There are two men living near me at present who lost their ears in the old days, for theft ; and it was a common thing to treat " kapolo " (slaves) in this way if they stole from their masters. Other atrocities were common, and the Awemba, in the northern parts of North-Eastern Rhodesia, suffered much cruelty from their chiefs, but it must be remembered that such treatment was the only one the chiefs could exercise to keep their unruly followers in hand.
The milder and more civilised justice of the whites is often laughed at by the natives, as what were considered serious crimes long ago, such as theft, are hardly punished at all. A man may steal pounds of sugar in a month for which he may get a month's imprisonment, where he enjoys better and more plentiful food than he usually gets in his own home. Imprisonment is little punishment to a native, as he does not feel it any disgrace; in fact, he has a good rest and plenty of food. Incarceration for a long period, however, must be very irksome to a native, for being a savage he likes freedom, and the separation from his wives and children he must feel dreadfully, as all natives are domestic creatures.
A Son Of Africa-Central Angoniland
I think one of the best points about the natives is their love for their children, and nothing interests them more than handling and fondling them. They do not kiss them, but they play with them and amuse them. On the other hand the wives are simply domestic drudges, and certain bad-tempered men are constantly thrashing them. When a man possesses a plurality of wives, there are naturally many squabbles caused by jealousy, and the women of Africa are just as prone to suffer from this complaint as are those of more civilised races of mankind.
The Central African natives make good soldiers and police, as they seem to like military drills and duties. That fine body of men, the King's African Rifles, has battalions raised in different protectorates, and I think those recruited in Nyasaland take a leading place for intelligence and smartness. In various African campaigns these men have proved staunch and reliable, and they are wonderfully quick in learning their duties. While residing in Zomba, in 1903, an officer taught several men signalling, and before they were able to take down messages they had to be taught the alphabet. A number of them were proficient in three months, and I think this is a wonderful example of intelligence, as these were grown men of from eighteen to twenty-five years of age, and not youths, who are usually more easily taught.
Again, the King's African Rifles' band in Zomba was taught by an Indian bandmaster to play all kinds of tunes, and certain of the officers, who took an interest in the matter, introduced new tunes, which the natives would master in less than a week, and play almost as well as some regimental bands at home.
Natives naturally have a liking for music, and when their interest is aroused they take great pains over learning anything ; and this shows that they have intellect, if it is only awakened and led into interesting channels.
One of the worst features of the natives is that they are brutally cruel, as they have little sympathy for others or for animal life. A boy will take a blunt knife to cut an antelope's throat, and saw away for some minutes without getting through the skin, and they will treat domestic creatures in the same way. I got so disgusted with the time they usually took to kill the fowls used for daily food that I made them use a small American axe with which to decapitate them.
I showed them how to do it with one chop on a block of wood, and I remarked to my cook, who is a mission boy with a crucifix round his neck, that the fowl died quickly, and did not suffer pain. He replied " Yes master, but it is only a fowl," evidently meaning that it did not much matter whether it suffered pain or not.
I think that instead of teaching natives to recite the Lord's Prayer and sing hymns, it would be much better to try and instil into their minds the crime of senseless and thoughtless cruelty to man and beast.
That they feel sorry for persons suffering I do not doubt, more especially close relatives; but I have seen them mimic the contortions of a dying man, wdiich so disgusted me that I seized a stick and went for them. Afterwards, I heard them laughing at the white man's strange ways, and I have no doubt they mimicked me as I went for them with that stick.
Should a white man be ill, they often seem quite distressed and sympathetic; but this is not usually true sympathy, for they are simply afraid that, if their master dies, they will be blamed, and their sympathy is for themselves, and not for their master.
They are most patient when suffering from hunger, over-exertion, or sickness; in fact, they are more like animals in this respect than human beings.
In carrying heavy loads for long distances day after day they are unsurpassed by any savages I have ever seen. A white man could not do it, as he would chafe and fret under the constant fatigue and monotony; and I think their brains get so dulled at times that they walk mechanically.
Previously I have mentioned how staunch they can be in times of danger, and many Africans have saved their masters' lives from wild animals, and in other ways. Certain races, such as the Yaos, Awemba, and Angoni, are ahead of others in showing personal bravery; and, with regard to them accompanying their master on dangerous enterprises, a good deal depends on their trust in their master. If they know a man is a good game shot, they will probably be willing to take risks that they would not do with a white man whom they had seen betray fear, or one who was a poor hand at killing game. Natives are not prone to trust much to first impressions, and it takes them some time to get to know a man. Therefore, it is important that the magistrates, residents, or native commissioners in charge of districts should be kept there, and not often changed to other districts where the conditions are new to them, and where it will take them a long time to obtain the full trust and confidence of the inhabitants.