Wednesday, March 25, 2020

R.I.P Dr Fitz de Souza, true greatness!

Dr de Souza and me pictured a few years ago at his home in Goa

ON March 23, 2020, the Goan community worldwide lost one of its greatest sons with the passing of outstanding politician and lawyer,  DR FITZVAL REMEDIOS SANTANA NEVILLE DE SOUZA, in London. He was 90.  He is survived by his wife Romola, and children, Veena (Justin), Maya (Prashant), Roy (Aisha), Mark (Antke) and his many grandchildren. For further details, watch this space.

He became a lawyer and a politician by intent. He explains in his book Forward to Independence “As I set sail for Zanzibar the war in Europe was coming to an end, yet India’s future lay still unresolved. By now a keen and devoted disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, I had decided to spend my life fighting not only for the freedom of India, but Goa too, and carried within me a burning sense of justice on behalf of all those to whom it was denied.” He met and was greatly influenced by Pio Gama Pinto, who was destined to become the first politician to be assassinated in an independent Kenya. While de Souza admired Pinto’s brilliance in political strategy and planning, in later years it was the student advising the teacher, especially in the day’s before Pinto’s excesses in challenging Kenya’s first President, Jomo Kenyatta.

Above everything else, Dr de Souza was endowed with and integrity and astuteness reserved for the best legal minds. I watched him in his role of Deputy Speaker of the House every day for many years Kenyan Parliament Press Gallery. Both he and the Speaker of the House, Sir Humphrey Slade, were always respected even by a sometimes boisterous if not unruly Parliament. The call to “order, order” was heeded with good grace.

He was also an astute businessman with a gift or quickly assessing an opportunity and grasping the moment. Another gift was his brilliant memory even in his later years, and his memoir Forward to Independence is testament to this. It is also the single most eyewitness expose of everything, everyone and every event Dr de Souza witnessed from the earliest days of Kenya’s struggle for independence, early independence and post-independence about the achievements, the sins and the crimes … Forward to Independence is a gift of truth to the people of Kenya who longed for just such an explanation of some of the things that were done in the corridors of power or conspiracy. Dr de Souza was a fly on many such walls.

The exposes have been brilliant, history has been illuminated and for want of repeating myself, allow me to turn your attention to Fitz de Souza’s earliest recollections of Pio Gama Pinto:

Pio and Me
by Dr F. R. S. De Souza
MY train arrived at Nairobi Railway Station at 8 a.m. one morning in February 1952, after five years as a student in the United Kingdom. There was no one to receive me, indeed I was not expecting anybody. My parents lived at Magadi and I was hoping to give them a surprise. I left my suitcase at a shop in Government Road and walked to the office of the Kenya Indian Congress, I had never met Pio, although he had once written to me in London asking for information about some books he wanted to buy.

His welcome was very warm. I felt I had somehow known him for years. We immediately began discussing the problem of East Africa, and how we could help in the struggle for independence. We had much in common. To begin with, we were both almost penniless and terribly dressed. We were at ease with one another and our ideas of independence and socialism were similar. We must have talked for three or four hours. It was lunchtime and he invited me to lunch with him, at a place which was then the most expensive and luxurious that non-Europeans could go to. Our meal cost us about Shs. 3/- each.

We returned to his office and continued our discussions. I read the speeches of past Presidents of the Indian Congress, of the President of the Kenya African Union, Mr Jomo Kenyatta (as he then was) now our President, I was very impressed, and from then on we worked closely together. At about 6.30 p.m. he asked me what I was doing about accommodation. He invited me to stay with him and I readily accepted. He shared a small room with three others in Pangani in a house run as a "mess" by a large number of his friends. He insisted on giving me his bed and slept on the floor for the next few days until I went to see my parents in Magadi.

His work in Kenya politics is discussed by other friends, but I know, and history will record that Pio had a hand in the preparation of most of the memoranda and statements issued by K.A.U. in those days. He often used to sit up to 5 a.m. in the Congress Office drafting political papers in the nationalist cause.

For all this he never expected payment. His reward was in the contribution he made to the struggle. He never looked for personal credit. A couple of years later when he was the Editor of the "Daily Chronicle", the Royal Commission on Land asked for evidence and there was no one to put forward the African case for all the leaders were in detention. Pio resigned his job, and for three months read the voluminous Carter Commission Report and other documents on the land issue and took statements from Kikuyu Elders and others. He then wrote out, and personally typed and cyclostyled, always working into the early hours of the morning, the 200-page Kikuyu Tribe's Memorandum as well as Memoranda for other individual Mbaris in the Central Province. Pio never told anybody about his work. I sent a copy of this Memorandum to Mzee Kenyatta at Lodwar. He was so impressed that he suggested we publish the Memorandum but for lack of funds, the work was never done.

One day during our discussions Pio suggested that we should do something in East Africa to assist in the Liberation of Goa. I was a little surprised and told him that while I was very sympathetic to the liberation of Goa, and indeed of the rest of the world, I thought that as we were East Africans we should confine our activities to East Africa. We might dissipate our slender resources and there was also the risk of being misunderstood, even by our friends. He explained that as a student and young man in India he had taken an active part in the struggle for the liberation of Goa. He had actively assisted in the formation of the Goa National Congress and had escaped from Goa only when police were searching for him with a warrant to arrest and deport him to an island off West Africa. It was our duty, he suggested as socialists to assist all liberation fronts. Even if we did not now consider ourselves Goans we had names such as De Souza, Pinto, etc. which could be used with some effect. Portuguese colonialism was as bad as any other.

