and while there he engaged Barakat in a debate as to whether God existed or not. Hamilton gave his diatribe on Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution to prove his point that God did not exist. To make the matter rest Barakat told him that as a Muslim he totally believed in the existence of God and of  His Supremacy.

At first Barakat thought that Hamilton was spying on them on their political leanings for which he informed Abdulwahid. But it turned out not to be so. It soon dawned to both Abdulwahid and Barakat that Hamilton was a very sinister character with very radical political leanings. In those days communism and its philosophy were considered by the West as betrayal to freedom and humanity. Africans who harboured such radical ideas were not tolerated. A Catholic newspaper Kiongozi had warned: ‘Human stupidness proves to be unlimited. Russia with her Communist regime is beyond any shade of doubt the irreconcilable enemy of mankind.’ [2]

It was therefore unthinkable for a white colonial officer to show sympathy for communism. But there was nothing the two could do about it. Africans did not go about throwing wild allegations against white colonial officers. The only thing that was possible for them to do was to remain on guard while dealing with him.

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