As the defender of Jomo Kenyatta and Mau Mau activists, De Souza lived under constant police surveillance. Regardless, he told us, he hid both Kinuthia and Muratha at his house at Parklands when both were being sought and there was a bounty on their heads. A Kenyan Sikh, sympathetic to the movement whose house adjoined De Souza’s built a concrete tunnel connecting the two houses from below opening to concealed covers on the floor. Had the police discovered this, the consequences would have been dire to De Souza himself, to his legal career, to his family, and to the unnamed Sikh whose name we deserve to know. Kinuthia survived to serve De Souza’s law firm with integrity after the Emergency eased. In 1965 and with popular acclaim, De Souza recommended Kinuthia for the position of Dagoretti’s chief where he served with the integrity he had observed in the 1950s. Mugo Muratha proceeded to serve the movement in hiding until he was arrested in Kiambaa and then detained for years at Hola then Manda Island together with Pio Gama Pinto among others. His daughter Tiebo remained a friend of Emma Pinto and of Fitz de Souza to the end.
In addition to the human touch that he demonstrated to those ordinary people, many of them survivors of the events of the 1950s, and to high level politics; Fitz de Souza will go down in history as the witty, intelligent and most genuinely accomplished speaker of the Kenya parliament seen so far. Though nominally, the deputy speaker and member of the Parklands constituency (1963-69), the Hansard reveals the record of a man who had full mastery of the standing orders and the law, and who used his time on the chair as much to educate the members on the legal procedures as to enforce them. He was a stickler for decorum and the need to serve the common good in the house, both so rare in today’s legislature. A ruling he made on 14 October 1965, against Oduya Oprong (MP for Teso) who had defied his constant advice on the proper procedure to amend an Appropriations Bill, and who had levelled accusations of bias against De Souza is worth rereading:
‘Mr Oduya, I have asked you often not to cast aspersions and make statements like this. It is absolutely untrue on your part to say that any bill has been amended by giving notice like this (i.e. the proper way). If you had done so, then you can look up the Standing Orders and you will find that you have done it wrongly. Do not try to pull a fast one on the Chair (i.e. De Souza) by saying that you have done it because you know it has not been done. I have been in this House for at least five years and I know that it cannot be done under Standing Orders. As long as I am here, it will not be done’.
As one who sacrificed so much to fight racial discrimination, he was horrified to see so soon after independence, African leaders in that parliament and out of it turn into racists, violating the rights of Asian-Kenyans in the name of the ‘Africanization’ of business and positions in public service. On June 1966 for instance, with him in the House, Martin Shikuku led charge against Asian families turning Nairobi’s Central Park on weekends ‘into a Bombay or Madras’ demanding their expulsion.
That racist trend and the murder of Pinto in 1965 impelled him to quit Kenya politics. But as the incident I bore testimony to in Dagoretti shows, he never abandoned the public or his many friends. The curtain on his life may now be drawn. But on the stage of history the work of Fitz de Souza, Kenyan nationalist, anti-racism campaigner, and distinguished parliamentary speaker will endure for ever.
Professor Michael Chege