do you see as the Goan role in colonial East Africa?
I have always felt that scant recognition
was given for the tremendous Goan contribution in the civil
service. It was as though the successes attained were the
work of the Europeans only.
To set the record straight, I felt my opportunity
had arrived when, in 1997, I was invited by Sir John Johnson
to contribute a chapter to the book, "Colony to Nation".
But because of financial restraints it was not published
until this year!
FN: Why did the Goan role go un-noticed?
As I said earlier, all memoirs by former
white Colonial officials spoke only of the European achievement
as though the Goans hardly existed.
Many, it seems, chose to forget that during
their early service careers, it was the Goans who 'showed
them the ropes', even though we had no training ourselves!
FN: From the chapters of colonialism
-- a problematic period, to say the least -- how do Goans
By and large, the Goans do come out in a
positive light. But as mentioned earlier, any tributes were
all verbal with nothing recorded for future generations.
FN: How many Goans would there
have been in Kenya and East Africa at any point of time?
Do you have estimates?
I'm not really sure, but I would say something
Of this number some 500 were in the Administration;
others worked for the various government departments. Many
more worked in the private sector i.e. banking, commerce
There was a small number who went into business,
grocers, tailors. Professionals (were there too) included
doctors, teachers, lawyers, musicians etc.
FN: For someone wanting to look
at this field, which resources would you suggest?
The excellent opus by my good friend and
author, Cynthia Salvadori, provided me with most of the
information. Her two tomes, "Through Open Doors"
(first published in 1983) and "We Came in Dhows"
(three masterly volumes published in 1996) were a real asset.
FN: Where have the East African
Goans since reached?
Many emigrated to Europe (chiefly the U.K.),
Canada, Australia and even the U.S.A. Some retired to Goa.
Those, like me, who emigrated, left more because of political
changes following independence and for the betterment of
their children's future.
FN: How did Goans do elsewhere in
I have no experience of the other E.A. States,
but imagine that the Goans were well respected and regarded
in whatever territory they served.
FN: There were very few Goans who
took the side of the Africans in the de-colonialism struggle.
How do you read this?
Pio Gama Pinto, like his brother Rosario
(a good friend of mine), had veins 'flowing with political
blood'. They risked all to further the cause they believed
in and, as in the case of Pio, sadly, paid the price.
Most Goans of that era, with a few exceptions
were not political animals. Besides, those of us in the
civil service could not join any political party or express
I think it was the Indians, rather that
Goans, who agitated about being given a voice in the Legislative
Council. Fritz D'Souza and Oscar Fonseca are two others
who had political leanings.
Jomo Kenyatta did include some Goan blood
into his first Cabinet by appointing as his right hand man
none other than Joseph Zuzarte, son of a Goan District Clerk
Conforming to the political correctness
of the day, Joseph Zuzarte chose to go as Joseph Murumbi
-- serving in Kenyatta's first cabinet as Foreign Minister,
Minister of State in the P.M's office and even Vice-President.
FN: You had some blunt words for
the British administrators at their recent meet in the UK.
What did you remind them?
(There's no need for an) apology for highlighting
the Goan contribution especially since the majority of posts
in the Administration, especially those of Cashier, were
filled almost exclusively by Goans.
(This was) much to the annoyance of the
other Asian communities as can be seen from comments made
by that distinguished Q.C., J.S. Mangat. In telling how
Goans in particular dominated the Administration, he cites
Sir Charles Eliot who, in an official report in 1901 had
this to say: "The District officers were usually assisted
by a Goan or more rarely European clerk; in the Coast towns
there is also a Customs official, usually a Goan; even the
Germans envied the British Administration for their Goan
staff who they observed 'have enough experience to avoid
incurring the distrust which so many of our members inspire'."
Mangat then went on to quote from a D.C.'s
report which spoke of the trust one could place in the Goans.
Needless to say, Mangat added, "All the names mentioned
by the D.C. are Goan (Fernandes, Ferreira, Braganca, Menezes)."
He must have forgotten the D'Souzas.
(Others too were not) happy with the Goan
involvement in Government service. I understand that when
Winston Churchill visited Kenya in his capacity as Under
Secretary of State for the Colonies, a delegation of White
settlers protested against the employment of Goans in the
No notice was taken of their protests, but
in 1934 a Committee was instructed to look into the possibility
of employing European clerks, and this is briefly what they
had to say:
"We have given consideration as to
whether increased economy and efficiency could be attained
by the more general employment of European clerks, and our
opinion is in the negative. We have been favourably impressed
by the dedication with which the majority of Goan clerks
do the work required of them, and also of their conspicuous
loyalty and willingness to work overtime, and their fixed
determination to finish at all costs, the work that has
to be done. It would be out of the question to employ in
District offices, European clerks other than those of the
highest integrity and proven ability, and in any case the
salaries they would demand would be much higher than those
paid to the Goans."
So (I told the Kenyan administrators) "you
got us on the cheap!"
(I mentioned that) while some of us may
still harbour memories of the injustice within the service,
now is not the time for "if only's". We were privileged
to work under men of quality and distinction, from some
of whom we learnt much, and to whom I hope we were also
able to leave behind memories of the valuable Goan contribution
towards the building of the Kenya Nation.
The speech was before some 100 former Administration
(men who ruled Kenya) and their wives. (ENDS)