This Goan organisation in East Africa was being used by the Portuguese whose constant propaganda was that Goans overseas - even the educated ones supported the regime and were happy with the Portuguese. Pio had already started a Goan vernacular paper in Nairobi "The Uzwod" to arouse feeling against Portugal. Pio was, unfortunately, arrested before we formed the East African Goan National Association in 1954. Mr J. M. Nazareth, Q.C. was elected President, and I was one of the Vice-Presidents. The association did good work, but the Portuguese colonialists soon got to work with their fellow colonialists in Kenya and banned the organisation. The work of the organisation, however, continued. We were pleasantly surprised to see the great amount of support we had throughout East Africa, particularly from educated Goans. It was impossible for us to stop functioning, even if we wanted to. Contacts made with organisations and individuals in Bombay and Goa flourished. Of necessity, work had to be secret as the Portuguese Consulate and its stooges constantly sent dossiers on all of us to the Special Branch. As usual, they labelled the lot of us "Communists" as that seemed the easiest way to get us suppressed.

A few years later, in 1960, only a few months after he was released, Pio formed the East Africa Goa League. This time the Portuguese Government did not succeed in persuading the Kenya Government to ban it. Nationalists were already much stronger in Kenya. He led a delegation to see Mzee Kenyatta at Maralal. The government had persistently refused him permission to see Mzee Kenyatta, but allowed an East African Goan League delegation to visit him without asking for the names of the members of the delegation, and was quite shocked when Pio arrived at Maralal as the leader!

In May 1961, a delegation from the Goa led by Prof. Lucio Rodrigues and Dr Laura D'Souza arrived in Kenya. Largely under the pretext of singing Goan songs and reciting Goan literature, they instilled some form of self-respect and dignity into East African Goans, many of whom had hitherto been loyal and servile servants of the British Crown. They were amazingly successful.

Hon. Tom Mboya, General Secretary of KANU and Hon. Muinga Chokwe, Coast Chairman, accepted an invitation to attend a Conference on Goa in Delhi. Tom Mbova was, I was later told by Goa Nationalists, extremely eloquent at the Conference. His forthright speech telling India and its Government that it hardly had a right to attempt to liberate Africa when it was afraid to liquidate Portuguese Colonies within its own country made a deep impression on Pandit Nehru and influenced his decision to liberate Goa.

Pandit Nehru then organised an International Seminar on Portuguese Colonies. Perhaps his mind was already made up to liberate Goa - he was testing reaction among friends. Among those who attended were Mr Kaunda from Zambia, Mr Nsilo Swai and Pio Pinto. All the delegates urged military intervention to liberate Goa. Pio was particularly active and passionate in canvassing support for the liberation of Goa as a start to crack the bastion of Portuguese imperialism everywhere. He had told me he thought a few violent and passionate speeches would convince Pandit Nehru to risk the criticism this action would arouse in the West.

A few months later, Mrs Lakshmi Menon arrived in Kenya, and it was obvious that the liberation of Goa was very much in the offing. Pio and Mr Chokwe even offered to organise an international volunteer brigade to assist, but this was not necessary. Goa was liberated by the Indian army. The cowardly Portuguese just fled. Hardly a shot was fired. The only Indian casualties were two officers who went to accept the surrender of Aguada Fort after the Portuguese had raised a white flag, and were killed at almost point-blank range
Pio, his brother Rosario, Peter Carvalho and I were invited to take part in the victory celebrations. Pio met many old veterans of the campaign - whom he had not seen since he left India in 1947. Most of them begged him to return to India. They wanted him to be their leader and it was obvious that he had many friends and a good deal of support wherever he went. But he declined. He said he was born in Kenya, and Kenya was his home. While he still had a soft spot for Goa and India, Kenya would be the home where he would work and die
Pio then went to New Delhi and discussed Goa with Pandit Nehru and officials of the Indian Government. He took advantage of the opportunity to ask Pandit Nehru for assistance to start a nationalist paper in Kenya. Panditji gave him funds with which Pio began the PAN AFRICAN PRESS LTD. which publishes "Sauti ya Mwafrika" (Voice of Africa), "Pan Africa" and the "Nyanza Times". Most people in Kenya believe that the funds for the press came from China. In fact, the original funds came from India. Naturally, India had to keep quiet about it then. Now that we are a free country, we can tell the truth to the world. 

Back in Kenya, he worked on the launching of movements for the liberation of Angola and Mozambique. With Chokwe, he formed the Mozambique African National Union in Mombasa in 1962. Many of the delegates to the inaugural meeting had travelled hundreds of miles to be present. But the British Government banned the organisation and it faded away, but Pio had formed valuable contacts with Mozambique nationalists
Later Pio worked very closely with F.R.E.L.I.M.0. and the Committee of Nine of the O.A.U. and often visited Dar es Salaam to assist them. A few weeks before he was assassinated he told me that his ambition was to resign his seat in Parliament and retire to Lindi or Mtwara on the Mozambique border to assist the freedom fighters actively. His friends would not let him go - they argued that he was needed here. He never lived to help the struggle in Mozambique. But he died with his boots on.

1 comment:

  1. Both Pio and Fitz were pioneers in the struggle for Kenya’s independence. Both had strong feelings for the freedom of Goa as well. I wonder what their views on the current state of affairs in Goa and Kenya would be. The total breakdown in a strong and stable Government free of bribery and corruption which has transpired after Liberation and Independence must have dulled their spirits especially Fitz who being an officer of the court as well as Deputy Speaker of the Parliament.



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