2.27 Heart of Africa Mission

More on the down side of Mission work with C. T. Studd in the Congo.  Hayes says he declined an offer to lead armed rebellion against the Belgians in the north of the Congo.

February 21, 1914 – December 24, 1914

Hayes other two criticism of C. T Studd’s missionary practice carry considerably more weight – perhaps even for those who share Studd’s evangelical Christian fervor.

On March 24,1914, slightly more than a month after his arrival at the Heart of Africa Mission, Hayes writes:  “Quarreling with Studd again.  The Belgians, having cleaned the country of ivory and rubber, products easily negotiable, seek some other method of exploiting the natives under their hand.  They have secured the permission of the various signatory powers who presented them this vast territory the right to tax the natives.”  Though he describes the tax as exploitation, he can manufacture a rationale for it:  “Now one can understand the Congolese contributing to the government who gives them protection against an aggressor and the plague.”  Perhaps Europeans medicines helped the Africans, and the Belgians, commanding native troops, did protect the Congolese from slave raids from the north as would any prudent colonialist.  Furthermore, it is likely that Hayes was ignorant of the extent of the Belgian genocide already perpetrated in the Congo by 1914.

But, even granting Hayes’ rationale for the Belgians imposing the tax, he knows that outright fraud ought to be recognized and loudly denounced by any representative of Christ.  “As the natives are all illiterate they cannot read the date on these tags the Belgians hang about every male neck to act as a receipt for tax paid, so they have gone back five years or more, collecting taxes on the men who were mere boys then, on others who were not in the Congo , but in French and British territories.”  Studd sent several of the Azande workmen to pay the five franc tax “a month’s pay for a laborer” and predictably, “They returned with medals reading 1909 instead of 1914.”  In March Hayes writes, “I kicked, but Studd forbade me to speak of it again.”

Hayes recorded a second confrontation with Studd about the tax tags on August 13, 1914 using considerably stronger language:  “Studd’s asinine ways came to the surface again this morning.  He is a born cad his broad skull base shows this.  It is about the tax graft.”  Hayes does not elaborate on his own conversations with the native workers, only Studd’s response.  As with the harangue Hayes received in March for criticizing Studd’s under-payment of the Mangbettu house builders: “Again he lines up the men, telling them he is boss, to never obey anything I tell them unless sanctioned by him.”  While his hard-won authority with the men falls to pieces a second time, “Both Studd and Buxton agree the tax robbery… is unjust.  Yet for expediency’s sake they condone this abuse, to make themselves solid with the Belgians.”  A British missionary speaking out against worldly injustices in Belgian territory would undoubtedly have jeopardized his work of saving souls.

Renzi “Paramount Chief of the Azande”

Hayes next diary entry concerning the tax medals, from November 1914, concerns native resistance.  “Renzi, paramount chief of the Azandes, is encamped near here.  Rumor has it he is planning war against the Belgians.”  Hayes remarks that “but for [Renzi] it is unlikely Belgium would have the foothold she has in this territory now.”  As a younger man Renzi had thrown his Azande warriors to the side of Belgian commander Louis Chaltin against forces of the Mahdi the at the battle of Rejaf when “the Dervishes had almost beaten the Belgian force.”  Now, as Hayes doctors “a dry ulcer afflicting [Renzi’s] leg from knee to ankle,” Renzi chats of “dickering with the British officers in the Sudan, offering to clear all the Belgians out of the country and install the British instead.”  Renzi makes no idle offer to the British:  “The Belgians are afraid of him.  He has 12,000 warriors ready to attack at a moment’s notice.  Renzi’s complaint is these new taxes dated back for years…”  Who knows what reception Renzi might have gotten had the British and Blegians not recently allied against the Germans at the outbreak of World War I?

And finally on December 9,1914, Renzi thanks Hayes for healing his leg with the offer of ten wives, but as to war, “Renzi  will not commit himself, but his sub chiefs are outspoken.  They say if I will lead them they will wipe out the Belgians at Niangara and let the English occupy the land.”  Declining leadership of a rebellion, the ten wives, and struggling to communicate the intricacies of the nascent war in Europe, “I tell them the three allied powers [France, Britain, and Belgium] will combine to crush them, that they had best keep the peace and remain as they are.”  A Belgian officer tells Hayes that “every [native] soldier in the Niangara barracks would go with Renzi if the latter rebelled.”

Those whose souls C. T. Studd would save find the tax fraud so onerous they contemplate armed rebellion against the Belgians – and Studd remains silently complicit.  One assumes that had rebellion erupted, Studd, Buxton, and Perkins (given his refusal of the proffered “position as prime minister at Renzi’s court”)  would have been among the first non-Africans killed.

Hayes third specific condemnation of Studd concerns booze.  Little surprise it’s his most forceful.

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2 Responses to 2.27 Heart of Africa Mission

  1. I had never heard of tax tags–another form of colonialism in action.

  2. johnmmartin says:

    Yes, I tried unsuccessfully to find photographs of these tags. I’d like to see one too.

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